News coming from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Rre Mpho Balopi is that the Special Congress to elect its President has been brought forward from July to 5 April this year. What happened to the BDP tradition of holding such an event in July? Political convenience one could argue. Balopi has informed us that such election will be undertaken through block voting as opposed to secret ballot as provided by the party Constitution and that this is constitutional. (See Botswana Guardian edition dated 22 February 2019). As far as I can recall, no explanation has been offered to justify departure from voting via the secret ballot. If indeed this is the true position, Article 29.1 of the BDP Constitution will be seriously offended to open the party to litigation in the form of interdicting such elective congress in so far as it relates to the position of party President.
Article 29.1 of BDP Constitution mandates that “When the Party is in power, the President of the party shall be elected by secret ballot at a national congress of the party called by the Central Committee during every General Election.” This provision is unambiguous and it baffles my mind why the whole BDP Central Committee members could pass such a resolution that is clearly in conflict with Article 29.1 of the party Constitution. Apart from the seemingly obvious premise that the Executive Committee could be sympathetic to President Masisi, there could only be one reason and one reason only: the fear of the unknown as posed by Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. That is why H.P Lovecraft said that “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown. The fact that delegates at the 5 April 2019 Special Congress would be required to vote as a block as opposed to secret ballot could justifiably be interpreted as an intimidating tactic to those who feel Hon Venson-Moitoi is their preferred candidate. It could also be interpreted as a ploy to circumvent, stall, manipulate and frustrate internal party democracy by putting in place mechanisms that should provide a pre-meditated outcome as it appears to be case in the unfolding events in the BDP.
Not every delegate from all regions could be President Masisi’s supporters. This is confirmed by the reported but contested results by some from the eight BDP regions that are reported to have endorsed President Masisi. From these regions, some have also endorsed Hon Venson-Moitoi. The Central region contested endorsement of President Masisi was put on the spot light by the Councillor for Thabala/Mogorosi ward Rre Kadimo Oremeng on Thursday night on Duma FM. He poured cold water on such endorsement by claiming that procedure, let alone other imperatives, were ignored in convening and holding the regional meeting. He claimed that other party constituencies/wards have been excluded from partaking in the regional endorsement processes. If this is true, it would confirm the circumvention of party processes to create a pre-meditated outcome.
Less than two years ago, the BDP held a National Congress in Tonota where Hon Nonofo Molefhi challenged President Masisi to the position of party Chairman. Because Camp Dubai to which President Masisi belonged and was solid as I have stated in the recent past, secret ballot was used for the Chairmanship position and others. It is public knowledge that President Masisi through Camp Dubai demolished Hon Molefhi and those in his slate. What has caused secret ballot this time around to be an inappropriate mechanism in another elective congress? The tables have now turned where Camp Dubai has crumbled with no guarantee that President Masisi is guaranteed victory over Hon Venson-Moitoi. As it stands and could be argued, divine intervention looks like it won’t deliver victory for President Masisi hence unorthodox measures to do so. And by hook or crook if I may add.
Block voting may result in unintended consequences for President Masisi. Firstly like I have mentioned above, a democrat could challenge the use of block voting in court by arguing that it is in conflict with Article 29.1 and therefore unconstitutional. Secondly, the 5 April 2019 Special Congress could be interdicted by such court challenge. Thirdly, such congress would be thrown into disarray with further divisions and instability in the party heightened. Fourthly, Hon Venson-Moitoi could take advantage to lure more people to her side. The point I am making is that should the Kang congress continue with block voting, BDP political fissures will go from bad to worse with contemplated unity and cohesion becoming a pipe dream.
My unsolicited advice to the BDP is simple: run the affairs of your party with laid down processes and procedures by applying the Constitution as per its provisions. Any deviation seemingly orchestrated to favour President Masisi could painfully and brutally back fire. The moment the party Constitution is allowed to see other party members as favourites and others as villains is simply to court disaster the party may not be able to handle. It is accepted that the President is a favourite by virtue of incumbency but the reckless manner in which party activities are rolled out create an impression that all will be done to ensure that he ultimately wins is a disservice to the BDP and its members.