PHILLIMON MMESO looks at the race for the all-powerful BDP Secretary General position and puts his head on the block about who will come out on top.
For the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) it is calm before the storm. Jockeying for the party Central Committee positions has been going on quietly, with no feathers ruffled. The congress takes place in Tonota from July 7. As of now, three candidates are sure bets to be on the ballot coming the elections time for the secretary general position. The incumbent Botsalo Ntuane will face off with former secretary generals Mpho Balopi and Jacob Nkate. The three men command huge following and theirs is expected to be nail-biting race, going all the way to the wire.
As the incumbent he enjoys command of structures and the benefits of having been in constant contact with regions and constituencies. He has been part of the party President Ian Khama’s entourage as he re-awakened collapsed structures. A shrewd politician of note, Ntuane does not belong to any lobby list and hence enjoys support across the lobby groups. He will benefit from vote splitting in the two lobby groups. His message of unity for the party seems to resonate well with the democrats as they want to return the party to its glory days. This is the position he maintained during the Mmadinare Elective congress where he received the highest votes two years ago. Highly placed sources in both Molefhi and Masisi’s lobby groups have hinted that during their campaigns delegates have told them point blank that though they will give them votes for the chairmanship position, for the Secretary General they will go for Ntuane. Known for espousing different ideologies, Ntuane believes so much in building strong and formidable grass root structures as evidenced by his proposed reforms for the party. He became the party’s secretary general after its dismal performance at the 2014 general elections. Most democrats believe that he has done a good job, especially the resuscitating of BDP structures, and are ready to retain him to take them to the 2019 general elections. Another advantage he has over his challengers is that he declared that his aim will be to concentrate on rebuilding the party and won’t seek political office in 2019. This will not be the first time Ntuane and Nkate face each other as the last time was in 2005 at the Serowe Congress for the position of deputy Secretary General. At the time Nkate was the incumbent and managed to retain his position. Nkate scored 517 votes to Ntuane's 470. Chances of winning: He is in the pole position and chances of him being retained as SG are very high.
He is the past immediate Secretary General of the ruling party and during his tenure; he branded the party trying to make it more appealing to the youth. Balopi is in the lobby list of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi. An easy to approach politician with infectious smile, he was roped in after the fall out between Masisi and Jacob Nkate to run as Secretary General. Like Ntuane, Balopi is a member of the Central Committee and is able to traverse the country with the party president when addressing regions and constituencies. A businessman of repute, Balopi was first nominated and endorsed by the Central Committee in 2011 after Kentse Rammidi resigned from the party. At the Maun Congress, he defended his seat after a landslide victory against Shoshong MP Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele and Isaac Seloko. After BDP dismal performance in the 2014 general elections, the Ramotswa-born politician decided not to defend his position at Mmadinare congress but was nominated by President Khama as additional member of the Central Committee. Ahead of the 2014 General Elections he infuriated former President Ketumile Masire when he said that the BDP founding father should be reprimanded for putting the name of the party and that of its leader in disrepute. Masire would later respond saying that he would not be summoned by people who were not yet born when they formed the BDP, adding that some of the new leaders are only in the party to eat. Balopi is enjoying support from Gaborone North constituency where he has ambitions of contesting for the parliamentary elections in 2019. Though he is in the lobby list of the incumbent chairman, his chances of winning are very slim as he is viewed as more of a businessman than a politician. Chances of winning: His chances of winning are slim though being in the lobby list of Masisi might work for him should delegates decide to vote the lobby group in block.
He has not been involved in local politics as he served as Botswana’s ambassador in Japan. He did not waste time in declaring his ambitions to challenge for chairmanship and ultimately for the party presidency in 2019. A very ambitious politician, Nkate shocked many at the BDP Gantsi elective congress in 2003 when he challenged Daniel Kwelagobe for the SG position but eventual lost. He was later elected deputy Secretary General deputising Kwelagobe. Though he has been away for a long time, Nkate is said have supporters who feel that he can turn around the fortunes of the BDP. After settling, Nkate moderated his ambitions and chose to run for the Secretary General position in Masisi’s camp but after going public that he will still challenge for party presidency in 2019 the camp ditched him. Down but not out, the self-made politician declared that he will not contest under any lobby list but few weeks later he somersaulted and joined the Molefhi’s team. The former MP for Ngami who used to be part of President Khama’s inner circle, Nkate enjoys support from Ngami. Chances of winning: His chances are slim.
BDP Electoral College
The BDP has eight categories within their electoral college which is made up of the Central Committee, Members of Parliament, Councillors, National Youth Executive Committee, National Women National Executive Committee, Regions and Delegates.
Under the BDP strategy of one person one vote it means that nine members within the Central Committee will have to forefeet their votes as Members of Parliament as they cannot vote twice.
Members of Parliament
All the MPs will have a vote including the specially elected ones but those holding positions in other portfolios like Dorcas Makgatho who is currently the chairperson of the Women’s Wing will have only one vote.
These are the king makers as they have numbers as they are more than 500 councillors. The councillors are said to be also very influential on who are elected into regional committees and elected as delegates for the congress. Candidates are jostling to have them on their side.
Regions translate into 28 votes as each has been allocated two votes. There are 14 regions.
This is where the votes lie as they constitute the highest number. They are 570 as each constituency will send 10 delegates.