One would wish to be that fly on the wall at the upcoming Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) congress for the reasons that it may not take place after all. A faction whose interests it may not serve could try to frustrate it. If it does, there may be blood on the floor if the prevailing circumstances are anything to go by. Divisions, utter dislike for each other in the orange brigade, are so palpable that one feels the faction with a good backing is out for the kill. The divisions and animosity are driven in my view, by egocentrism rather than political ideology or the ultimate goal of dethroning the BDP. Consequently, the two factions have dismally failed to manage these differences. But one thing is certain – the BMD will remain even more divided after the congress because prominent leaders are nowhere near ending hostilities towards each other. The BMD, however, has to be up and running to be still relevant to Botswana politics. In this conversation, we look at the factions themselves and the possible congress outcomes if it does take place. It must be mentioned at the outset that the BMD is in this conundrum because the National Executive Committee (NEC) elected at the Gantsi congress in 2015 has been dysfunctional. Owing to this, the party ceased to function wholesome hence the unfolding events. Three scenarios are likely to unfold: (a) under normal and general congress processes, there should be Presidential, General Secretary’s and the Treasurer’s reports which are normally agreed to by the NEC ahead of the congress. Congress credentials may also fail. These are unlikely to be presented because of the divisions in the NEC (b) it will be difficult to agree on the congress agenda and (c) the faction with numerical advantage will move that the NEC elected in 2015 be immediately dissolved; elections for a new NEC be held and those deemed anti-BMD expelled. Let us look at the factions.
It is reported in the media that this faction is sufficiently represented in the NEC where it outnumbers the other (Gaolathe/Mmolotsi). It therefore tells us that as at the last congress, it had numbers. Does it still have them considering the current twists and turns? The answer could very well rest in the failed special congress which was required and reportedly so to settle once and for all the dysfunctional nature of the NEC with specific reference to expelling Modubule and Mangole. One is tempted to conclude that had this congress convened, we could be talking something different. Modubule/Mangole faction is anchored and correctly so, around constitutional supremacy of the party constitution hence the current suspension of the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction. But the supremacy of the constitution holds the centre only if there is stability and peace in the party-imperatives currently lacking at the BMD. In this regard therefore, it becomes patently clear that the aspect of constitutionalism does not provide the leverage and legitimacy Modubule/Mangole faction desperately requires. Almost some if not all the decisions taken by the NEC have not been enforceable or adhered to – a fatal blow to the faction! The postponement of the BMD Youth League congress was openly defied together with conditions attached to Gaolathe/Mmolotsi suspensions –Letlhabile meeting is another example of such defiance. Based on the aforesaid, it can arguably be concluded that Modubule/Mangole faction is on the back foot going to congress.
I will argue that this faction has taken full advantage of the dysfunctional nature of the NEC to play a victim card which on the surface appears to be working for it. This is the faction that sought but failed to initiate the special congress last year whose purpose is discussed above. It would appear that even if this congress failed, the message was duly delivered where about 19 or so regions/branches endorsed it – a sign that this faction has a base to operate from. The re-admission of Advocate Pilane has further divided the party with some endorsing it and others rejecting it. It is not clear in terms of the numbers for or against it. The Letlhabile meeting above all else somewhat confirms from those who attended it that this group has numbers to determine the future of the BMD. This will however be rejected by the other faction that the crowd was rented. Members of BOFEPUSU leadership attended and endorsed the meeting and by extension, Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction. Modubule/Mangole faction has not to the best of my recollection held any gathering by which its numerical strengths or weaknesses could be ascertained. I give it the benefit of the doubt in numbers behind it. That said, the faction (Modubule/Mangole) purports that it has something up its sleeves which will be revealed shortly. We wait with bated breath.
As alluded to above and the glaring reality that there is no love lost between the factions this congress will essentially serve as a cleansing platform by the majority faction over the minority. I want to reiterate that whichever group holds firm to push its agenda will brutally annihilate the other. If Modubule/Mangole faction prevails, it will certainly expel the other from the party with the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi doing the same for the obvious reason that no love is lost between them. If the congress fails, the current status quo shall remain with the BMD further sliding into constitutional crisis. We will watch if the UDC will come into the fray. Political careers for individuals will unavoidably be on the line as a result of the conflict bedevilling the BMD. The Modubule/Mangole faction, based on the perception that Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction has the numbers and the sympathy accruing from the victim card, may potentially be at the receiving end. Latest reports indicate that Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction is gaining ground in its current tour of regions/branches. MPs who are aligned to the Modubule/Mangole faction have been warned by the other that they won’t make it to the 12th Parliament. This goes without saying that other MPs in this faction may as well not make it depending on whose side other opposition parties are likely to be influenced to vote. The attendance of the Ramotswa BMD Youth Congress and the Letlhabile meeting by some in the UDC gives us an indication of the 2014 slogan of moono through which formidable politicians like bo Rre Dumelang Saleshando and Botsalo Ntuane lost their seats could be used to eliminate those deemed anti-moono. Opposition members appear to be voting for the party over individuals. The election of Hon Butale who pitched up at the eleventh hour at Gaborone Central is the case in point. The famous ‘Wind of Change’ speech by former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillian in which he said ‘The wind of change is blowing through the continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact’, may very well be that the wind of change is indeed blowing through the BMD.
The two factions possess two distinct weapons capable of inflicting the same outcomes. In this instance, outcomes from these weapons are different. One of the outcomes could deliver instant set back. The Modubule/Mangole faction possesses the power of the constitution which appears not able to deliver the fatal blow. It is like the Court of Appeal finding out that the President acted unlawfully by refusing to appoint Attorney Motumise a judge and consequently directing him to do so yet the President ignores the directive. Modubule/Mangole faction is in the position of the Court of Appeal where the other faction is disregarding its decisions. Gaolathe/Mmolotsi has the power of the grass root support which, given the prevailing circumstances leading to the congress, could potentially deliver the required fatal blow. When all is said and done, the battle between constitutional supremacy and the victim card/grass root support will determine the making or breaking of the BMD. That said, I am tempted to flow with Gaolathe/Mmolotsi which I hereby do precisely because constitutional supremacy has so far failed to stamp its authority. I am however not oblivious to the fact that politics is an unpredictable game. Hilary Clinton appeared to be on her way to the White House but Donald Trump, somehow and against overwhelming predictions and expectations, had the last laugh. Judge for Yourself!