Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which suffered its worst-ever election result since independence in 1966 with the youthful opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) tapped voter anger over high living costs and rising inequality in the diamond rich country, is allegedly flexing its financial muscle to sow divisions in the opposition ranks.
The Patriot on Sunday is reliably informed that currently the ruling party is targeting four Members of Parliament from the opposition to either join them or resign. The BDP, which has lost all the by-elections held after the 2014 General Elections, is said to be panicking as the clock ticks away to 2019 and now want to destabilise the opposition.
Dr Phenyo Butale
The current Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central is said to have been under the ruling party’s radar after they learnt that his former employer Freedom of Expression Institute is after him as he did not complete his contract and want him to pay them back for breach of contract. Sources within and outside the BDP have revealed that the ruling party has been pursuing the former Executive Director of Freedom of Expression Institute.
The South African-based institution is said to be unhappy with how the former MISA Executive Director dumped them for politics last year. Recently Dr Butale’s movable properties were attached by his former employer and are expected to be sold by auction next week. Some of the attached property includes his cars. The ruling party is said to have offered him a lucrative job which will help him to clear his debts, an offer which the UDC MP is said to have turned down. In an interview, Dr Butale denied that the ruling party has tried to recruit him or made an offer for a lucrative job should he quit politics.
The recently elected MP for Goodhope/Mabule is said to have also received an offer from the ruling party. Lotlaamoreng, who is also the paramount chief of Barolong, won the by-elections in August beating BDP candidate - the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale - and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) candidate Comfort Maruping.
High raking BDP politicians are said to be recruiting the Barolong chief and hoping that he will relent and jump ship before he is sworn in as legislator in November. Lotlaamoreng II recently denied that he is being recruited to join the BDP and called upon those who are peddling the allegations to come forward with evidence.
Lotlaamoreng II replaced James Mathokgwane after the latter resigned under a cloud of controversy to join SPEDU as Regional Director. In his resignation, Mathokgwane said that he resigned as MP due to ill-health and denied that it was due to pressure from the BDP government.
The BDP is also targeting Tlokweng MP Same Bathobakae, who is also Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President, to jump ship in exchange for a cabinet post. According to sources within the ruling party, Bathobakae has already been approached and suggestions made to her that she is unwanted within the BNF. Bathobakae is expected to be challenged by Reverend Prince Dibeela for BNF Vice presidency at the next congress and BDP is said to be using that development to convince her that is time to jump ship. Bathobakae has in previous media interviews denied the allegations and stated that she is an avid BNF member.
Samuel Rantuane, the MP for Ramotswa, is one of the three BCP MPs and one of the legislators who rarely contribute to debates. He has also attracted the ruling party’s interest and Domkrag is pursuing his seat. Rantuane won the constituency from the BDP beating Odirile Motlhale in the 2014 General Elections. According to the ruling party sources, he is one of the soft targets earmarked for recruitment. Efforts to get a comment from Rantuane were futile as he didn’t answer his mobile phone.
Recently the ruling party welcomed some influential BCP members into its ranks after it was alleged that they bought them. These included BCP parliamentary candidate for Nata/Gweta Dr Ditiro Majadibodu, BCPYL Secretary General Thato Osupile, former BCPYL President and one of the party’s fire brand Lotty Manyepetsa.
BDP special congress
Meanwhile the BDP will go for a special congress in Gaborone with reforms topping the party’s agenda. In a recent interview, BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane said that party President Ian Khama will have a meeting with BDP MPs and councilors. He said the special congress was initiated by delegates at the Mmadinare congress who wanted the party to introspect and consider reforms going forward.
The Special Congress is expected to debate reforms which include the electoral reforms and to try to bridge the gap between the party and government which democrats feel is one of the reasons that led to their dismal performance in 2014. One of the burning issues to be discussed, according to Ntuane, will be political party funding which has dominated political debates in the past. Though the BDP registered less than 50% of popular vote the first-past-the-post parliamentary system – modeled on that of Britain, the former colonial power – ensured that the BDP retains power and the system is also going to be scrutinized at the congress.
It is alleged that some within the ruling party want the hi-breed proportional representation similar to the one used in Lesotho. In 1995 the BDP called a special congress after their poor performance in the 1994 General Elections after the BNF managed to secure 11 parliamentary seats. Some of the reforms that were introduced after the 1995 Sebele Congress include the limitation of presidential term to two terms and lowering of voting age from 21 to 18 years old.
During the Mmadinare elective congress in July the party passed 22 resolutions. The party is also expected to debate the introduction of term limit for MPs in order to bring fresh thinking into the party and legislature. There is concern among democrats that high-profile role of young professionals in the opposition movement gave it a broader appeal to voters than the conservative BDP.
In the past elections opposition parties have struggled to recruit top-calibre candidates, in contrast to the ruling party’s well-oiled recruitment system which targeted top civil servants. Some democrats are also expected to call on party leadership to consider giving opposition parties equal coverage on government media as denying them such is proving to be working against them.
To counter BDP dominance on the state controlled media opposition parties resorted to using social media and the internet to provide an alternative to state-controlled newspaper and electronic media. Opposition rallies attracted large boisterous crowds of especially young people during the campaign period.