Friday, March 1, 2024

Motswaledi’s death sows divisions, BCP officials leave funeral midway

President Ian Khama has accused Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) party elders of tolerating unruly behavior following a disruption of Gomolemo Motswaledi’s memorial service last Wednesday by rampaging UDC youth who interrupted Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) speakers.

Addressing the community of Moshupa-Thamaga constituency on Thursday, Khama said UDC youth are sent by the very same people in the UDC who want to be the presidents and government officials’ of tomorrow.

┬á“It is against our culture, they are tarnishing our names, and we are not talking about any assassinations we are focusing on creating employment and fighting poverty through government programs. We want them in the election that is where we will kill them,” he said.

Khama condemned the move by UDC youth to obstruct the Acting Minister of Presidential affairs, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, who was scheduled to speak as a representative of the BDP. 

┬á“The family of Motswaledi allowed all the political parties to speak at Motswaledi’s memorial, we sent Matlhabaphiri to represent the BDP and the youth interrupted his address. This has forced some members of the BDP to leave earlier fearing for their safety,” he said.

Sunday Standard has learnt that some members of Parliament for the ruling BDP found themselves cancelling at the last minute their scheduled trips to Serowe for Motswaledi’s burial.

Commenting on President Khama’s comments, BMD Secretary General Wynter Mmolotsi said the president was extremely insensitive.

┬á“I did not think that Khama could go to an extent of saying such words while people are still grieving,” Mmolotsi said. “I expected him to announce at that gathering that since thereare allegations surrounding Motswaledi’s death that the government will put an inquest into Motswaledi’s accident.”

Accusing Khama of sowing disunity in the country, Mmolotsi said: “Really what he said does not suit him as the president of this nation. We expect him to be a nation builder not a nation breaker.” The BMD Secretary General guaranteed the safety of BDP MPs, saying: “Yes they approached me asking me to guarantee their safety. I did guarantee them of their safety and those who were there both from the BCP and the BDP were safe. Nobody was harassing them. I do not even know that the leader of the BCP left the funeral midway. Really I cannot even say it was because they were harassed but I want to assume that they had other business to attend to.”

Meanwhile, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) also said they felt unsafe at the funeral and left the proceedings midway.  
BCP president Dumelang Saleshando said it was most unfortunate that the funeral of a national icon such as Motswaledi was being used as a platform to divide the nation when it is evident that the values that he stood and campaigned for were not discriminatory.  

“The BCP was invited by the Motswaledi family to speak at his memorial service at the UB stadium as well as at his funeral in Serowe. I accepted the invitation and delegated Rammidi to speak at the UB stadium on behalf of the BCP. ┬áUDC members invaded the UB pitch demanding that the BDP should not address the memorial service and a decision was made by their leadership to also exclude the BCP,” he said.

Saleshando added that when he proceeded to Serowe on Friday morning to pay his last respects to Motswaledi he was moved by the speeches made by his father and brother, who both pleaded for tolerance and that the death of Motswaledi should not be used to malign others and threaten the peace.  

“On my arrival, I had been briefed by the family that I am part of the program. They however further indicated that they are aware that there were some at the funeral who plan to disturb proceedings should I be allowed to address the mourners. They promised to observe the situation and keep me posted on the developments,” he said.

Saleshando said as the program progressed, he was advised by the family that it was clear that there was a plan to disrupt the program if he spoke and he agreed that they should delete him from the program ÔÇô a move which was later announced by the Master of Ceremonies.

“I was later informed that the tension was deteriorating, UDC members were still to speak and my colleagues advised that we should leave and not be the source of disruption to the proceedings of a man we all respected and held in high esteem. I took the advice and left out of respect for the family. The last thing they needed was to witness a repeat of the UB stadium embarrassment,” Saleshando said.


Read this week's paper