Internal bickering within Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which hitherto claimed to be the most stable party in the country, exploded into the public fora on Thursday evening after the leadership suspended four members of a defiant group calling itself Ditimamolelo. BCP Youth League (BCPYL) Secretary General Thato Osupile, former BCPYL President Lotty Manyepetsa, Virginia Masole and Oganne Mazwingwila were slapped with suspensions for breaching party discipline. According to the suspension letter published on the party's facebook page the four members are accused of meeting with some senior Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members and were funded to recruit BCP members to the ruling party and cause internal instability. “Party members are cautioned against the ongoing recruitment and other acts of indiscipline spearheaded by the said members and are further advised to desist from meeting or entertaining them in any way during the period of suspension,” reads part of the letter from the party’s Information and Publicity Secretary.
The suspension has sparked a war, which threatens to destroy the party, as the youth league immediately broke ranks with the leadership. Just hours after the orders from the leadership, BCPYL President Tumiso Rakgare said on Friday that they know about the suspension of their secretary general and will meet with him (Osupile) on Saturday to discuss the issue as the youth league. Asked if they will not be going against the order by the leadership that they must desist from interacting with the suspended members, Rakgare said there cannot be dictates to how they should engage their fellow members. He refused to state whether as the BCPYL they are unhappy with the suspension but chose to say that the Saturday meeting will guide them on the way forward.
BCP members were visibly left stunned on Thursday evening when the party leadership announced the suspension of four of their members through social media.The letter was responded to with mixed feelings with most of BCP members accusing the leadership of being petty while others supported the suspension. Some called on party president Dumelang Saleshando to resign as he has failed the party.
One of the members who took offence at the way the suspension was communicated is the party’s parliamentary candidate for Maun East in the 2014 general elections and former Botswana Lands boards, Local Authorities and Health Worklers Union (BLLAHWU) president Goretetse Kekgonegile who said that it was wrong for the party leadership to suspend members through social media. Cracks within the BCP started showing during the BCPYL elections in which the youth were divided into two factions being a group calling itself Ditimamolelo, who are strongly opposed to opposition unity with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and those who were for the idea. The suspended members belonged to Ditimamolelo which identified itself as protectors of the party ideals. The tension boiled over ahead of the recent national leadership elections in which party members exchanged harsh words through social media. Ditimamolelo was accused of being intolerant to those who were pro-opposition unity and being divisive. Most of their candidates at the elective congress in Kanye lost. Their lobby lists included Taolo Lucas for Vice Presidency, Phillip Monowe for Secretary General and Ditiro Majadibodu for publicity secretary.
The congress was supposed to discuss the opposition unity issue but three papers were presented in which some supported joining other opposition parties, while another was against and the third paper was for a referendum. The last straw that broke the camel's back and presented a litmus test for unity in the BCP was the nomination of parliamentary candidates for Goodhope-Mabule constituency bye elections. While some members of the National Executive Committee wanted party candidate Comfort Maruping to withdraw from the race and endorse UDC candidate Lotlaamoreng Montshioa a faction led by Ditimamolelo, insisted that the party should field a candidate of their own. A heated meeting is said to have ensued with Maruping and those who support him telling the leadership that no resolution was taken to negotiate with UDC and as such they would not withdraw from the race. They managed to get their day. One of the suspended members Manyepetsa has accused party leadership of being economical with the truth. “They are lying we have not been bought by anyone to destabilize the party and I don’t know if it is wrong to be approached by members of another party,” said the militant Manyapetsa who revealed that he has not seen the suspension letter.
Asked if he will go and get the letter from the office, Manyapetsa said that if the leadership wants to communicate with him they know where to find him. “They should also be aware that I am a member of National Democratic Front (NDF) which is a group member of BCP and as such I am answerable to NDF not BCP,” he said. The former BCPYL President said that he will sue the party for dragging his name in the mud by accusing him of being bribed which he said is tarnishing his political credentials. In a statement posted on social media suspended BCPYL Secretary General Thato Osupile said they have been suspended because the party feels they were becoming too popular and influential within the BCP, “and we demanded too much practice of participatory democracy where party members are allowed to give direction to the party". He said they were aware that they will be suspended and ultimately expelled from the party after one of the Executive Committee members informed them that trumped up charges will be pressed against them. “We are simply guilty by association of supporting candidates of our choice leading to the Kanye congress,” said Osupile, adding that many more who will follow as the new committee is on a crusade to expel those they feel are standing on their way.
Efforts to get comment from BCP Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse were futile at the time of going to press but he said through a communiqué that the National Executive Committee met on the 30th of July 2015 to consider a matter of imminent interest relating to discipline amongst its membership. He said that this was against the backdrop of party President’s speech at the elective conference held in Kanye. Keorapetse said the suspension was necessitated to allow the party to conduct an investigation without hindrance and as a way of instilling discipline within the party in the immediate short term.
In the last general elections BCP did not perform well and this was attributed to its decision not to join the UDC. Since the general elections the party has been divided on whether to join the alliance with its newly elected Secretary General Kentse Rammidi threatening not to accept nomination to be the party’s chief scribe if the conference does not adopt resolution to work with UDC.