Reconciliation efforts by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President Ian Khama have failed to unite warring camps in Molepolole South where a full blown tussle between aspiring contestants for Bulela Ditswe has degenerated into a war of words. Democrats in Molepolole are tearing at each other over Bulela Ditswe primary elections which take place in October. An invitation for Expression of Interest (EoI) for party primary elections in 19 constituencies held by opposition will be opened soon after the party congress, which takes place in Tonota on 7th- 9th July. The two camps, one led by Kabo Morwaeng and the other by Shima Monageng have been trading salvos and heated exchanges, which culminated in complaints being registered with the BDP Central Committee. The party central committee last Sunday dispatched the Member of the Central Committee responsible for constituencies in Kweneng West region, Mmapula Phuduhudu, to quell the fires in Molepololole South constituency. Before the Sunday meeting Khama had on 7th January 2016, during one of his visits to party structures in Molepolole, instructed the opposing camps to resolve their differences and report to the branch chairperson. In turn, the latter would call a general meeting of the constituency to announce the amicable solution where the party chairman – Mokgweetsi Masisi – would be in attendance. That never happened and the standoff continues.
Complaints against Morwaeng
The meeting held at Lewis Memorial School last Sunday was a fact finding mission in an investigation headed by Phuduhudu following a letter of complaints against Morwaeng and the branch committee dated 02 June 2017, signed by 64 party members from the constituency. The complainants, believed to be from Monageng's camp, accuse Morwaeng of hijacking the operations of the branch committee to push his ambitions to contest as MP under the pretext that he is assisting the branch office. The branch chairperson and secretary Aobakwe Garebakwena features prominently in the letter of grievances. "Unfortunately sir, the branch committee is acting like Morwaeng's de facto campaign team executive and this is fueling animosity. The branch secretary goes around boasting that those who do not support Morwaeng and the vice President will be vetted out in the 2017 primary elections," reads part of the letter addressed to BDP Secretary General. On other matters, the branch secretary is accused of forcing women's wing committee members to resign during preparations for the branch women's wing congress ahead of the BDP women's national congress in Maun. In another incident the branch chairperson and secretary are said to have acted in contravention of the BDP constitution when they instructed Gamodubu ward to hold cell congresses without the consent of the branch committee.
Those cell congresses were conducted by Garebakwena and Kweneng West regional secretary councillor Thebeetsile. "The branch committee is doing everything in favour of a certain person who is intending to stand for MP elections. Such acts add fuel to the fire and intervention is sorely needed," the letter reads. It also emerges from the letter that although the Central Committee has instructed all branch committees to accept all 2014 independent candidates (mekoko) unconditionally into the party, some are still sidelined by the branch committee and treated as outcasts. At the meeting, Morwaeng is said to have denied any wrong doing or influencing the conduct of the branch committee but confirmed to the meeting that he supports the branch financially and has availed his vehicle for use by members. To emphasise the gravity of the matter, the hearing was attended by senior party leaders among them Chairman for Kweneng West region and his deputy Motlhophi Leo and Shabir Kablay respectively, Treasurer Oabile Regoeng, Secretary Councillor Oabona, branch chairperson and Secretary Dilaki and Aobakwe Garebakwena.
Branch committee responds
As the drama unfolds, Branch Secretary Aobakwe Garebakwena, who uses the vehicle donated by Morwaeng has also written to the party central committee accusing Monageng of causing instability in the party. Coincidentally the two letters were written on the same day, and replied by Acting Executive Secretary Ame Makoba on the same day. Gaobakwe's major complaint is that for almost a year now Monageng has been holding in-house meetings throughout the constituency every Wednesday where he lobbies party members to vote for him in Bulela Ditswe to represent the party as its candidate for MP position in 2019. In the same meetings Monageng introduces his team of council candidates, Garebakwena alleges. Monageng is said to have ignored attempts to stop him, saying he is just doing party work of recruiting members and that as a member of the party he has a right to call any meeting anywhere. "(He) consistently, continuously and with clear intention act in a manner that is contemptuous to the party leadership and is calculated to bring the good name of the party into disrepute. His conduct is a clear violation of the general code of conduct and primary election code of conduct," said Garebakwena, asking the party leadership to take appropriate action against Monageng. Monageng denied knowledge of the complaint, but said the accusation is malicious and calculated to tarnish his name and discredit him ahead of vetting for Bulela Ditswe. He said there is no how he could launch a campaign before the vetting process, moreso that the party has not called for EoI from aspiring candidates. Phuduhudu is expected to report back to the Central Committee at its next meeting in July. The showdown in Molepolole unfolds just two weeks before the BDP national congress in Tonota, where a new leadership will be elected.