Botswana Democratic Party Chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe has called for restraint in the party.
He was responding to latest attacks by Secretary General Jacob Nkate who has published a long op-ed in local newspapers calling on BDP members to reject Kwelagobe at the party Congress due in two weeks time.
Kwelagobe has offered himself to be retained as Party Chairman, a position for which he is challenged by Tebelelo Seretse.
In an interview with Sunday Standard Kwelagobe said he has come under pressure from his supporters to respond in kind, but emphasized that it is important even in such difficult times to respect the rules and regulations governing relations inside the party.
He said he was surprised by personal attacks against himself, because he has never gone out of his way to attack a fellow democrat.
In his article, Nkate repeated an assertion that Kwelagobe is driven by a deep seated hatred for Vice President Mompati Merafhe.
“I cannot say Merafhe and I are close friends. But then Merafhe has never attacked me publicly. I have also never attacked him publicly. It is only fair that people who want to get at me should not use Merafhe,” said Kwelagobe.
“Nkate can say anything that he wants but he should leave me and the Vice President out.”
On the allegation that he has called for two centres of power, Kwelagobe said if there is any call for two centres of powers then it is propagated by people who are saying ministers should not contest for party central committee positions.
“We have always had ministers serving as part of the Central Committee. It is true that there was a resolution to separate the two but it was never implemented because the party constitution has never been changed,” he said.
“The charges of creating two centres of power should be directed to rightful owners. Not to me,” he said.
On automatic succession, Kwelagobe said he has always been opposed to the arrangement.
He said he made his views clear even to the former President Sir Ketumile Masire who came up with the idea.
“During Masire’s time I opposed automatic succession as did many of my colleagues who were in cabinet at the time. But the arrangement was adopted by majority members. As a party policy we had to move on and embrace it as if it was ours. That has always been the way of doing things inside the BDP,” he said.
He said to this day he still holds that automatic succession is not the best policy. He said he has also communicated his position to President Ian Khama.
“Some people think automatic succession brings about stability, but my opinion is that stability is created by free and fair elections.”
On his relations with Vice President Mompati Merafhe, Kwelagobe emphasised that they are not the best of friends.
“But I was the first to speak endorsing the man at a party caucus after the President proposed Merafhe’s name for Vice President. Every BDP Member of Parliament knows that. I do not know where Nkate gets the hatred from,” he said.
On whether or not he will respond directly to Nkate’s attacks, Kwelagobe said he will not.
“It is up to the BDP members to make up their minds.”
For the first time Kwelagobe has disclosed that since he was elected at Ghanzi he has been denied an opportunity to travel the country to resuscitate the party structures.
“People felt that by going around the country I would be popularizing myself. This is exactly the same thing that happened recently when I was denied party money to go to Boteti to do official party work,” he said in reply to charges that he has allowed party structures to collapse during his last years as Secretary General.
“I hope that this time around those elected to Central Committee will be allowed an opportunity to go around the country serving the party,” he said.
“The truth of the matter is that I want to be an active Chairman. This party used to be strong and my dream is to use my remaining years in life restoring it to its former glory,” he said.