The opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which performed dismally at the 2014 general elections will retreat to Kanye over the President holidays to reflect on their performances and what could have gone wrong and elect a new central committee.
But the biggest issue before delegates, which could influence voting patterns, is the debate on whether to join opposition cooperation or to continue fighting alone. The debate over joining the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) project, which has taken the local political scene by storm, has already caused major divisions within the BCP. While some in the party leadership have openly expressed disgust at the suggestion of engaging in any opposition unity with Umbrella partners some have threatened to resign if the BCP congress does not support the proposal. Those for opposition unity point to the sterling performance of the UDC at the 2014 polls, saying it is a clear message from the voters that they want a united opposition. Therefore, BCP will over the weekend face a litmus test of choosing between joining the UDC or going solo as they did in 2014 elections.
The theme of the congress is also telling, “Reorganizing the Party for the Future” which clearly shows that the once formidable opposition party is pondering its future. According to the party’s publicity secretary Taolo Lucas the theme is relevant against the backdrop of the party’s performance in the 2014 General Elections.
The main battle at the congress will be for the position of Vice President which is contested by longtime allies being the current Secretary General Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang and Lucas. The two are some of the founding members of the BCP and don’t know political life outside the party’s central committee.
He has been BCP Vice President in 2005 to 2010 and contested for the Secretary General position which he is currently occupying. The former University of Botswana lecturer said that he has held several positions within the BCP and his contributions are visible. In 2003 to 2005 when he was acting secretary for Health, Gobotswang said that he ensured that the voice of BCP became louder on health issues.
Dr Gobotswang who was once engaged by BCP to evaluate the Westminster/Labour Party funded projects as internal consultant said that during his tenure as Vice President from 2005 to 2010 he managed to drive policy development and advocated for inclusion of policy development under the duties of Vice President in the revised constitution. “As a result of my advocacy, the revised constitution spells out the main duties of the Vice President as to oversee policy development, and to convene and chair meetings of the policy forum,” said Dr Gobotswang.
The soft spoken BCP parliamentary candidate for Sefhare /Ramokgonami constituency in the 2014 General Elections said that he has led several commissions within the party notably the relocation of Basarwa from Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and came up with a report and the commission that looked at the link former President Sir Ketumile Masire and De Beers’s slush funds.
He was the chief coordinator and editor of the BCP/BAM manifesto in 2009. The former UB don said that during his tenure as party’s chief scribe he has managed to stabilize the party and facilitated relatively peaceful primary elections. “The party further introduced several initiatives such as the Strategic Plan, Affirmative Action, Parliamentary Support Group and successfully implemented conference resolutions. The BCP recently held peaceful BCPWL and BCPYL Elective Congresses in 2015,” he said.
Dr Gobotswang who was the shadow vice president ahead of the 2014 elections said that he has shown his true commitment to the party by travelling the width and breadth of the country on a campaign trail. One of the motivations why he is seeking to be elected the Vice President of BCP is to serve the interest of the party and to the best of his ability, he said. “In 2010 when it was expected that I will succeed Cde Gilson Saleshando for the position of President I declined because in my view it was not in the best interest of the party to be elevated to such a key party position when was still holding a full time job in a public institution like the University of Botswana,” said Gobotswang adding that he did not defend the position of Vice President either.
One of the reasons why he did not defend the position of vice presidency was because he was yielding for Lepetu Setshwaelo for the bigger picture of nurturing the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM)/BCP merger but chose the secretary general position, he said.
In 2012, Gobotswang shocked many when he left his plumb job at UB to concentrate on his campaign for the Sefhare /Ramokgonami constituency which he lost to Dorcus Makgato of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
His political friend turned nemesis; Taolo Lucas said that his aim is to ensure that BCP achieves a nationwide presence, visibility, impact and appeal. “Promote membership driven and participatory governance process that emphasizes regular dialogue with members and all layers of leadership on critical issues of Party life and build robust youth and women structures,” said Lucas who is a senior lecturer at University of Botswana in the Department of Social Work.
The outspoken BCP outgoing publicity secretary says that he wants to develop, nurture and mentor youthful party cadres and broaden both membership and leadership base through a sustained and systematic recruitment program. Lucas who in 1998 to 1999 coordinated the formulation of the Democratic Development Program as Policy Directorate Chair of BCP said that his aim is to establish a forum that shall formulate, develop and review party policies in line with emerging national and international trends. “Embark on extra-parliamentary activities both to hold the Government accountable and to raise public awareness on national issues,” stated Lucas in his profile.
Lucas who is the former Secretary General of BCP when Gobotswang was Vice President said that he will develop an accessible political education program for members. In 2014 Lucas was part of a three man team that finalized the party manifesto at Big Five Lodge and have been involved with the party from its inception in 1998. The 49 year old politician who lost to Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw in the Bobonong constituency elections last year said that he want to promote membership driven and participatory governance process that emphasizes regular dialogue with members and all layers of leadership on critical issues of party life.
Another post that is expected to produce fireworks is for the chairpersonship which has pitted party heavyweights the incumbent Motsei Rapelana and Dr Phillip Bulawa. Former Kanye North Member of Parliament Kentse Spencer Rammidi is expected to tussle with National Democratic Front (NDF) founding Member Phillip Monowe for the Secretary General Position. Youthful Tebogo Duna is proving to be a political novice with high ambition as he will take on Dumelang Saleshando for the presidency.
Another interesting race will be for the Publicity Secretary which is pitting former BCP Youth League President and current Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse and Ditiro Majadibodu, a BCP parliamentary candidate for Nata/Gweta who lost in the last general elections.
The BCP congress which is the first one after the general elections will among others deliberate on circumstances that led to their dismissal performance in the 2014 general elections where they only garnered three parliamentary seats.
According to a communiqué from the party, the conference is expected to propose bold new initiatives that will bolster the party going into the future. This will also be the first conference in which they will be using a new constitution which was amended at the Selibe Phikwe conference.
The BCP communiqué states that the conference will start on Saturday with registration of delegates and be officially opened by party president Dumelang Saleshando on Saturday.
Elections will be held on Monday 20th after the old central committee is dissolved.