Botswana National Front is embroiled in a bitter power struggle. At the centre of the dispute is the contention by a section of the Central Committee that wants Party President, Otsweletse Moupo, to resign.
Moupo has, however, turned down such calls, saying he will only resign if the general membership wants him to.
He has threatened to take his dispute with the Central Committee to the general membership where, despite his latest personal troubles, he remains immensely popular.
When Sunday Standard approached him this week about his next move, he could only say “I will make an announcement when the time comes.”
The situation is made worse by the fact that there is an acute shortage of credible leaders even within the current Central Committee.
Other than acknowledging that the BNF is going through a sensitive time, he would not say more.
He has called a meeting of the Central Committee scheduled for today (Sunday) at which he is expected to tell his colleagues that he is taking the matter to the party rank and file to decide.
Even the usually media savvy Secretary General, Akanyang Magama, would not agree to quoted on the matter.
Like Moupo, he confirmed there was a Central Committee meeting scheduled for the weekend.
He would not be drawn into the agenda.
Today’s Central Committee meeting is a sequel to a BNF Executive Committee meeting held Thursday night at which Moupo told his other senior colleagues in the party that he would resign under their terms.
Sunday Standard can confirm that other Committee members do not want Moupo to take the matter to the general membership for fear of a replay of the same development, years ago, when then BNF President Koma dissolved the Central Committee before going on to win all the legal battles in court.
Like Koma, Moupo commands immense popularity at grassroots levels, much more than other Committee members who are dismissed as “middle class.”
Moupo’s troubles started two months ago, when on a private trip to London, he was stranded.
Things came to a head when news surfaced that his law firm had been barred from practice, news apparently leaked to the media by some of his colleagues on the BNF Central Committee.
BNF Publicity Secretary Moeti confirmed that a Central Committee meeting had been scheduled for Thursday but would not divulge the agenda.
Seceretary General, Akanyang Magama, did also not want to be quoted on the matter, saying it is a personal and private affair.
Only Dr Baatlhodi Molatlhegi, mentioned as one of the leading strategists within the BNF, is openly calling for Moupo’s departure.
“I was on principle opposed to the candidature of Robert Masitara. On those same principles, I am uncomfortable with the continued stay of Moupo at the head of the BNF, as well as the leader of the official opposition. Moupo is my closest comrade and long time friend. It pains me to go public on this. But I cannot say with a clear conscious that it is ethically right for Moupo to remain BNF President and Leader of the Official Opposition. It is harming the BNF and our country’s evolving democracy. How can the leader of the Official opposition call up his clients to remain calm when the firm in charge of their affairs does not have a practice certificate? How on earth can I say such an issue is a private affair? What is private about a lawmaker’s failure to timeously comply with the laws passed by the very Parliament in which he sits?”
Molatlhegi, however, tries to underplay the leadership crisis facing the BNF saying the “Leadership within the BNF has always been a collective responsibility. Moupo in this regard, is a first amongst equals- if he falls away and / or stumbles, as he has, in my humble opinion badly, no crisis erupts; for there is a pool of leadership from which a capable leader will emerge, which is a direct result of the principle of collective leadership.” If Moupo was to leave, mentioned are Kathleen Letshabo, who under the constitution, will act for three months before a congress is called to elect another leader.
Also mentioned are Elmon Tafa and Magama.
But none of the three command any amount of popularity comparable to Moupo beyond the university of Botswana circles.