His name may not have been on the ballot at the first national elective congress of the Botswana Patriotic Front but former president Ian Khama gets to attend the party’s Central Committee meetings.
This revelation has been made by the party’s spokesperson, Justice Motlhabani, in response to a direct question fromSunday Standard.
“The Central Committee is empowered to allow certain individuals to attend its meetings,” says Motlhabani, adding that such individuals are selected on the basis of special qualities that can enhance the quality of the Committee’s deliberations. “General Khama has been attending our meetings on that basis.”
While it had been rumoured that Khama would run for the chairmanship at the Palapye congress, that didn’t happen. However, his quasi-membership of the Central Committee would only serve to solidify speculation that he wants to keep tabs on a party that some says exist to serve his personal interests.
Received wisdom is that the former commander of the Botswana Defence Force brooks no dissent and in her book, former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha, reinforces that impression by giving detailed, if uncharitable accounts of how Khama chaired Botswana Democratic Party meetings. On the other hand, Motlhabani says that such impression is false. By his account, the BPF Central Committee debates issues, with Khama’s active participation in such debates.
On the whole, Motlhabani has sought to separate the BPF Khama from the BDP Khama. Motlhabani has rapped President Mokgweetsi Masisi on the knuckles for not “letting go of all oversight institutions from his ambit.” When challenged on this point with the assertion that as president, Khama super-concentrated power in the presidency, his response was that BPF is a new party that is “starting on a new trajectory.” He gave the same explanation with regard to why Khama’s government couldn’t do all the things that BPF’s manifesto promises.
Much to the consternation of some members, the Botswana Congress Party has been down this same road. When the United Action Party dissolved into the BCP, some of its leaders became members of a Central Committee whose meetings were attended by prominent but unelected BCP members. Central Committee positions are elective and former UAP leaders objected to the participation of unelected members in Committee meetings.
BPF may have to deal with the same problem if its overtures for a coalition with other opposition bear fruit. Non-BPF members would most certainly question why an unelected member is part of the Central Committee when everyone else in their own party has to be elected to attend Central Committee meetings. Likewise, it would interesting to see how a prospective Umbrella for Democratic Change-BPF alliance would accommodate Khama in formal structures formed from any alliance between the two parties. Officially there is no relationship between the two parties but UDC leader and Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, has embraced Khama. The latter has also been publicly campaigning for UDC parliamentary candidates in constituencies where he has an axe to grind with BDP candidates.