There is a concerted underground campaign inside the Botswana Democratic Party to influence President Ian Khama to sack Vice President Mompati Merafhe.
This week, a groundswell of opinion was building to make Merafhe a fall guy in the face of a split that saw the BDP split into two.
It has emerged that the splinter Botswana Movement for Democracy has shaken the ruling party to the core.
“Only a fool would deny that BMD is a threat to the BDP,” said an insider this week.
Basically, the Vice President is blamed for the collapse of mediation efforts by former President Sir Ketumile Masire.
With the express blessing of President Khama, Masire had volunteered to mediate the split formally, but hardliners in cabinet and Central Committee spurned his efforts.
Some of them went as far as to question his motives, saying he was a member of the Barata Phathi faction.
It was after the BDP Central Committee spurned Masire’s efforts that Barata Phathi fell into a full speed mode to form the splinter Botswana Movement for Democracy.
Barata Phathi went as far as to claim the moral high ground by saying they had wanted to give Masire a chance while their opposing faction was disdainful of the elder statesman.
With a growing number of senior BDP members now actively briefing against Merafhe, some were this week going as far as to say he should pay the price for all the troubles that the party is currently going through.
“Obviously President Khama is going to have to find a scapegoat. Consensus so far is to blame Merafhe and there is a concerted campaign to get him sacked,” said an insider with access to what is going on inside the BDP.
While Merafhe seems to be an isolated figure, there is yet another school of thought that insists this is not the best time to sack him.
“The Vice President has a solid and loyal following. Any attempt to sack him could plunge the party into further chaos,” said a Merafhe sympathizer who did not want to be identified speaking on such a sensitive matter.
Last week, the Minister of Education, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, came up with a communications strategy that is meant to rescue the BDP from turmoil.
But already some of the party’s leading strategists are questioning the efficacy of the Venson-Moitoi plan unless it is accompanied by more substantive measures, like a cabinet reshuffle to augment it.
“There is a lot of anxiety as we speak. The biggest mistake we made was to undermine BMD. We missed on a big opportunity when we did not embrace Rre Masire’s mediation efforts,” said one of President Khama’s advisors.
He added that President Khama was very open to Masire but that hard-line elements in the A-Team, which is linked to Merafhe, did not want anything to do with Masire.
“The statement that was read out by Masire on radio was personally sanctioned by President Khama. The problem is there are some people in cabinet who owe their positions to factions. They know very well that without factions some of them do not qualify to be cabinet ministers. These are the same people who stonewalled Masire’s mediation efforts. It is a pity the Vice President may end up paying the price because many of them are his followers,” said the same person.