The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is at its most challenging moment in its history. Having won the 2014 General Elections with an embarrassingly slim margin, a margin that has never given it a clear legitimate win to manage the country it now has to prepare for 2019 within a very angry and divided nation. The BDP is not only finding itself having to campaign within a very angry and divided nation, it is facing a future without its messiah President Ian Khama who was brought in to revive its sinking glory. The BDP is also finding itself in a new terrain of inter party politics. In its last congress, there were just so many democrats contesting for the Chairmanship position. This is a rather unusual set up that remains to be explained by those with more insight. The rest of us can only speculate that this was an outburst depicting lack of confidence on chairman Masisi. It is also safe to speculate that it was also a revolt against President Khama’s authority. It is equally safe to speculate that coupled with all these, this was a sign of people feeling a need to take their party back from the closed circle. All these efforts, though having failed to produce immediate fruits, have however set the tone. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult within a party designed for the elites and their immediate circles and cushioned to appear as a political party by the blind and poor masses. The tone is that the BDP is no longer a Khama affair. It is a national affair where members of the BDP feel belonging and entitled to contest for whatever position they feel the outmost vigour to grasp. The tone has been set. It is also a tone that has seen the ascendance of many youths into the campaign trail who feel equally deserving to compete with the old guards for positions. The position of Deputy Secretary General which is being defended by senior cabinet minister Shaw Kgathi against the youthful; Benedice Louis Sibanda and the former ruling BDP Youth Wing chairperson; Andy Letsogo Boatile is a case in point. This is the same position that Minister Kgathi had to defend, in their last congress in Mmadinare, against the former Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) chairperson Metlha Mokwena. Though he successfully managed to defend the position, such has not helped that Metlha Mokwena has set the tone that the position is up for grabs, particularly by young people. There is also an intention to challenge what it may be safe to label a life Treasurer General of the BDP Abdul Satar Dada who was in their last congress challenged by the youthful Moemedi Baikalafi. This tone, though light in colour, speaks volumes. It is a tone that also seems to be fueled mostly by the ultimate death of the traditional factions of the BDP; Barata Phathi and the A-Team. It is an interesting tone.
The BDP must tread carefully in this new tone. It must know and keep in mind that whilst President Khama was busy at the Government Enclave, Chairman Masisi was busy re-building the BDP. Masisi was busy capturing and re-capturing new and old members back to the BDP from the opposition parties. He has captured not only members of opposition parties, but sadly for the opposition; activists of these opposition political parties. This includes the likes of Lotty Manyapetsa. Though some might be arguing genuinely that retaining Chairman Masisi will be more like allowing President Khama to rule from the grave, they must also keep in mind that the current national political impasse needs a stable and united BDP. Without these, it shall be the end of a journey. It does not feel nor sound like the BDP, in the event of Chairman Masisi not retaining the Chairmanship position, could ever find peace. This is the timeliness that complicates the equation for Minister Molefhi and makes life simpler for Chairman Masisi! Whilst these new Chairman Masisi recruits maybe simply dismissed as some hungry fellows, or lost politicians, it is worth noting, that they know the real political terrain of Botswana. They know the hardships of campaigns and have endured the same under painful circumstances during their times at the opposition where resources are plainly a taboo. Now finding themselves within the ruling party which plainly has ample resources, they are bound to make huge impact in the dis-favour of the opposition. They also know that their lives at the BDP are tied to a Masisi victory. They are not wrong, they are realistic. These new recruits and returnees are the same people who are out there campaigning for Chairman Masisi. They know congress politics. Whilst their colleagues at the ruling party have at most times found themselves having to make compromises at congresses for the sake of peace and stability, it has been altogether a different story at opposition congresses. Knives have always been out; in some instances, literally. They are aware that the best way to have congress eating out of your palm is to perfectly have the branches be within your fold. They know that to win congress is to win delegates and not some media analysts reacting to bathroom thoughts. They are aware that if it means rigging branch congress elections, so it should be done, and so it shall be done. Besides, branch congresses are usually staged.
Whilst Minister Molefhi might be the right candidate to challenge Chairman Masisi, he still appears undecided, uncoordinated and politically uninspiring. Minister Molefhi is a quiet and nice guy. That we can’t take away from him. But it is this being too quiet and too nice that takes every aspect of being a Chairman of the BDP under these trying times. His team is also a bit lost as to who is on their side and who is not. Whilst his two rubble rousers; Biggie Butale and Ignatius Moswaane may do wonders on national rubble rousing championship, their strategy cannot work at congress level. Besides, the two rubble rousers are seen as trouble makers denting BDP image. Congress is just too structured and engineered to meet a particular purpose. And the purpose is to reign in Chairman Masisi. Minister Molefhi also seems to be relying more on the notion that there are people who see Chairman Masisi as another Khama and will do everything in their power to get rid of the Khama dynasty within the BDP. It is possible that his advisors are not telling him that very few urban people, or to be precise, Gaborone people who are pursuing this line of thought will make it to congress. If they do make it to congress, as usual they will be mere observers and delegates and hence not being able to cast a vote to support their thoughts and wishes. Thus theirs shall remain only a wish and in turn Molefhi’s wish shall remain thus. The terrain to be a congress delegate is not an easy one. It means having the time to attend that branch congress and being labeled all sorts of names. It means having to endure the murmurs and outburst of approval. It is a given that in most congresses of the BDP, history is that the usual urban fellows are not delegates whilst most of the delegates are the economically challenged, the detached and the unknown and invincible lads who at the end of the day make decisions not based on any party ideology or understanding, but on the basis of the social programmes of the current Government such as Ipelegeng, Constituency League, Arts Competitions etc. This is where it begins and where it ends. Equally, it is safe to assume, that Minister Molefhi is busy drafting his political obituary. Indeed, he shall be mourned as having been a quiet and a nice guy.
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