Friday, September 25, 2020

Kwelagobe – stirred but not shaken

Botswana Democratic Party Chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe, has asked party members not to descend to a “disreputable level” of attacking each other in public. This comes a few weeks after President Lt Gen Ian Khama publicly attacked Kwelagobe of being “power hungry” at a political rally to launch Vice President Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe as a parliamentary candidate in Mahalapye.

In his keynote address at the launch of Kanye South candidates for the 2009 general elections, Kwelagobe spared the president and instead charged that, “if I were a power hungry individual as the media purport, I would have long made a bid, given my long association with the party for other positions, more prestigious and materially rewarding than cabinet minister. It has never been my ambition to be president or vice president. Now in the autumn of my political career, I still have no interest in those positions hence my commitment to be of service to those who occupy them”.

Kwelagobe’s speech provided a telling insight into the mood within the BDP only a few weeks before the make or break party congress in three weeks.
Certainly, the party veteran feels a sense of urgency to hold the party together following unprecedented public bashing by members. But, in equal measure, he also retains a sense of self-assuredness, the kind that comes with more than two decades in leadership.

Kwelagobe told party members that he has been personally vilified for choosing to contest for a party position over a cabinet appointment.
“My only sin is to exercise my democratic right under our constitution to offer my services to the party.

Such attacks run contrary to established norms, rules and code of conduct of our party. In situations like this, other party members who take exception to such behavior may be tempted to respond in kind. In the heat of political exchange, the impulsive reaction would be to fight fire with fire. No matter how justified we think we are, it can never be correct to attack a fellow democrat in public. My appeal is that no democrat, no matter how provoked, should descend to such a disreputable level because we remain democrats and still have to work hand in hand after the dust of the Kanye congress has settled.”

Kwelagobe dismissed rumours that if returned to party Chairman he would not be able to work with President Khama as the “handiwork of individuals pursuing an ulterior motive”, charging that the rumour undermined his and the president’s integrity as they both respect the constitution of the party. “Much as we may have differences of opinion, as indeed is normal in a mass organization, both of us are subordinate to the constitution and if democrats deem it so at the Kanye congress, we shall join hands to discharge our constitutional mandate.”

Kwelagobe further stated that, “Just to demonstrate how baseless this rumour is, on the Friday of 17th July, the BDP will meet in a special congress at which, as per our constitution, delegates will elect the party’s presidential candidate for the general elections. I, like every single delegate at that congress will nominate President Khama for the position because in our tradition every president must serve their two full terms.”

On the issue of women empowerment, Kwelagobe told BDP members in Kanye that, “having been secretary general of our organization for a considerable number of years, I am most acutely aware of the pivotal role played by the female constituency in the success of the party. More than any social group, it is women who have shown a more enduring affinity to the BDP. They have been more receptive to our message because they possess the honesty to see how life affirming our policies are. As a result any effort to improve their political situation is commendable. This though must not be done to the detriment of other party members who enjoy equality under the constitution. Moreover, for such empowerment initiatives to work, we may need to review our key documents, such as the party constitution to provide for certain positions to be held by women. In that way the relevant constitutional provisions would be binding on all party members. In my view this should be the course of action to pursue. In the interim, however, democrats must be permitted to elect to the party leadership those activists whom in their judgment can serve the party best”.

“As has been the case in the past, a veritable mix of capable men and women has always come to the fore. Kanye should be no different.”

Kwelagobe said “leadership must never be imposed on a democratic organization”
(SEE OPINION PAGES FOR FULL SPEECH)

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