President Lt Gen Ian Khama made a dramatic climb-down on Friday and went back on his earlier position that he would not work with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe, should they both be re-elected to the party leadership position at a national congress due in eight days.
Khama this week appeared to be toning down his attack on Kwelagobe when he told a meeting of Botswana Democratic Party structures for the Southern Region held in Kanye on Friday that he never threatened to resign from the presidency if Kwelagobe were re-elected party chairman and that he was prepared to work with any party member who is elected to the party central committee.
Khama last month told a meeting of BDP councilors in the Central District Council that he would have a serious difficulty working with Kwelagobe if he were re-elected party chairman.
In another meeting, he dismissed Kwelagobe as power hungry, old and unfit to handle the demands of the BDP chairmanship position.
For more than a month, Khama had taken the low road in his attempt to stop Kwelagobe’s re-election. The party central committee denied Kwelagobe funding to travel on party assignments, and the party chairman was forced to ask for donations from his followers. The BDP leadership was, however, forced to make a U-turn on their apparent attempt to ground Kwelagobe by denying him funding.
The party undertook to resume funding all official trips by Kwelagobe, without qualification. Kwelagobe’s supporters were in turn asked to stop the “support DK Kwelagobe’s fight for Democracy Fund” advert which was flighted in the local media.
In another curious turn of events, confidential documents which had been entrusted to the president, projecting Kwelagobe in a bad light were leaked to the press. A few weeks ago, the president summoned Kwelagobe’s supporters, Samson Guma Moyo and Satar Dada, to come and explain a telephone conversation they allegedly had on the 7th of June. At the center of the matter was an anonymous document which the President said he found on a desk at one of the presidential offices. The document outlined in detail the telephone conversation in which Guma and Dada agreed that they want Kedikilwe to become Vice President, and that they will commit their resources to lobby for his appointment.
Faced with the growing prospect of a major upset by Kwelagobe and his followers in Kanye next week, Khama looks to have begun a rethink of his strategy. He notably toned down his rhetoric during a sweep through Kanye telling party councilors and MPs from Kanye, Lobatse, Moshupa, Barolong, Ngwaketse West and Ngwaketse South that he is ready to work with anyone elected to the party central committee next week. His conciliatory position comes in the wake of reports and figures suggesting that Kwelagobe and his followers are poised to sweep all BDP central committee positions, which would have left the party president isolated in the party inner circle.
Recent events highlight that even Serowe, a traditional powerbase for Khama, has now become the centre of discontent, with many councilors going out of their way to defy the President on his choice of candidates for the BDP Central Committee.