Tuesday, October 26, 2021

BNF veteran spells out BNF power structures vis-à-vis party Constitution

Dr Monageng Mogalakwe does not like speaking publicly about events inside the Botswana National Front, a party that he joined as a young man in 1976.

When we call him to request an interview as we seek clarification over a recent petition by the BNF Central Committee to party President Duma Boko, he makes it clear that he can only grant the interview on condition that it is confined strictly to the BNF Constitution.

“I have no interest on names,” he says as a preemptive strike.

And true to his word, he brings along the BNF Constitution to the interview.

As the interview progresses, it becomes immediately apparent that Dr Mogalakwe has memorized the entire document by his heart.

Before answering any question, he refers us to a particular Section and a Clause in the Constitution.

“Section 10 of the BNF Constitution is abundantly clear on the party structures and on how decisions are made. Check it for the answer to your question,” he says in response to a question on who between the Central Committee and the BNF President is superior.

As we open the BNF Constitution to check section 10 as ordered, Dr Monageng goes on without prodding to add that he was horrified to learn that the Central Committee saw nothing petitioning the party president over something that really is in their power as the BNF Central Committee.

According to Mogalakwe the BNF Central Committee is the second highest structure after the National Congress.

It does not make sense to him therefore that the Central Committee could complain of helplessness against president.

“Sometimes people confuse or mix up duty with power. The BNF Constitution differentiates between duties and powers of its functionaries and structures.”

Dr Mogalakwe concedes that a BNF President has certain powers in times of a crisis.

“At the moment I don’t see any crisis,” he says.

Dr Mogalakwe says it is the duty of the president to convene Central Committee meeting. This, says Mogalakwe is not a power, rather it is a duty.

“A failure to call such a meeting constitutes dereliction of duty,” he says.

There have been concerns inside the BNF that the Central Committee was not regularly holding its scheduled meetings.

Before its meeting this week, the last BNF Central Committee was around August 9th.

This is in direct contrast to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party for example where the Central Committee meets every first Monday of the month ÔÇô without fail ÔÇô whether the party president is present or not.

A BNF Central Committee meeting was recently cancelled because party president was travelling to Russia.

“Section 12.5.1 of the BNF Constitution states very clearly that the Central Committee shall provide the overall political leadership of the BNF. It does not say the President,” says Mogalakwe in response to a question that the BNF Central Committee has been complaining about its helplessness against a party president who does not like to consult and who is comfortable hogging all power between himself  and his chief ally, the party Secretary General.

Dr Mogalakwe adds that while the BNF has many weaknesses, it has very sound democratic dispensations that are spelt out by the Constitution.

“Flowing from these provisions it will not make sense for the BNF to condemn BDP President’s powers or even the powers of the president of Botswana, but finding nothing wrong giving its own president similar powers.”

Dr Mogalakwe blames the Central Committee for abdicating its powers and not excising them.

According to Dr Mogalakwe the BNF President is duty bound to call meetings of both the Central Committee and the Executive Committee.

“He has no option. Duty means that the President is under obligation; legal, political and moral to convene these meetings and chair them.”

He points out that a failure to do so would be in violation of BNF Constitution, implying that could lead to appropriate disciplinary action including suspension and even expulsion from the BNF.

“I have no interest in talking about individuals. But it must be noted that in accepting the position of BNF president, that person has entered into a contract with the BNF.”

A recurring complaint inside the BNF has been that the leader was obsessed with matters of the Umbrella for Democratic Change which he has calculated as offering a path, however slim to the State House.

This has come at organizational cost to the BNF which has effectively been abandoned.

In the case of conflict arising over the BNF relationship with UDC how does the party resolve such a matter.

Dr Mogalakwe again resorts to the BNF Constitution to answer that question: “According to Section 12.5.6 of the BNF Constitution, it is the Central Committee, not the President who shall represent the BNF in its relations with other political parties and organizations.”

This he says it means that all BNF representatives in the UDC are delegates and are supposed to report to the BNF and to receive guidance.

This would provide clarity over whether or not the decisions that UDC leader has been making and publicly pronouncing at the UDC represent the views of the BNF Central Committee.

A number of Central Committee members that Sunday Standard talked to have said the rulings by UDC on matters pertaining to the Botswana Movement for Democracy were not their decisions.

On a number of occasions the BNF leader has said he speaks ex-Cathedra, implying that it was his decisions that mattered.

“In principle and pursuant to Section 12.5.1 of the BNF Constitution, if a BNF representative takes decisions that are not authorized by the Central Committee, pursuant to 12.5.6, the Central Committee may repudiate or even disown those decisions as the representative would have misdirected themselves.”

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