The ruling Botswana Democratic Party has warned party dissidents to either fall in line or be expelled from the party.
The party dissidents are mostly disgruntled party members who find fault with the primary elections, which they claim were riddled with voter trafficking, vote rigging and, at times, favouritism. The disaffected party members decided to stand as independent candidates in protest against the party leadership‘s failure to address their concerns.
BDP Executive Secretary, Comma Serema, last week announced that the central committee had issued a stern warning to primary election losers who are threatening to stand as independents that they will not be accepted back into the party even after they win elections as independents. He warned those intending to stand as independent candidates to drop their plans and support primary election winners or kiss their BDP membership goodbye.
The warning follows a recent ad-hoc meeting convened by the BDP Francistown regional committee to seek clarification and chart the way forward after three councilors from Samson Guma Moyo’s Tati East constituency announced that they will be standing as independent candidates in the 2009 elections, in protest against ill-treatment and marginalization by the branch committee and irregularities in the primary elections.
Councilor Savvy Toitoi of Siviya, Todd Maligan of Tsamaya and Obert Takobana of Ramokgweba dropped a bombshell last week when they announced that they would be standing as independent candidates in the Tati East constituency. The councilors said that the branch committee did not heed their protests when they complained about gross irregularities in the party primary elections. They also complained that they were casualties of the ruling BDP’s factional disputes as they were sidelined and victimized by the branch committee. Allegations are that the trio backed the wrong horse in the duel between MP Guma Moyo and Chapson Butale and found themselves on the wrong side of the court when the dust settled.
Because of these frustrations, the councilors announced last week that they had decided to stand as independent candidates.
The councilors are said to have introduced themselves as independent candidates at a recent workshop organized by the independent electoral commission in Francistown at which senior party members were present.
The Francistown region would that very weekend convene an ad-hoc meeting and later make recommendations to the central committee. By Monday, the central committee warned the dissidents to return to the party fold or risk being expelled.
Meanwhile councilor Savvy Toitoi of Siviya said last weekend that he was unhappy that they were never invited to the meeting as they would have presented their side of the story to the party leadership. He lamented the fact that instead of addressing them as individuals the party leadership chose to communicate with them through the media.
But Francistown region chairman Botho Ntirang explained that the meeting was not to address the complainants but to address issues concerning the party. “This was a regional committee meeting, and those people were never meant to be there because they are not committee members,” said Ntirang on Friday.
In Francistown embattled former BPP Secretary General Cornelius Gopolang, who maintains that he was robbed of his initial win in the BDP’s Kanana ward primaries against incumbent councilor Ace Ntheetsang, is also reportedly pondering standing as an independent candidate.