Sunday, January 29, 2023

BPF office re-opens as factions smoke peace pipe

As he sets about to regain control of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), former president Ian Khama, is also bailing out the debt-ridden party. The bail-out money is expected to help the party return to a semblance of financial normalcy. The abnormality has resulted in the party’s office in Phase 2, Gaborone being closed on November 18 due to failure to pay rent for two months and office staff being paid late – if at all. The office will be re-opened tomorrow.

For almost a year now, BPF has been riven by factional rivalry between the Khama brothers (Khama himself and his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama) and Guma Moyo. The latter briefly served in Khama’s cabinet as assistant finance minister. After Khama fled to South Africa a year ago, a power vacuum was created and Moyo wasted no time in exploiting this situation. He eclipsed Khama as the party funder, in the process gaining a lot of power. When Tshekedi, who is the party’s Secretary General, joined Khama in South Africa, Moyo tightened his grip on the party.  He secured the party office accommodation, enabling it to re-open its secretariat. Moyo was also known to finance monthly National Executive Committee meetings.

At this point, the party’s founding president, Reverend Biggie Butale had long been suspended. Other NEC members aligned to Khama would also be suspended ahead of an elective congress in which Tshekedi was slated to run against Moyo. The smart money said that Tshekedi would lose. It also said that upon determining that the party that he had founded to execute a personal political agenda was slipping from his grasp, Khama not only precipitated a crisis but recruited elected party officials in MPs and councillors to his cause. Acting in concert, this force opposed an upcoming elective national congress, agitated for the lifting of suspensions and starved the party of cash by stopping the monthly contributions they had been making to the party.

This development plunged the party into a financial crisis that resulted in the accumulation of rent and staff salary arrears. The result was that on November 18, the office was shut down. Thankfully though, this happened at a time that Khama’s long-time aide, Colonel Isaac Kgosi, was brokering peace between the warring factions. A positive, if skewed outcome was announced last week: the Khamas will get everything they wanted. Resultantly, all suspensions have been lifted – meaning Butale has been reinstated as party president and an upcoming special congress has been cancelled.

A party source says that as a direct result of this outcome, Khama, who is the patron, has promised to “sort out” the rent and other financial issues that have crippled the party’s operations. Missing from this financial action is Moyo, whom a source says is taking a backseat in order that the Khamas can bear the financial burden alone – which is where the party was when it was founded. The latter arrangement itself didn’t go well because following the party’s launch in 2019 in Serowe, the party was mired in debt and had to be bailed by some members.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper