Thursday, July 18, 2024

BPF holds elective congress next month

As Reverend Biggie Butale fights the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) on two fronts, the party’s current leadership doesn’t seem to be in the least bothered.

Considering himself BPF’s acting president, Mephato Reatile, has officially notified regions and constituencies to start preparations for an extraordinary national congress that will be held from September 15 to 17 in Gaborone.

“Ward committees are therefore advised to select delegates to the Congress as provided for under Clause 13.3 of the BPF Constitution which provides for ‘five delegates from each Ward, auxiliary organs’ executive members, and two delegates from each associate member’. The names of delegates selected should be submitted strictly to the party office/Secretariat by constituency or ward secretaries … The deadline for submission of delegates for this congress is 28th August 2023,” says Reatile’s letter, which is addressed to Chairpersons and Secretaries of regions across the country.

On the other hand, Butale believes that he is still BPF president and has been addressing party members in that capacity and communicating that same message to them. Last Tuesday, he filed yet another case before the High Court, asking the Court to nullify both his expulsion and suspension from the party. At least from what Reatile’s side says, the expulsion was a result of complaints that were made by the Youth League to the Disciplinary Committee against Butale. The plot twist is that members of that same Committee, one supposed to have taken punitive action against Butale, have denied ever doing so. Butale has submitted this letter as part of the documentary evidence in his court papers. Likewise, a letter signed by a member of BPF Youth League says that the League has never deliberated on any complaint against Butale. This letter has also been submitted as part of evidence in the case before the High Court.

The respondents in the High Court case are the BPF, the National Executive Committee and Reatile himself. Butale’s notice of motion describes Reatile not as the acting president but as the Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, who is “ordinarily resident in Gaborone” and “currently masquerades” as BPF president. All respondent parties have been served with the court papers but that hasn’t deterred them from going ahead with the elective congress – which party founder, financier and de facto leader, former president Ian Khama, has long wanted.

BPF’s congress will allay fears in the Umbrella for Democratic Change – which the former has an election pact with and wants to join formally. BPF’s current instability is rightly seen as a liability in the UDC project. A new NEC will enable Khama to isolate Butale, who has residual support in the NEC and the party itself – and regain control of a party that he founded in 2019 to execute a personal-political project – restore a political dynasty founded by his great grandfather in 1875.

That goal might seem as lofty as to be impossible to achieve but Khama, whose administration was pro-west, enjoys the support of western nations and institutions. In one respect, such support came in the form of a special UN special rapporteur publicly declaring that Khama’s allegations that the Botswana government wants to assassinate him are valid and delegates of some European governments to the UN Human Rights Council implying that the Botswana government could be planning to rig the 2024 general election.

Subsequent to that, Khama himself compiled a tome of Masisi’s wrongs that he circulated to (especially) those same governments. Government’s efforts to fight back by hosting international media houses failed spectacularly. A month later, those media houses, some which have given Khama’s grievances extensive coverage, never amplified the government’s pushback. The government is itself to blame because it allowed Khama to define the issues while staying mum for an extended period of time.

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