Clearly, a lot of effort, time, resources and money have been invested over the last three years to douse or, at least, bring to manageable levels the unbearable BDP factions.
But still the separate worlds of the two factions inside the ruling party are well and alive.
Not only are the factions rearing their ugly heads, they are at the moment raring and bracing for each other’s throat in the wake of preparations for the approaching national congress.
While on the surface it may seem like a lot has been achieved to reconcile the two sides, underneath the happy, smiling, happy go lucky faces lies a still smoldering hatred borne of a long running wrestling match for absolute control of the party, a fit which will only be confirmed by total annihilation of one faction by another.
More stakes and impetus to the contest have been added by Daniel Kwelagobe’s announcement that after close to thirty years continuous occupation of the position, he will retire from the party Secretary General position.
Another new dimension is that the Kedikilwe faction, of which Kwelagobe is a key figure, feels buoyed by the readmission into cabinet of their two leading high priests, (Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe) early this year.
Naturally, the arrival of the two men has been met with grinned teeth by the opposing Merafhe-Nkate faction who have been quick to interpret such a comeback as a clear cut case of giving in and pandering to pressure by President Festus Mogae who succumbed to long running demands for a cabinet reshuffle.
It is because of these turned tables that Kedikilwe’s dyed in the wool functionary, Gomolemo Motswaledi, feels upbeat that he will emerge as Kwelagobe’s successor at the congress.
Motswaledi though has to contend with crossing one hurdle; beating Jacob Nkate to the position.
It will not be an easy task.
Nkate is currently the Deputy Secretary General.
He is also a senior cabinet minister over and above being a co-leader of a currently dominant faction.
Motswaledi’s case is also not helped by the fact that at the height of the BDP factions, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Ponatshego Kedikilwe and made no attempt to apologise when everyone else demonized the then party Chairman and parleyed with him to make way for Ian Khama.
But still Motswaledi is unflinching.
BDP watchers say it was Motswaledi’s principled stance and loyalty to Kedikilwe during those troubled times that won him (Motswaledi) Ian Khama’s admiration. Khama worships loyalty as a matter of principle.
“I wish I had someone who showed the same devotion and loyalty that the young man is showing Kedikilwe,” Khama is said to have mumbled to his inner circle as the contest grew tenacious and uncertain.
Kedikilwe went on to lose the Chairmanship to Khama, and Motswaledi is well aware that to this day detractors are still harking and harping on his defiant stance and show of loyalty to Kedikilwe and calls for his punishment for having backed the wrong horse.
He, however, makes no attempt to win over detractors.
To this day, Motswaledi remains unrepentant that at the time his decision to go against fad and support Kedikilwe was a deliberate, rightful well thought out decision. He will not apologise to anyone.
“A democratic society gives one the freedom to exercise choice.┬áThis choice does not imply the lack of respect and confidence in the one who was not supported.”
To further justify his point, the former BDP youth Chairman chooses to go philosophical.
“In most cases, votes are situational and are a product of circumstances of a particular time and space.┬á I believe these are great men who can work with other great men and women of this party to take it to dizzy heights.
Perhaps as an appreciation of Khama’s influence inside the BDP, Motswaledi goes an extra mile to detach the current Chairman from the haystack that is the BDP factions, especially the Nkate/Merafhe axis.
“Khama is not a member of the Botswana Democratic Party by accident.┬áHe is a man of integrity with full understanding of basic tenets of democracy and I genuinely don’t believe that he would be easily swayed by the opinion of those seeking vengeance. ┬áHe understands and appreciates that in a democratic society, people’s views are atomized. He further appreciates that pluralism.”
It is only after substantially and substantively dealing with the still hanging Khama/Kedikilwe issue that Motswaledi feels he could address the bigger voting crowd that are the party delegates at the congress.
To him, the delegates at the congress are also of Khama’s make, at least in as far as understanding elementary principles on which the BDP is supposedly founded.
After all, he adds, this is a fresh election and fresh congress, he says trying to strike a cord with the new official narrative inside the ruling party that factions have been comprehensively condemned to the past.
“It is not borne out of the unfortunate yesterdays of divisions.”
But still from the tone of his message it remains clear though in a diplomatic way that he is playing the popularly held opinion inside the BDP that, while Nkate has talked and participated in factions, his followers are generally poor performers.
“This congress is that of BDP that seeks to promote merit as opposed to sentiment, purpose as opposed to tokenism, taking on a high road of party development as opposed to business as usual.”
This is also a diplomatic way of putting through what crops in almost every BDP conversation that while steeped up in faction and high lifestyles, the Nkate faction cadres are city slickers that never want to soak their hands in dirt by performing the party’s menial chores, especially in the countryside.
There is also a new school of thought gaining ground inside the BDP that given the organization’s importance of the position of Secretary General, the position should be held by a person unencumbered by the hectic schedules and exigencies of a cabinet minister.
To further argue his case Motswaledi says he stands a better chance having served at community levels in lucid organizations that are not backed by financial gain or bureaucratic support.
To him his track-record in community involvement is the true test for the “expression of pure leadership that is unhinged on statutory and legal support.”
“To be more specific, I had the occasion to serve in the Central Committee and then was out.┬á This break then gave me the opportunity to reflect on things that I could have done better as a national officer of the party.┬á Having seen through things that can be improved and those that should be promoted, I will be able to inject the party with the necessary energy of an interested, keen and certainly regenerated outside observer.┬á In-breeding is not always a gainful option for transformation.”
To this end, he says, his opponent will not be voted on account of “promotional reward.”
Rather, the competition is on the basis of respective records, talents, experience, aptitudes, abilities and competencies.
He says the competencies required for the job of Secretary General do not include experience in Cabinet, Central Committee or Parliament.┬á Rather one must be an effective leader and administrator of people.
He adds that existence inside the BDP of preference and promotions based on “aristocratic under tones of inbreeding” misrepresents the ruling party.
“A Democratic Society is a free society.┬á It is a society that is driven by meritocracy, of course, without loosing a sense of stability and continuity.┬á That is why a service record within that society is looked at to ensure stability, but what is more crucial in serving is the probability that one gives an organisation some edge for enhanced success.”
To fully address the issue of factions inside the BDP, Motswaledi becomes candid that while in the wholesome the divide is unlikely to play a profound role in the coming Congress this is one phenomenon that will take time to heal.
“Success in dealing with factions should be judged in more relative than absolute terms.┬á It is for that reason that I believe the party is ready to deliver administrative processes that deliver efficiency and effectiveness in preparation as a way of reversing past electoral misfortunes.