Monday, January 17, 2022

The big fallout!

A low key sectarian power play is unfolding behind the scenes inside the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

The power play which has pitted BDP National Chairman against Secretary General is part of a countdown to April 2018 when President Ian Khama is expected to step down.

The cold war smouldering inside the BDP is by far the strongest hint that incumbent Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who is also BDP Chairman is not a guaranteed shoo-in successor beyond 2019 when under the BDP constitution the position will become vacant lending itself to a potential contest ahead of the national General Elections.

Already a number of names have cropped up as possible candidates to challenge Masisi when that time comes.

These are Jacob Nkate, Nonofo Molefhi and Tshekedi Khama.

Tshekedi Khama and Molefhi are serving cabinet ministers while Nkate, a former minister and Secretary General of the BDP is currently serving as Botswana’s Ambassador in Tokyo, Japan.

Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane is poised to play a preeminent role in the succession battles.

Abnormally conscious of the hurdles that he will be facing and also that he still has to consolidate his position inside the party, Masisi has been busy working on consolidating his position across the party structures nationwide.

This has prompted whispers of abuse of office alleged by his opponents inside the party.

This week he gave an interview to a weekend newspaper in which he griped that some people who want to challenge him were out to undermine him.

Insiders say the Vice President’s sense of grievance and feelings of injustice are all driven by a deep-seated insecurity and self-conscious inadequacy.

They say these are fuelling his mistaken suspicions that some members of the Central Committee, led by Secretary General Ntuane are out to support camps that are planning to challenge him in 2019.

This, they further point out has led to attempts to sideline Ntuane.

“All of a sudden he sees enemies under every shadow,” said a BDP insider not aligned to Masisi.

A Ntuane supporter has hinted that since late last year there have been subtle but sustained and concerted efforts to marginalize the Secretary General. Those efforts reached their peak after Ntuane gave an interview to the effect that BDP was seriously considering working with Botswana Congress Party. That annoyed President Khama who demanded that Ntuane, who was attending a party assignment in London should report to the office of the President when he arrived back home.

“The last time I saw President Ian Khama that angry was when he sacked Gomolemo Motswaledi. I am confident that Ntuane was going to be sacked had those close to the President not intervened,” said a member of the BDP Central Committee who attended a meeting with the President that week.

The strategy, The Telegraph has learnt was to suspend Ntuane on his way back and replace him with his immediate past predecessor, Mpho Balopi.

Ntuane was however saved by late intervention by among others, Tshekedi Khama who advised his elder brother, President Ian Khama that any attempt to nudge out Ntuane would result in a BDP split reminiscent of the 2010 one when a breakaway Botswana Movement for Democracy was formed.

In the end common sense prevailed. But briefing against him has not stopped. Neither have attempts to sideline him.

His supporter says high profile press conferences that have been addressed by Chairman Masisi to welcome activists defecting to the BDP from opposition have often happened without Ntuane’s knowledge.

“Over the weekend there was a hastily arranged press conference to receive some members of the youth league from the BMD. The press conference happened on a Sunday when Ntuane was in South Africa attending the African National Congress annual January conference. Why the haste? These press conferences are the responsibility of the Secretary General. Because the people being welcomed are youthful members even the BDP Youth Chair could have received them. But Masisi is bent on using these platforms to campaign ahead of everyone else.”

While he has been able to attract mainly the business elite around him many of who are image-makers rather than politicians, Masisi is still to prove his political credentials among party’s grassroots where the numbers lie.

It is important to note that at the last BDP Congress in Mmadinare Ntuane collected the highest number of votes making him the most popular candidate of all those that were elected. He got 724 votes, against Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri’s 124.

Masisi who was elected Chairman got the second highest votes cast among all candidates.

“It is clear that Ntuane is going to be a factor deciding who the party president becomes in 2019. And that has not escaped the attention of the Vice President who is now using his stooges to sideline Ntuane.”

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