President Ian Khama on Friday told a meeting of the ruling BDP (Botswana Democratic Party) Councilors in the Central District Council that he will have a serious difficulty working with Daniel Kwelagobe if he [Kwelagobe] was retained as the ruling party National Chairman at next month’s congress at Kanye.
Kwelagobe is contesting to be retained as National Chairman of the BDP ÔÇô a position for which he is challenged by former cabinet minister Tebelelo Seretse.
The meeting held at Lady Khama Community Hall in Serowe was confirmed by a councilor who attended.
Also in attendance were Minister of Defence, Ndelu Seretse, Minister of Environmental Affairs, Kitso Mokaila and Tshekedi Khama (one of President Khama’s two brothers).
The three form a core nucleus of Khama’s inner circle.
A councilor who attended the meeting said the agenda was kick-started by Ndelu Seretse who welcomed the guests and called on the President to state the case that had brought him to Serowe.
“The way the meeting was arranged at short notice had led us to believe the President was going to brief us about an important national issue. But as soon as he started, it became clear to us that the whole thing was a factional, stage managed campaign for Tebelelo Seretse, who was also later given the floor,” said another councilor who also attended the meeting.
The President started off by asking the councilors to help him.
Tebelelo Seretse, who is challenging Daniel Kwelagobe for the position of Party Chairman, has recently seen her campaign skid off the rails when she failed to even get enough candidates to be a candidate at next month’s congress.
BDP insiders say the Serowe meeting was an attempt by Khama to prop up Seretse in a key constituency which seems to be slipping off the grip.
Recent events highlight that 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.
With close to 200 councilors, all of whom will be casting their votes at the Congress, the Central District will play a key role in the outcome of the contest.
“Realising that his preferred candidates are losing in the traditional campaign trail, President Khama is now clearly going for broke. It is a sign of desperation,” said a senior member of the Kwelagobe campaign team.
Contacted for comment what the real purpose of the meeting was, the Press Secretary to the President, Sipho Madisa, said it was an internal BDP matter to which the press had not been invited.
“I am not at liberty to disclose to the media what transpired at the meeting. It was an internal party matter,” said Madisa.
Although the meeting was sold as a BDP caucus, the party Executive Secretary, Batlang Serema, had also not been invited. He later said he knew nothing about the meeting.
“I was not invited. I knew nothing about that meeting. May be the President addressed it in another capacity other than a BDP leader,” Serema told the Sunday Standard.
When he stood up to speak, President Khama said he was worried by what was happening between him and Daniel Kwelagobe.
He said he was pained by the fact that the BDP is approaching both the Congress and the General Elections a divided party.
He made it clear that he and Kwelagobe were not at all working together.
He further said he has tried in vain to sell the idea of people not holding many senior positions in the party and government at the same time.
Mediation by former President Sir Ketumile Masire had also collapsed.
The President said some of the people to whom he tried to sell the idea to included Jacob Nkate, Nchi Rammidi, Gomolemo Motswaledi and Wynter Mmolotsi.
“We learnt that Mmolotsi and Motswaledi rejected any idea of a compromise out of hand while Nkate complained that it was unfair to him that he was only allowed to serve a one, two-year term as Secretary General when Kwelagobe was allowed 27 years,” said a Councilor who talked Sunday Standard on condition of anonymity.
On why Lesego Motsumi had been allowed to continue in cabinet even as she was campaigning to become an executive member of the BDP Central Committee, a situation denied Kwelagobe, President Khama said he decided to be lenient on Motsumi because she was not a leader of a faction.
“Kwelagobe says he wants to resuscitate party structures which collapsed under his watch. How can he do it when he is now so old and in poor health,” the President is reported to have said.
When it was time for the councilors to ask questions, others said the President should have brought Kwelagobe along so that he too could be given an opportunity to answer the charges levelled against him.
They said it was unfair that Tebelelo Seretse who is a contender was paraded before them when the other side was not favoured with the same opportunity.
“We basically told the President that it was wrong to accuse the people who were not part of the meeting as to be able to answer for themselves,” said the Councilor who talked to Sunday Standard.