The standoff between Botswana Unified Local Government Service Association President Pelotshweu Baeng and some dissidents within his executive committee is expected to reach a thunderous climax on December 4 when the association meets to elect a new executive committee.
Though a lot of members have not yet declared their positions, prospective candidates have started lobbying secretly for support from key figures in the association, with sms messages running back and forth and clandestine meetings being the order of the day.
The incumbent President, Pelotshweu Baeng, seems to be headed for a bruising battle if he fancies any chances of retaining his seat. Earlier this year, Baeng irked his executive committee and earned himself a lot of enemies when he used his constitutional powers to reshuffle the executive and demote those he perceived to be a threat to his reign.
In the reshuffle exercise, Publicity Secretary Moshe Note, and Secretary General Motelebane Motelebane, who are said to wield a lot of power within BULGSA, were demoted to mere additional members, paving the way for those who many perceived to be Baeng’s blue-eyed boys.
But Baeng’s move backfired when the committee unanimously voted against their president’s decision and reinstated the duo. What ensued was a bitter war of words during which many within BULGSA questioned Baeng’s ability to lead the association as it prepares to become a union.
Some were brave enough to call him a populist who had no place in the serious fight for workers rights.
Things seemed to turn from bad to worse for Baeng when many in the BULGSA fold snubbed him and openly courted former president David Kanje to stand for reelection.
In an apparent plot to unseat Baeng, BULGSA members openly declared their support for Kanje saying that he had been a good president whose reign was unfortunately disrupted when, with just a few months in office, he was sent to Britain to study for his masters’ degree.
Baeng must have breathed a sigh of relief when Kanje left the civil service to join UNICEF. Even though he is now officially not a member of BULGSA, Kanje’s influence seems not to have waned as many are impatiently waiting for the association to unionize so that he can be allowed to rejoin BULGSA.
Asked to comment on this issue Kanje said that he is not an employee of the local government and has no interest in joining BULGSA’s executive. “I can only say I sympathize with their cause but I have no intention of joining their executive as I am fully committed to UNICEF,” he said.
But the departure of Kanje has not healed the rifts in BULGSA. With barely a month left before the national convention in Masunga, many executive committee members are busy lobbying for support and factions are becoming defined.
A member of the present executive committee who is also seeking reelection has revealed to The Sunday Standard that there are presently two defined lobby groups, led by incumbent President Pelotshweu Baeng on one hand and his Vice President, Cutter Kekgonegile, on the other hand.
Kekgonegile is challenging Baeng for the Presidency and he is rumoured to enjoy the support of Motelebane Motelebane, who is presently Secretary General and is said to enjoy a lot of support in the BULGSA structures.
Many feel that Kekgonegile is a political novice who cannot be President of BULGSA and that he is presently being led down a blind alley by Motelebane who is using him to push his personal agenda in BULGSA.
“Motelebane’s term to serve as Secretary General has ended and he is using Kekgonegile to access the vice presidency as he still wants to remain in the executive,” said the executive committee member.
He also told The Sunday Standard that Motelebane might actually pull off a win for the Vice Presidency while Kekgonegile’s chances of unseating Baeng are very slim.
Though the battle lines have been drawn and scimitars secretly unsheathed in the fight for the top positions of BULGSA, it appears members who are aspiring for smaller offices have chosen to sit back and watch before they declare their alliances to any of these candidates.
In this imbroglio some aspiring committee members are playing the two factions against each other while waiting to see which side will emerge as winners before they make their alliances public.
From all this infighting it has become evident that the departure of David Kanje from the local government has boosted Baeng’s chances of retaining the Presidency.
The Sunday Standard has reliable information that, in the absence of Kanje, the BULGSA membership is slowly taking a liking to Baeng as a suitable replacement and his contention that Note and Motelebane were demoted because of incompetence is garnering support from some quarters.
Though no confirmation has been made as many are still keeping their cards under the table The Sunday Standard has reliable information that Sam Kidisa, Mbako Masole and Ishmael William are all looking for key positions in the BULGSA executive and all of them are perceived to be sympathetic to Baeng.
Moshe Note has chosen not to stand for reelection, as he wants to concentrate on his studies.
When asked to comment on the issue Masole chose not to comment. But the young Masole is perceived as the right man for one of the key positions in the BULGSA
Executive. He is currently the Vice Chairperson of Region 1, which encompasses powerful areas like Masunga, Francistown, Tutume, Phikwe and Choke.
The competition has become so heated and the stakes so high that lobby groups are continuously holding clandestine meetings to chart the way forward in the fight for control of BULGSA.
The Sunday Standard was forwarded an sms from one of the lobbyist from Kekgonegile’s camp, urging members to vote for the present day Vice Chairman. The sms has allegedly been distributed to a lot of BULGSA members and it has irked those who are pro- Baeng.
“We have voted instability into leadership. Let’s ensure delivery through stability, continuity and teamwork. Leadership is not a one-man show. Let’s vote comrade cutter into the BULGSA presidency,” the message reads.
A member of the Baeng lobby group said that it is a shame that some executive committee members would resort to politics of slander. “This is just proof of their desperation”, he said, adding that it is surprising that they could actually condemn Baeng while they were also in the same executive committee that he led.
Baeng’s supporters also say that he has achieved a lot for BULGSA and should be given a chance to finalize the projects that he started.
They cite the opening of offices in Gaborone, the purchase of a motor vehicle, the establishment of a funeral fund and the signing of a bilateral agreement with South African Municipal Workers Union as some of Baeng’s major achievements.
The incumbent president could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press. Kekgonegile was hesitant to comment on his presidential campaign saying that he would contact this paper when the time is right.