I wish to contribute to the debate on the BDP’s central committee elections sparked by Dr Raphael Dingalo and latched onto with customary glee by Spencer Mogapi and Aubrey Lute of Sunday Standard and Botswana Gazette, respectively.
The issue at hand is the need to build and maintain maximum unity within the ranks of the BDP as 2009 National elections loom. It is, therefore, not surprising that there are differences of opinion on how members of the BDP can achieve unity by holding Central Committee elections while simultaneously keeping an eye on preparations for 2009.
It is imperative for the BDP and its true friends to debate the issue in the days ahead. In doing so, however, the BDP must vigorously reject any counsel from the Spencer Mogapis of this world because they are not friends of the BDP. To take their advice will be to drink from a poisoned chalice. Not long ago Spencer Mogapi, the self styled defender of democracy, wrote an op-ed in which he agonised over the fact that Gomolemo Motswaledi was pitted against Honourable Dumelang Saleshando in Gaborone Central constituency. To him the Central Committee elections are a straw man for beating up his pet hate, President Ian Khama. We must always remember that chaos in the BDP would be received with a lot of jubilation in many newsrooms across the country.
However, the issue of holding Central Committees Elections on the eve of 2009 general elections needs to be approached with cool heads because it goes to the very heart of maintaining unity within the BDP.
Dr Dingalo uses the recent ‘Bulela Ditswe’ as case study for why the Central committee elections should be deferred. He posits that “we do not take kindly to losing… and unfortunately many of us would work with our adversaries as against one of our own”. Secondly, he asserts that “we should brace for protests both open and discrete. The end result will be a possible protest vote by some BDP members, resulting in them voting for the opposition”. He went further to argue that it will be unfortunate because then there will be no much time left to deal with protests before the general elections.
The thrust of his argument therefore is not to suspend Central Committee elections, but to reach a collective agreement not to hold central committee elections by adopting “deliberative democracy” based on discussions as opposed to voting.
This would not be the first time the BDP has taken this route to avoid a war of attrition among its members. After scooping the Kgalagadi North from the beleaguered BNF, the party decided not to hold elections and allowed Honourable Motobake to stand unopposed.
A similar decision also saw Honourable Ntuane and Mr Motswaledi stand unopposed in Gaborone West South and Gaborone Central, respectively.
In his contribution to the debate, Mr Gomolemo Motswaledi argued that it was unfortunate that the party’s core values are debated through newspapers. He said, “This is so because some of these issues are likely to incite emotions and confusion within the Party”. I couldn’t have put it more succinctly.
The party chairman, Honourable Daniel Kwelagobe, was also quoted as saying that “BDP members should have to be disciplined at all times” and that “the constitution does not allow for the deferring of elections”. While this is true, the BDP Chairman also needs to remember the “right of way” analogy, especially in his position as Chairman and, therefore, driver of the BDP.
As a driver you do not blindly allow an oncoming vehicle that has veered into your lane to crush you, simply because you have a right of way.
*Mr. Peloetletse is a BDP activist. He writes in his personal capacity.