Honestly I never thought Sidney Pilane’s application for re-admission into the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) would become such a hot potato. I took it very lightly. I had thought it was just going to be a simple matter of welcoming back a prodigal son. In fact, I had hoped Pilane would be received with open arms and jubilation. Pilane is a high profile personality and all political parties yearn for such members, at least that was what I had initially thought. I am also told Pilane has lots of money and is very generous with it. Given how out of their pockets our opposition parties are, I had hoped the arrival of the reportedly moneyed Pilane would bring a sigh of relief to the BMD. I was even preparing to lambast those who were against his readmission on the basis of his alleged desire to challenge Ndaba Gaolathe for presidency. I just couldn’t believe the same people who accused Ian Khama of suffocating democracy and discouraging competition within the BDP would be so up in arms, against what appeared to be the right direction in the upholding of true democracy. I mean, what is wrong with Pilane joining the party and eventually challenging Gaolathe for presidency? That was the question I was asking myself. Perhaps I must state from the onset that I am not so in touch with BMD’s internal politics. I am just a distant observer and as such I might not be privy to a lot of things within the movement.
My support for Pilane’s readmission was based purely of objective opinion, given that he is not the first political chameleon. A lot of our politicians have left their parties only to retrace their steps and indeed run for political office. Guma Moyo left the BDP and eventually went back. Not only did he go back: he contested and won the party Chairmanship. The same happened with Botsalo Ntuane who is now the BDP’s Secretary General. Well, perhaps it is wrong to compare the BMD to the BDP because surely, the latter is more desperate for readmission of its prodigal sons, given how their departure severed the party’s fortunes. But like I said, to me, Pilane’s come back was nothing new in our politics. They always leave and come back. In any case, I cannot imagine Pilane dethroning Gaolathe from the BMD presidency immediately on arrival. It will take some time for party members to trust him after he had dumped the party during the time it was fighting to prove its mettle and relevance. So his alleged desire to challenge Gaolathe for presidency was delusional on his part. I was of the thinking, why not just accept him back and let him humiliate himself by attempting to challenge Gaolathe. I have been observing events as they unfold around Pilane’s contentious readmission and have come to a conclusion I know little if not nothing when it comes to this issue. There seems to be more than meets the eye here. It is not even how the BMD leadership is handling the issue but rather, the way Pilane is handling it. It is very clear to everyone, including Pilane, that his application has the potential to break the BMD and it therefore leaves more questions than answers as to why he seems so hell-bent on pursuing a matter that has the potential to break a party he supposedly loves so much, given the vigor he has put into his readmission.
One would have thought, for the sake of his reputation, Pilane would not put up a fight so as to avoid the danger of being viewed as the man who fought to be part of the BMD. Why would a man of Pilane’s stature fight so much to be a part of a voluntary movement? What is in there for him? Honestly we cannot blame the likes of Wynter Mmolotsi for their apparent apprehension about Pilane’s return. These are the people who stayed behind when all other BMD founders such as Pilane left the party. BMD detractors used the departure of people such as Pilane to discredit the party and labeled it a fly-by-night project that would never stand the test of time. It was difficult for Mmolotsi and his group to assure Batswana that the departure of Pilane and other founders such as Ntuane and Guma was not the beginning of the end for the BMD. The BMD soldiered on with dedicated people such as Mmolotsi and eventually became a force to reckon with. It must therefore be painful to see people who put the party in such a bad space now unashamedly strolling back into the party and even yearning for leadership positions.
While I sympathize with Pilane, I also empathize with Mmolotsi and his group. I feel them. You cannot entirely ignore their apprehension. Pilane has never come out to dismiss reports that he once cozied up with Ian Khama to the point where he was promised a Judgeship position. Pilane is also on record as having defended his supposedly professional relationship with Isacc Kgosi. Now, how do we expect BMD people to easily trust Pilane when he is associated with people who are blamed for what led to the formation of the BMD? I honestly do not see anything wrong with Pilane having relationships with Khama and Kgosi but Pilane should know that politicians are always viewed with suspicion even where it doesn’t warrant such. Pilane should not expect everyone to view things on the surface like me. If BMD people have reservations and suspicions on Pilane, he is the one who planted those suspicions. Legally and even professionally there is nothing wrong with Pilane representing Kgosi and even accepting promises from Khama but in principle, especially in African politics where there is no trust among politicians; Pilane should have stayed away from Khama and Kgosi if he knew he harbored plans to return to the BMD in future. His desperation to return at all costs ignites suspicion on his real motive.
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