Friday, July 12, 2024

Politically smitten Kanjabanga aims at Boko’s jugular

They say don’t be afraid to rock the boat once in a while.

And anybody who happens to fall overboard was never meant to be there in the first place.

If his rocky history with the Botswana National Front (BNF) is anything to go by, the above statement may very well sum up Gabriel Kanjabanga’s favourite mantra although he did fall off the boat himself in 2012.

Now eight years since his expulsion from the BNF, with no prior announcement of his return to the party, the self-proclaimed BNF stalwart is already gunning for President Duma Boko’s seat.

While he maintains they enjoy a cordial relationship with Boko that spans over two decades from as far back as their university days, their political relationship has been anything but. Kanjabanga has always questioned Boko’s ability to lead the BNF.

“Politically, Boko is not a good leader. I’m wondering how he agreed to be given the responsibility of leading a political movement like BNF. We tried him twice at UB and he bolted out. He is a dictator. But I blame the BNF membership for this. He has never been a BNF member and has never voted in his life,” he was once quoted by the media.

It was Boko himself who pushed Kanjabanga overboard eight years ago on charges of stirring up trouble within the party when the latter challenged the BNF’s decision to go into coalition with the Botswana Movement for Democracy.

Kanjabanga had of course unsuccessfully attempted to torpedo Boko’s opportunity for BNF Presidency four years earlier (2008) by challenging the latter’s eligibility to stand for party elections. He argued that Boko had rejoined the BNF in 2007 from the National Democratic Front (NDF), which time was way short of the mandatory minimum requirement of five years before a member can contest for the presidency. Kanjabanga and his faction that included fellow expelled comrade Lemogang Ntime said the mandatory five-year probation period was meant to protect the party from being hijacked by fly-by-night candidates.

Boko however managed to withstand the tide, eventually becoming BNF President in 2008. Now almost a decade after his expulsion from the BNF Kanjabanga says he has retraced his steps back to the party.

Sunday Standard paid him a visit at his law firm to have a chat about his future plans in politics, particularly with BNF.

Looking fresh and well-groomed in a white shirt and sky blue tie, it is apparent life away from the dusty political rallies has been good to him.

But it soon becomes clear he will shortly switch the white shirt for the famous yellow, black, and green one-size-fits-all BNF t-shirt.

He tells Sunday Standard he re-applied for BNF membership in 2018 following a clarion call by the party leadership at the last party congress in Rakops for all former members to return.

“I applied for membership at ward level as is permitted by the party constitution,” Kanjabanga says.  He doesn’t see his application for BNF membership as an extra-ordinary case that needs to be treated as such. “I applied like any person would and was admitted back into the party accordingly. I’m a member of the BNF in good standing. I see no resistance from the party leadership in relation to my membership. The only resistance I expect is in the competition for leadership positions as it should be the case.”

Although the ink has hardly dried on his alleged re-application form he says he is already eyeing the party presidency.

“I have been approached by some members of the BNF who want me to run for party leadership and I have decided to heed the call.”

It is not clear exactly when Kanjabanga decided to run as he refuses to answer whether he would have been ready to run had the BNF not postponed their scheduled July 2020 elective congress due to COVID-19.

“I don’t want to talk about hypothetical situations.”

He does not believe the BNF’s compulsory five-year waiting period for new members to run for office applies to his situation.

He believes Boko’s High Court victory in 2008 sets a good precedent for his potential candidacy.

“The same court ruling that cleared the way for Boko to run in 2008 applies to my situation. I have been with the BNF for over 30 years. The few years that I have been inactive in BNF politics pale in comparison to the years I have spent serving this party. My track record speaks for itself. Of course I have had my shortcomings but nobody can question my commitment to this organization.”

All the more eager Kanjabanga says he wants to run for the BNF presidency because he believes the party can do better.

“I believe I can improve the BNF’s current standing in Botswana politics. I want to consolidate the party’s position in the event of a possible government.  I want to transition the BNF as an alternative government because the ruling BDP are definitely running their last lap. But before then we need to look more critically at opposition parties’ organizational processes. They need to be capacitated.”

He says in order to fully articulate their position on bread and butter issues affecting Batswana the BNF needs to fully introspect.

“There should be an evaluation to figure out where we went wrong in the last elections. We also need to rebuild party structures. We need to return to the culture of issue and ideology based politics.”

While his expulsion had largely to do with his anti-coalition stance Kanjabanga says it is entrenched in the BNF’s DNA to unite different political organizations with the ultimate goal of unseating the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

“Our late president comrade (Kenneth) Koma always believed in the need to organize a multi-organizational front to tackle the BDP.”

He says he fully supports the BNF’s current position in relation to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition.

“The view that we need to propagate as BNF cadres in relation to opposition cooperation is that of the party not individual sentiments.”

Kanjabanga says he is currently working on a lobby list for possible candidates to fill up other positions of leadership at the next BNF congress. While he says he has applied and been admitted back into the party, the BNF says as far as they know Kanjabanga remains expelled from the party.

“Any application for membership from the likes of Kanjabanga would have to be considered by the Central Committee, not ward,” BNF’s Information and Publicity Secretary Justin Hunyepa has subsequently told Sunday Standard.

Kanabanga has always maintained he is a member of the BNF despite the expulsion.

He told the High Court in 2018 he remained a member of the BNF. He said at the time that he had never received any letter from the BNF notifying him of the “purported” expulsion from the party.

This was despite court records showing a letter signed by then Acting Secretary General, the late Same Bathobakae dated May 7, 2012 expelling Kanjabanga from the party. The decision to expel him was taken at a BNF special congress held in Mahalapye the same year.

The BNF Central Committee took a decision to postpone the party’s elective congress earlier this year as a result of COVID-19.

Hunyepa said at the time that the party would decide on a suitable date as soon the situation allows for large gatherings. Party president Boko was expected to face off with his vice president Dr. Prince Dibeela.

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