Political backlash against President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his followers in the A-Team faction gathered pace this week, weakening the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) just two months before general elections in October.
Scores of BDP members of Parliament who are worried that Khama is plotting absolute control of the party and government joined opposition MPs to argue against Minister Nasha’s amendment bill aimed at increasing the number of Specially Elected MPs from four to eight.
It was feared that Khama would bring in more members of the A-Team faction to neutralize the Barata-Phathi faction which is expected to return more MPs to Parliament after the General Elections.
Following the suspension of the party’s Secretary General, Gomolemo Motswaledi, and his subsequent recall as the party’s parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central there are fears that Khama wants to purge Barata-Phathi members from the BDP structures and parliament.
Scores of party members who are sympathetic to Barata-Phathi have vowed to vote against party parliamentary candidates who are in the A-Team faction in protest against Khama’s perceived political cleansing.
Among the A-Team members believed to be on slippery ground are Bobirwa MP Shaw Kgathi, Selibe-Phikwe West MP Kavis Kario, and Ngami MP Jacob Nkate.
The party’s bickering has also extended to Nkange, where newcomer Edwin Batshu, believed to be aligned to the A-team, is the party’s parliamentary candidate.
This is understood to have touched off a war of numbers in the next parliament, with party members sympathetic to the A-team also vowing not to vote for Barata-Phathi parliamentary candidates.
Star rallies, which had been planned for Kgatleng West and Francistown West over the weekend, have been called off as some party leaders will be attending the BDP cross country meeting in Gaborone on Saturday, to chart the way forward following Motswaledi’s suspension.
In a move believed to be an appeal for public sympathy, President Khama on Friday justified his decision to suspend Motswaledi, stating he wanted to instill discipline within the party.
Through a statement that was read by Director of Broadcasting Services, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo on national radio and TV, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler‘s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda antics, Khama presented himself as a leader under pressure and at pains to salvage the party from further internal turmoil.
“It appears that some of his actions were deliberately intended to test my resolve as the leader, as well as inspired by wrongful motives, calculated to challenge and undermine my authority in open public,” Khama stated.
In his statement, Khama accuses Motswaledi of abusing his position as the party’s secretary general.
In Khama’s words, Motswaledi’s actions have brought nothing but ‘shame’ and ‘embarrassment’ to the BDP. Khama contends that Motswaledi and some central committee members are using the media as a ‘springboard’ to launch personal attacks.
Khama says Motswaledi is on suspension pending disciplinary hearing for going on a frolic of his own by seeking legal opinion about the president’s powers behind he (Khama)’s back through a letter authored on the 5th of August.
The Disciplinary Committee, also appointed by Khama and manned by people from his faction is expected to endorse the President’s action.
Khama also accuses Motswaledi of using ‘offensive’ and ‘disrespectable’ language in the letter Motswaledi forwarded to the three law firms (Collins Newman, Pilane and Collins legal consultants) seeking a legal opinion on the party president’s powers.
According to Khama, his relationship with some members of the new central committee has turned sore hardly a month after they were elected into office at the party’s congress held at Kanye. Khama states that if no intervention is made the state of affairs within the ruling party could deteriorate further.
In a telephone interview with the Sunday Standard, Motswaledi would not reveal the next course of action following Khama’s statement.
“My assumption is that this matter is still internal and gracing you with a response at this stage is not a preference,” he said.
“I have a trusteeship duty of respecting information about the party and its governance body not to state anything about both the governance body and organization,” Motswaledi told Sunday Standard.
“The truth remains the truth about this matter and if it has not sufficiently come out at this stage, it will come out someday. Kindly know that it is well with my soul,” he added.
Despite refusing to comment on the legal battles he is expected to launch against Khama next week, Sunday Standard can reveal that Motswaledi, who has refused to tender an apology during his stand-off with Khama, is expected to approach the Lobatse High Court seeking for the court to review Khama’s decision and demanding to be reinstated as the party’s parliamentary candidate at Gaborone Central.
While the Kedikilwe/Kwelagobe faction was hopeful to engage South African advocate Win Trengove for the case, but it is understood that the internationally acclaimed Senior Counsel will not be available. However, a close source revealed that the faction was looking to engage either advocate Gilbert Marcus or Rolland Sutherland to battle it out with Khama’s and BDP lawyers Collins Newman.