Following the recent mass exodus of key executive committee members from the Botswana Peoples Party, political pundits have started writing the obituary of Botswana’s oldest and once strongest political party.
“The mighty pioneer of Botswana politics, which was at some point blessed with the best leadership this country has ever produced, giving the Botswana Democratic Party sleepless nights, has finally succumbed to the rigors inflicted by an incompetent leadership, dysfunctional party structures and blatant favouritism on the part of its president and secretary general,” said a visibly crushed veteran member of the BPP who chose not to be named. “It saddens me that is has to end like this.”
Last week former BPP Secretary General, Cornelius Gopolang, sent shockwaves through the ailing political party when he announced that despite the membership’s expectation that he would return to the BPP after his six months sabbatical, he had decided to join the Botswana Democratic Party. While incensed party members were mourning the loss of what they called a BPP legend, they were dealt a further deathly blow, this week, when key central committee members Lillian Gresemier, Motlatsi Mbanga and Richard Gudu defected to the BCP.
Disgruntled BPP insiders who say they are also on their way out informed The Sunday Standard that while the party president, Bernard Balikani, and Secretary General Edward Mpoloka, who appear to be the only remaining BPP functionaries, continue to claim that the party is growing, the fact is that the whole membership has realized that the BPP is on its death bed and a mass exodus to the BCP is imminent.
But while the BPP is slowly crumbling around him, Balikani continues to insist that the BPP is experiencing exceptional growth, especially with their new pet project “operation 300” which he says is aimed at launching one of the party’s most intense recruitment drives. Balikani is also confident that the truth and reconciliation conference which is billed for Nata in November will also help to heal any differences that may be inherent within the BPP.“`
The Sunday Standard can reveal that almost all of the members who resigned from the BPP have expressed disgruntlement with the leadership and the way the party is run. In a previous interview with The Sunday Standard, Gopolang said that he resigned because he was very unhappy with the way the central committee runs the BPP affairs saying that their continued pursuit of this suicidal practice greatly dims the party’s political prospects.
Some party members, especially the youth wing, pointed accusing fingers at Balikani saying that the former SG’s departure was sparked by the president’s maladministration and divisive tendencies. In a subsequent interview with The Sunday Standard, Gopolang also revealed that his resignation was motivated by the soured relationships between him and Balikani and his disgruntlement with the party president’s mismanagement of the party in pursuit of personal interests.
In the latest resignations, Griesmer, who was the BPP’s elections marshal and council candidate, was also quoted saying that she could not continue to associate with a party that is stagnant and evidently on its death throes.
Some say that the cracks started to show when the BPP decided to pull out of the opposition cooperation talks after the BCP outrightly refused their proposal that other negotiation partners disband and join it as the oldest political party in Botswana. The BPP executive was greatly divided over this and it is one of the key issues that led to Gopolang’s resignation. While the BPP continued to claim that they can go it alone, they were made to eat humble pie when they were thrashed by the BDP and the BCP/BAM duo in the Mathangwane by-elections. Accusations of “I told you so” became audible. Even the party’s Tsamaya congress was mired by controversy as the youth wing, which was a staunch supporter of Gopolang, threatened to refuse to endorse Edward Mpoloka as the new secretary general because Balikani had appointed him unconstitutionally. The attendance at the conference was also a pittance as even some key committee members decided not to attend.