Chaos in Bulela Ditswe

SHARE   |   Friday, 29 June 2018   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho And Phillimon Mmeso
BDP LEADERSHIP: Party President Mokgweetsi Masisi [R] with Secretary General Mpho Balopi BDP LEADERSHIP: Party President Mokgweetsi Masisi [R] with Secretary General Mpho Balopi

Tsholetsa House inundated with complaints

BDP set up strategy team; meets in Palapye

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Nkate on come back trail; Kwerepe in danger

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A chaotic membership registration that forced the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to extend the deadline for registration of members to July is giving the party leadership sleepless nights, as the big day for Bulela Ditswe draws near.

Tsholetsa House has been inundated with complaints from potential candidates, chief among their grievances being that office bearers at party branches frustrate democrats who openly support candidates they are not sympathetic to. The strategy is used as a deliberate move to disqualify members of the opposing camp from voting in primary elections dubbed Bulela Ditswe, scheduled for August 2018.

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According to BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi, the party has since deployed members of the Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) to conduct membership registration in hotly contested constituencies that threaten to be explosive. Party President Mokgweetsi Masisi also made reference to the Bulela Ditswe crisis, when addressing BDP extra ordinary conference two weeks ago. He said the PEEC has reported cases in some constituencies where branches and interested parties engage in unfair practices that register only those  members perceived to support particular candidates. 

Strategy team

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In a move to reverse the poor performance at the polls in 2014, BDP has also roped in a number of academics to lead a strategy team ahead of the 2019 general elections. The team was appointed by Masisi just a few days before the extra ordinary conference in a bid to energize the party’s onslaught against the challenge posed by the opposition coalition.

According to the new chairman of the Strategy Team Dr Comma Serema they were going to  meet in Palapye over the weekend to pave the way forward. “Although I am not the spokesperson of the party, I can confirm that we are meeting in Palapye to draft a strategy for the party ahead of the 2019 General Elections, which we will then present to the party Secretary General,” he said.

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Serema, who is the Former Executive Secretary and senior lecturer at the University of Botswana (UB) took over from Vincent Seretse as the chairperson of the team while civil engineer and environmental consultant Dr Alfred Tsheboeng is the secretary. He said the strategy team is also responsible for drafting the party’s manifesto.

President Masisi broke the BDP’s tradition of depending on long serving politicians to guide its strategy; this time turning to academics for guidance. Pundits have opined that Masisi’s strategy could bear fruits as the academia will bring much needed research skills to the board room and influence the formulation of people centered policies that respond to existing challenges.

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Masisi has also roped in Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe who recently joined the party. Otlogetswe was one of the policy advisors for Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) when the late Gomolemo Motswaledi was the President. Other members of the team include BIUST Lecturer Dr Boikanyo Makubate and information technology lecturer Magdalene Tshambane. Mining engineer Kavis Kario; together with graphics designer Bose Sethupa and Incepta Chief Executive Officer Thabo Majola complete the BDP’s strategy team.

Factions, infighting

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Meanwhile factionalism, illegal clandestine campaigns and infighting have taken centre stage within the BDP, just a month before democracts elect candidates for 2019 general elections. Dirty electioneering tactics are already playing out in the Ngami constituency; a highly contested region that the incumbent won with a slim margin (48) in the 2014 general elections.

At the centre of the squabbles is the incumbent area MP Thato Kwerepe who is being accused of engaging in illegal activities in the constituency ahead of Bulela Ditswe, which has fueled factions that have divided the party in the Ngami branch. Kwerepe has in fact been served with a letter stating grievances by the region in which his transgressions were stated. Among others Kwerepe is blamed for a ward meeting he convened and addressed in Tsau which complainants say was illegal. His decision to dissolve the ward committee of Tsau was also labeled unconstitutional. The letter cites him and Allen Sokwe; a veteran politician in the area who recently defected from the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Lamong Pulamore who is the branch chairman.

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The letter in fact follows a fact finding mission of the region which has according to sources issued a report, indicating that the actions of the three men were illegal. “The ward committee can now use the report to press charges, and from what I hear they have since done so,” said the source.

If found guilty, the three may be vetted out of participating in the upcoming Bulela Ditswe. Vetting for Ngami candidates will be held next week on the 30th June, to be followed by primary elections on August 11, 2018.

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Be that as it may, Kwerepe is likely to face off with the former Minister of Education Jacob Nkate who lost the constituency to Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s Taolo Habano in the 2009 general elections. Nkate is back in active politics after a short stint in the public service. He was appointed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BITC before joining the foreign legion as Botswana’s Ambassador to Japan.

BDP insiders in the constituency say Nkate has done a lot of ground work and has already made inroads in the constituency. They claim that he may win the batle with ease because he has already has a footprint in the region and BDP politics in general. This has reportedly not sat well with his biggest opponent; Kwerepe and his supporters, who are said to have deployed a do or die battle to fight to retain the constituency.

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In fact  a PEEC deployee to Ngami, Daniel  Mokokwe found himself at the centre of the infighting when he accused Ngami Branch Secretary Kabo Kurusa and  labeled him  a Nkate supporter who is causing divisions in the party and reported him to the region's disciplinary committee. Their feud emanates from Bulela Ditswe  registration process where Mokokwe accused  Kurusa of among others making it impossible as a PEEC deployee in the region to execute his duties by among others disrupting all meetings  that were intended to facilitate the registration process, failing to handover registration books and  supporting  one Parliamentary candidate over the other and therefore only submitting  names of those that he believes support his favorite candidate to the exclusion of the other.

Kurusa denied all the allegations that were leveled against him and the judgment from the BDP’s disciplinary subcommittee of the central committee saying "no sufficient evidence has been led or produced that incriminates him.” The matter was dismissed.

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The rivalry between the two camps however did not go unnoticed and caught the attention of the party’s top leadership. When dismissing Kurusa’s charges the disciplinary subcommittee further noted that: "the dispute is as a result of the primary elections in particular the Parliamentary elections. It is further evident that the constituency is deeply divided between the two Parliamentary candidates. For this reason we think that it will be prudent that we also make an order with respect to this situation in order to avoid future disciplinary hearings”.

Kwerepe speaks

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Kwerepe has denied all the reports about him and labeled them as false. “I have not received any letter from the region accusing me of anything. How can I be accused of holding illegal meetings in my constituency when I am the incumbent MP,” he exclaimed.

He also denied ever having any squabbles with Nkate or anybody associated with him saying that he hardly has any contact with him even though they are vying for the same seat. “ I have not had any contact or met Nkate ever since he returned from Japan. I won’t say we are fighting or are not on good terms because he has a right to choose who he associates with,” he said.

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That he was engaging in unfair electioneering activities like the recent donation of school uniforms to primary schools in the Ngami region, Kwerepe also denied this, saying he was only making the donations on behalf of some companies.  He however expressed optimism with regard to the upcoming primary elections saying he is hoping to retain his candidature.“Anyone who sits for a test has confidence that they will pass,” he said.

Efforts to reach Nkate were futile as his phones were off.

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Explosive constituencies

In Bobonong, battle lines have long been drawn between the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi and businessman Francisco Kgoboko for the constituency. Kgoboko, who is relatively new in politics, has long entrenched himself into the constituency by sponsoring various activities including schools prize giving ceremonies and some football tournament. Kgoboko – a former mining engineer with Debwana and Namdeb of Namibia and now a businessman – has given Kgathi sleepless nights. Kgathi has reported him to Central Committee accusing him of campaigning before the set date.

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Highly placed sources at the constituency have revealed that over 3000 registered members are missing from the voters rolls. Since Kgoboko showed interest in the constituency there have been concerns by BDP members in Bobirwa that registration of members is skewed in one direction. This has created tension within the constituency with some accusing the incumbent Kgathi of using his position as Deputy Secretary to sideline Kgoboko and his supporters. Although Balopi refused to name the constituencies which will be monitored by PEC, Bobonong is said to be one of them.

Incumbent MP Kgathi is accused of using dirty tricks to intimidate his political nemesis especially those supporting him. To compound the issue in the constituency, Kgathi’s wife is the chairperson for the Women’s wing in the region while his son has been co-opted into the National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC).

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Francistown East

This is the constituency which has pitted former mayors of Francistown being the incumbent Honest Billy and past immediate James Kgalajwe. Chairman of the branch Morris Dikomang has denied allegations that over 4000 voters are missing from the registration books with some books with registered members missing.  “There is a serious problem of voter trafficking of people from outside the constituency which will create the problem for the party ahead of the 2019 elections as it will give us a wrong impression about our presence in the constituency,” said a concerned council candidate.

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Nata/Gweta

This is where the real battle will be as five parliamentary aspirants have shown interest in the constituency with two being former MPs for the area being   Ryner   Makosha and Oliphant Mfa  who faces stiff competition from the incumbent Paulson Majaha, Lawrence Ookeditse and former Botswana Congress Party  (BCP) parliamentary candidate for the area Ditiro Mojadibodu.

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The real battle is expected between Ookeditse and Majaha who are already visible in the constituency canvassing votes. Majaha has raised a concern to both the party and the media that they are external forces who want to topple him from the constituency and sponsoring Ookeditse, a former Director at the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. Majaha who defeated Makosha and Mfa in the 2013 primary elections last year asked a question in parliament why Ookeditse was allowed to campaign for political office whilst he was still public service employee.

BDP is not taking chances and want to ensure that they reduce protest in the constituency and PEEC led by former cabinet Minister Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri will conduct the mass registration to ensure there is no alleged sabotage.

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Francistown West

This is one of the most explosive constituencies which saw the BDP losing Moselewapula ward to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) after it was alleged that some candidates trafficked voters during the primary elections. The constituency is a controversy prone as in 2013 they failed to field a candidate after Whyte Marobela took the party to court protesting the primary elections in which he lost to Ignatius Moswaane.

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Currently they are signs that the political storm is brewing in the constituency with incumbent Moswaane accusing the Office of the President of using Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS ) to harass him and his supporters.

Shashe West

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Incumbent MP and also Assistant Minister of Higher Education Fidelis Molao is parrying challenges from all sides with those taking him on being well known within the constituency. He will be facing former Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) Secretary General Ibo Nana Kenosi and his challenger in 2014 Onkabetse Daniel who later stood as independent parliamentary candidate in the 2014 General Elections.

Gaborone South

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There are rumblings within the constituency since the entrance of businessman Monametsi Kaalamotho who will face attorney Dumezweni Mthimkhulu in the primaries. Recently the party received sizeable number of members from the opposition which were allegedly recruited by Kalaamotho.    



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