Fireworks are expected at the Botswana Peoples Party national conference on July 15 in Tsamaya. While party President Bernard Balikani maintains that all is well within the party, recent developments indicate otherwise, and close party aides predict that the warring factions within the party will launch a massive bid for control which may eventually lead to an unprecedented leadership crisis.
Balikani recently told The Sunday Standard that he did not expect any problems at the July conference at which the executive will be looking for party members to endorse committee members who were co-opted after the resignation of some key members, among them Secretary General Cornelius Gopolang.
But if the internal wrangling that has dogged the BPP in the past is anything to go by, all will not be as rosy as Balikani is trying to make us believe.
The BPP’s woes started earlier this year with the resignation of Gopolang whom many viewed as a bona fide BPP member who had stood by the party and tirelessly worked for it.
Gopolang resigned from the BPP in a cloud of controversy after he fell out with other executive committee members over the running of the party. At that time, Gopolang told The Sunday Standard that he was disgruntled with the way some party members disregarded party regulations and continuously overruled decisions made by the party’s executive committee.
Incumbent central committee members, on the other hand, dismissed him as a self obsessed man who did not respect executive committee decisions except when they served his personal interests.
But the main issue leading to Gopolang’s resignation was differences on what model of cooperation was to be adopted in the opposition unity talks with BPP, Botswana Alliance Movement and Botswana Congress Party.
Insiders also revealed that Gopolang, who is a long time bosom friend of Balikani, had fallen out with the President, who then refocused his friendliness on Vice President Ramasu Mogatle and Deputy Secretary General Edward Mpoloka who are said not to see eye to eye with Gopolang.
Eventually, unity talks between the three parties failed as the BPP proposed that all the other political parties disband and join it as the oldest political party in Botswana.
At about the same time, the BPP suffered a humiliating defeat as they were superseded by the Botswana Democratic Party and the BAM-BCP duet in the Mathangwane by elections which were eventually won by the BDP.
While the BPP was looking to salvage pride and chart the way forward, a leadership crisis emerged after rumours abounded that party president Balikani and acting Secretary General Mpoloka were considering resigning from the party at the very conference that they will be attending in July.
Some party members say that even though the party president denied such rumours they still remain unconvinced that the two leaders will not drop a bombshell on them at the July conference and spark a leadership crisis with resignation announcements.
Since he appointed Mpoloka as Acting Secretary General, Balikani has been embroiled in a tussle with some party structures and Gopolang sympathizers who felt that Mpoloka was the wrong choice as he had displayed autocratic tendencies in the past.
The July congress is expected to endorse Mpoloka as the Secretary General. While Balikani maintains that he foresees no problems at the July conference, many within the BPP circles say that Balikani and Mpoloka’s silence did not mean that they had surrendered but rather that they had just withdrawn to consolidate their positions in a bid to pounce a surprise attack on the party leadership at the congress.
The BPP Youth League in particular is said to have been so aggrieved by Balikani’s appointment of Mpoloka as Secretary General that their National Organizing Secretary, Tongomani Dan, who is also the sole BPP representative at the North East District Council, wrote a letter to Balikani threatening to boycott party activities if the appointment was not reversed.
The youth league labeled Mpoloka as an autocratic and uncooperative man who made unanimous party decisions without consulting other members of the party.
Fingers have repeatedly been pointed at Mpoloka as the main culprit behind Gopolang’s departure. BPP insiders say that the youth league will not take the endorsement of Mpoloka as secretary general lying down but will rather go down fighting.
Other party insiders told The Sunday Standard that if Balikani fails to endorse Mpoloka as secretary general he will then, together with Mpoloka, stage a surprise resignation that will force the conference to go into elections.
Though Balikani earlier dismissed allegations of his impending resignation, the man at the center of the storm, Edward Mpoloka, does not cut such a convincing picture.
“If indeed I resign from the central committee at the July congress, it will not be because I was pushed out but because of personal reasons,” he said.
The Sunday Standard is reliably informed that while Balikani and Mpoloka are honing their strategic maneuvers to retain the BPP, some key members of the party are understood to have launched a whispering campaign to push Balikani out of the party presidency, and the July conference has been targeted as the day of reckoning.
Though his detractors appreciate Balikani’s contribution to the BPP, they say that his main undoing is his close association with Mpoloka at the expense of Gopolang, a man who many say commanded a lot of respect and support within the BPP structures.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard is that Balikani’s detractors are also expected to force a stalemate as they are expected to nominate a Secretary General candidate of their own to compete against Mpoloka.
Mpoloka assumed office after the resignation of Gopolang and he was nominated by the President and endorsed by the central and executive committee, and he only needs to be approved by the national conference.