Monday, September 21, 2020

The rise and rise of Otsweletse Moupo

The battle for the BNF presidency will be lost and won at the party back room and not on the pages of local newspapers. Smart money bets that Moupo will emerge stronger with a tighter stranglehold on the party.

“Moupo quits”

“Moupo sinks deeper”

“It’s only a matter of time”

Supermarket newsstands and street pavements were this week snowed under eye catching headlines claiming that Botswana National Front (BNF) President Otsweletse Moupo has run out of road. Like grandmother used to say: “Don’t believe everything you read on the papers.”

This, like none other, is Moupo’s moment. The BNF leader finds himself pitted against a group of media savvy men of letters feted as the party think tank.

And that is the point.

Moupo’s fight for survival is snowballing into a battle for the heart and soul of the party between a small group of university theoreticians who are more at home debating the party -izms on newspaper pages from the comfort of their air conditioned offices on the one hand and the mass of party foot soldiers who are more comfortable shouting party slogans at political rallies under tree shades and moving from door to door canvassing support for their side.

So far, the anti-Moupo side is winning the media war, but losing the battle of numbers. Smart money bets that when the last hand in the room at the party special congress has finally been counted, Moupo will sigh with relief, flash a victorious smile and privately thank his enemies.

From the statement by Dr Bucks Molatlhegi calling on Moupo to resign to the scramble by headline writers to come up with the most colourful heading for Moupo’s obituary ÔÇô the BNF think tank had a walk in the park in the propaganda war against Moupo’s supporters.

The choreographed statement by Dr Molatlhegi read: I was on principle opposed to the candidature of Robert Masitara. On the same principles, I am uncomfortable with the continued stay of Moupo at the head of the BNF as well as the leader of the official opposition. Moupo is my closest comrade and long time friend. It pains me to go public on this. But I cannot say with a clear conscience that it is ethically right for Moupo to remain BNF president and leader of the Official Opposition. It is harming the BNF and our country’s evolving democracy. How can the leader of the Official opposition call up his clients to remain calm when the firm in charge of their affairs does not have a practice certificate?

How on earth can I say such an issue is a private affair? What is private about a law ÔÇômaker’s failure to timeously comply with the laws passed by the very Parliament he seats?” The statement was a big coup for the anti Moupo group propaganda offensive.

The group however, not schooled in the tactics of hardball warfare committed costly tactical blunders.

As a result Moupo has each time emerged from the winning end of the battle of wits. The BNF leader stole his enemies’ thunder when he called the party National Executive Committee last week and announced that he was stepping down because of errors of judgement.

He however asked for time to consult with the party structures before announcing his resignation. To the uninitiated, it was only a matter of time before the embattled BNF leader stepped down. To switched on tacticians, the BNF president had outwitted his opponents and bought time to go back and rally his forces.

Apparently awakened to the fact that Moupo should not have left the room with the presidential title to his name, the party Central Committee at a subsequent meeting tried to force Moupo to resign. The BNF leader however survived another night of the long knives when he told his detractors that an audit is currently going on at his Gaborone and Selibe – Phikwe offices, and that if he fared badly he would bow out gracefully.

In a statement to the press Moupo said “I have assured the Central Committee That I have appointed auditors to do the audit in respect of my offices in Gaborone and Selibe-Phikwe, and I hope to submit the audited reports in due course.

But having said that, I want to assure the BNF membership and the nation at large that should the audit report fail, I will then do the only logical and honourable thing, resign from the party.”

The flip side is that if the audit clears him, Moupo will rebound stronger and with a tighter stranglehold on the party. Towards the end of the week, it was becoming increasingly clear that the war will finally be lost and won in backroom meetings and not on the pages of local newspapers.

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