President Lt Gen Ian Khama abused his position as leader of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), acted in bad faith when he suspended party Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi and misled the nation in his statement widely carried by the state media in which he explained how he came to his decision.
The scathing allegations are contained in an affidavit filed by Motswaledi with the High Court in Lobatse where he is challenging Khama’s decision to suspend him from the party.
Motswaledi states that his suspension from the party was a slight of hand by Khama to neutralize the Barata-phathi faction who hitherto was controlling the BDP Central Committee.
He explains that at the recent BDP congress in Kanye, “all but one of those elected were in the grouping commonly referred to as Barata-phathi”.
He says Khama, “in terms of Article 30.5, appointed additional members, all of whom were aligned to the grouping associated with him”.
“The result was that of the 18 members, the Barata-phathi had a solid 9 supporters and the grouping aligned with Khama had a solid 8 supporters, and one member was not aligned. (The effect of my suspension is to disturb the balance of alignment within the Central Committee and was, in my contention, a deliberate objective of the second respondent” (Khama).
Motswaledi argues in his affidavit that Khama “misused his power… to try to tip the balance of power in the Central Committee”.
He further states that the article Khama used to suspend him can not be evoked if the power is used in bad faith and that Khama’s bad faith is manifest.
Following Motswaledi’s suspension, Khama issued a press statement which was widely carried in the government media, in which he made a number of allegations against Motswaledi.
“I deny that the allegations against me are a fair account of the events that passed. The account is a distortion of my bona fide efforts to fulfill the functions assigned to me as Secretary General upon my election by the party at Kanye in July 2009.”
Motswaledi’s suspension followed a complaint by Shaw Kgathi, a member of the BDP Central Committee who is associated with the A-Team faction. Motswaledi, however, says the real complainant was Khama and Kgati was just a pawn in Khama’s scheme.
Motswaledi further goes to show how Khama “has, for a long time, exhibited a bias against me”.
“At the 2007 National Congress, I wanted to stand for election for Secretary General; he urged me not to. I did stand and was narrowly defeated.”
When Khama became president, “he stood down from his parliamentary seat, Serowe North West. The constituency is where my family home is located. I wanted to stand. He insisted I stand down to make way for his brother.
“When I sought election as Secretary-General in July 2009, he wanted me to refrain. I was nevertheless elected with 56% majority.”
Motswaledi says Khama’s decision to suspend him was aimed at silencing his critics, a move unprecedented in the party.
“There are several examples of public criticism of party leaders where no action was taken at all. This is the practice of the Party; not to silence a critic. No precedent exists for resolving internal differences in this way.”
He further states that the “controversy on which I publicly commented, that is, the exercise of the powers of the Party President by the Second respondent, has been in the public domain since the July 2009 Congress. Ironically,” Khama claims to “have instructed Collins Newman & Co to make a public statement, apparently reflecting his own view, thereby participating in such public debate.”
“Moreover, the misconduct of which I am alleged to be guilty, even if such conduct was arguably inappropriate, cannot constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’ as contemplated by article 34.1.6.,” states Motswaledi.
“My stance on unilateralism on the part of the second respondent (Khama) is not a private belief, but is supported by at least half the members of the Central Committee and, in my belief, by the majority of the party members.
Motswaledi says that if he is not reinstated he might not contest the general elections, a harm he contends is not irreversible if he wins this suit.
“Moreover, I need time and opportunity to campaign so that I have a proper chance to take the seat from the opposition,” states Motswaledi.