Though the 2019 general elections are still about two years away, the battle for control of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) structures ahead of the polls has started with political gladiators and aspirants oiling their machinery and strategising to realise their dreams. On their political calendar is the BMD Youth League Congress slated for next month. The party has further been given the mandate by its contracting partners at Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to lead the umbrella youth league. Since their 2015 elective congress, BMD has never known internal political peace, especially at the leadership level with factionalism paralysing it. With Youth League elections looming the ugly head of factionalism is showing once more. In addition, the tussle over control of the party structure and the struggle for political relevance have exacerbated division and heightened tension within the party and thus threatening the stability of UDC. Party president Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi are being accused by a rival faction in the top leadership of meddling in youth politics by campaigning for Jacob Kelebeng. Recently party Secretary General Gilbert Mangole accused Gaolathe and Mmolotsi of holding meetings with structures without informing the secretariat, raising this alarm in a radio interview. Information gathered by this publication has revealed that the Gaolathe’s faction is not comfortable with working with another aspirant Kagelelo Kentse whom they suspect he belongs to the Mangole faction. The scheming for the coveted BMDYL presidency ticket and other plum positions has resulted with battle lines being drawn, with prospect of the crisis that rocked the party in 2015 being re-enacted.
A source within the BMD leadership has revealed that the internal wrangling within the party has weakened the party structures as evidenced by the National Executive Committee and BMDYL which have never executed their mandated since being elected in 2015. “Though we claim to be a formidable force within the UDC, it is clear that our structures are becoming weak due to internal strife among its leadership,” said the authoritative source. There are fears that if the internal squabbles are not resolved before the youth league elections it might split the party.
Is Ndaba losing his influence?
When the internal wrangling within the party leadership went public last year, most party members threw their support behind the party leader Ndaba Gaolathe and supported his move for a special congress. He was influential in the formation of UDC and was the brains behind its 2014 manifesto, thus cementing his authority within BMD and the UDC. He is revered as a prominent leader in the UDC but the recent developments in the party seem to be reducing his influence, especially after his face-off with other UDC leaders over the outcome the merger talks with Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Some within UDC accused him and his faction of influencing the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) to protest constituency allocations and proceed to seek more. The aftermath of the coalition talks, which is said to have favoured the Mangole faction, is said to have shattered the relationship between them to the extent that they try as much as possible to ensure that their respective paths do not cross. The recent development in which both factions are touring the country is said to be a clear indication that the two political gladiators are pursuing their own political agendas. “With party cohesion disappearing into the thin air, the various camps are now working at cross purposes and it would definitely have effect on the party,” revealed one BMD leader.
BMDYL presidential aspirants call for calm
The two BDM youth league presidential candidates have called for calm ahead of the elective congress and appealed to their members to avoid dirty campaigns. Responding to the concern raised by Mangole on radio recently, Kentse said that if it is true some party elders are meddling in youth politics, saying campaigning for certain people would be unfortunate. “The youth must be allowed to conduct their affairs and choose their leaders without the interference of the party elders,” said the worried Kentse. He called on the youth to stay above factionalism and avoid being personal against each other as it has the potential to destroy the party. Kentse said he has tried to approach the other lobby group to form one team as a way of preserving party unity, which is currently on a shaky ground but his efforts didn’t bear any fruits. Kelebeng said that he was disappointed with Mangole taking internal party issues to the media. Though I don’t know whether he exhausted internal party channels, personally I am of the view that it could have been handled better,” said Kelebeng. On allegations that Gaolathe is conducting factional meeting canvassing votes for him, Kelebeng rebutted the allegations, but added that there is nothing wrong with the party president being invited to party meetings and seminars. Kelebeng said it was too late to talk about compromise as they are about to launch their campaign manifesto.