President Ian Khama and the Nkate-Merafhe faction of the Botswana Democratic Party last week ambushed their rival, barata-pathi, and hit them with an unexpected crippling blow that set back the strides that they had made in their campaign ahead of the just ended BDP congress in Kanye. Members of the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction were left with mouths agape and heads reeling after President Khama and the A-team delivered a devastating sucker punch that left them tainted as a power hungry lot who have no reservations about running roughshod over the party structures in a blind frenzy to accrue power at the expense of party unity.
Khama’s Francistown visit came after regional chairman and A-team operative, Botho Ntirang, wrote to the president inviting him to come and address the Francistown region ahead of the congress and gauge the people’s response to his endorsement of the A-team.
Ntirang’s invitation, which the Francistown region said they did not endorse, came after it emerged that the barata-phathi rules the roost in Francistown. Francistown South parliamentary aspirant, Wynter Mmolotsi, who is also listed as a candidate for the position of Deputy Secretary General in the barata-phathi lobby list, also declared the Francistown region’s support for Kwelagobe at the latter’s launch in Molepolole recently.
It was against this backdrop that Ntirang wrote a letter to the president asking him to come and weave the Khama magic on the Francistowners and urge them to endorse his preferred candidates.
BDP Executive Secretary, Comma Serema, was however cagey when asked to comment on the exact purpose of Khama’s visit, save to say that the president was checking up on party structures. But many maintain that the visit was an A-team affair, especially since Ntirang chaired the proceedings while all barata-phathi operatives took the back seat.
The presidential meet had attracted a bumper crowd with representatives from Francistown, North East, Boteti, and Selibe Phikwe. But the fireworks that were expected at the meeting initially failed to spark as the president skirted around the burning issue of his war of words with Kwelagobe, rather concentrating on general issues of development projects and election strategy.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that towards the end of the proceedings, Francistown South primary election loser Godknows Robby set the ball rolling when he asked the president to elaborate on media reports that there is no love lost between him and party Chairman Daniel Kwelagobe. Robby, a former army officer, and incumbent Francistown South MP, Khumo Maoto, recently wrote to the central committee calling for Mmolotsi to be recalled.
It was then that the barata-phathi snapped off their reverie and started circling their wagons and unsheathing their swords in apparent preparation of a rebuttal to the president’s answer. But it was not to be as, before responding, Khama announced that his response will also mark the closure of the meeting. The barata-phathi were left dumbfounded.
Khama went on to explain that after realizing the extent of the factional disputes within the BDP, he took it upon himself to dissolve them. To that end as a party leader with the responsibility of guiding the party through troubled waters, he suggested that faction leaders should not stand for central committee elections because their candidature would be the source of the hullabaloo that has engulfed the BDP to date.
His appeal, however, was met with different responses from the two factions. The faction leaders of the A-team, being Jacob Nkate, Mompati Merafhe and Kentse Rammidi, humbly acceded to the presidential request. On the other hand Mmolotsi, Kwelagobe, and Gomolemo Motswaledi of the barata-phathi refused to listen to the president.
Cutting a very sad and troubled figure, the president reportedly narrated how the continued infighting gives him sleepless nights, further explaining that all of it would have been avoided had the barata-phathi listened to his pleas.
The president also revealed that he is further saddened by the fact that Botsalo Ntuane, Mmolotsi and Motswaledi, who are campaigning in marginalized constituencies which can be snatched by the opposition at any time, have concentrated their efforts on bickering for central committee positions instead of defending their marginal constituencies.
After the president’s passionate presentation, the meeting was declared closed.
Reports reaching The Sunday Standard indicate that the president’s surprise attack floored the barata-phathi who were never given an opportunity to defend themselves. Democrats who had hitherto praised Kwelagobe and his lieutenants as true defenders of the sanctity of the constitution started casting accusing glares at the barata-phathi candidates. They were, at least to some of the attendants, immediately discarded as a holier-than-thou-constitution thumping lot who are hell bent on sacrificing party unity for their destructive ambitions to power.
“In just one swoop, the president and the A-team had managed to paint us as power hungry individuals who are bent on accruing central committee positions at the expense of party unity, while the A-team was cast as docile, respectful and sacrificial democrats who are willing to surrender all and lay down their necks at the BDP alter to sacrifice their pretentions to power for the sake of party unity,” said a stung Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe supporter after the meeting.
Another barata-phathi supporter later said that they were not surprised at how the meeting had turned out because it was not a BDP affair but rather a Nkate-Merafhe campaign strategy.
“This is the trump card that everyone has been expecting the president to play. We are really not surprised because the president has come to Francistown at the behest of Ntirang, an A-team sympathizer, after it emerged that we have carried the Francistown region,” he said.
The presidential sucker punch was delivered on Wednesday evening, and there really was little that the barata-phathi could do in terms of damage control, with only a day left ahead of the Kanye congress, save to hope that the damage that President Khama had made would be minimal.