By Thobo Motlhoka
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President Mokgweetsi Masisi has promised the party faithful that he will ‘return’ the BDP to its glory days.
Delivering his acceptance speech at the party’s Special Congress in Kang last Friday Masisi seemed to take a veiled swipe at his predecessor Ian Khama, admitting that the party has suffered a setback under Khama’s watch.
Masisi, who had invited to the podium party veteran and former minister and Permanent Secretary to the country’s first President Seretse Khama, Archibald Mogwe, said the party veteran had made the trip to Kang because he was concerned about the BDP’s state of affairs.
“At 98 years old he (Mogwe) is keen to make sure the BDP restores itself and gets back to its days of glory,” Masisi said.
He said he would lead the BDP to glory both in 2019 and 2024. Masisi’s speech followed an uncontested run for the party’s presidency following his opponent Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s withdrawal from the race citing irregularities in the build up to the Congress.
The BDP recorded the lowest percentage of popular vote in 2014 under former president Khama’s leadership.
The party failed to register an outright majority, recording a 47 percent popular vote against the opposition’s combined 53 percent, narrowly avoiding a historic defeat.
While the opposition coalition of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) presented a stronger competition for the ruling party, the poor performance of the BDP was largely attributed to Khama’s authoritarian rule and complete disregard for the rule of law coupled with a surge in institutionalised corruption.
Since he took over the reins a year ago President Masisi has reversed some his predecessor’s authoritarian directives. While there have not been any convictions yet the current BDP president has vowed to root out corruption, with a dozen individuals already facing charges related to looting of public funds. Venson-Moitoi’s effort to unseat Masisi was seen by many as Khama’s ploy to pull a Vladimir Putin, by using her as a proxy to continue calling the shots from the grave and protecting his personal and business interests.
Masisi’s confirmation as the BDP’s Presidential candidate for the 2019 General Elections will give him just six months to consolidate his presidency and address various issues of national interest ranging from corruption, inequality and unemployment that have grown immensely under former president, Khama.
Masisi promised to extend an olive branch to Venson-Moitoi and ask her to work with him rebuild the party. “I am going to call Mma Venson-Moitoi and congratulate her .I’m going to ask her to join me in uniting this party,” he said in Kang. The two were expected to meet on Monday and work out a way forward.