For the first time in its history, the Botswana Democratic Party has suspended a candidate in the middle of a campaign season. The suspendee is Bashi Kgakge, who is running for a council seat in the Molepolole North constituency, which the BDP won by a hugely reduced margin in the last general election.
In confirming this suspension, Dr. Comma Serema, the party’s executive secretary general, also revealed that Kgakge was suspended by party and state president, Lieutenant General Ian Khama. The suspension is for 60 days.
However, Serema says that Kgakge’s candidacy has not been recalled and that he can still continue his campaign. He added that what disciplinary action to take against him would be decided after the suspension period.
Serema would not reveal much about the suspension save to say that Kgakge had been cited in alleged wrongdoing regarding activities of the National Youth Executive Committee of the party youth league, which he was part of.
In addition, Kenaleone Motsaathebe (chairperson) and Boikhutso Nshakazhogwe-Masunga (secretary general), Kgakge (treasurer) have also been suspended from NYEC.
However, Sunday Standard has independently established that use of funds provided by the party to cater for an African National Congress Youth League delegation last year is at the centre of the controversy. Figures of exactly of how much was given vary but what is consistent is that some of that money cannot be accounted for.
When the unaccounted for spending came to light, the party appointed a taskforce to undertake a sweeping internal investigation into NYEC’s financial management. The task was carried out by disciplinary committee member, Thapelo Olopeng, and national electoral board chairperson, Parks Tafa.
It is also being alleged that prior to the ANCYL visit, youth league members sought money donations from party members ÔÇô a good number of them businesspeople. However, some donations were not receipted as should have been the case. The taskforce interviewed benefactors whose donations were not receipted. A source who donated quite a substantial amount of money says that the taskforce wanted him to confirm that he had indeed given out money but was not given a receipt.
Following this discovery, the party suspended the solicitation of donations by individual members until all loopholes were plugged. However, the party continues to fund youth league activities.
At least three party veterans with deep institutional knowledge of the BDP say that this is the first time that a candidate has been suspended in an election year.
One says that while Kgakge is able to campaign, the eventuality of being recalled as a candidate would be weighing heavily on his mind and would actively distract him from focusing on the campaign. Another party member puts this unorthodox suspension down to BDP factionalism, which, in recent months has intensified.
Kgakge is standing in St. Paul’s ward whose current councillor is BDP. The Botswana National Front votes increased by 140 from the 1999 general election while the BDP’s dropped by 68 votes.