Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is allegedly rocked by secret meetings involving top party figures, some within the Central Committee in a plot to oust President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi from their respective positions within the party.
Recently the party leadership was left shocked when former President Ian Khama announced that he never resigned as party president and that should those pursuing the case win he will reassume his position.
Khama told a local paper that before he stepped down he consulted Balopi about writing a resignation letter but he was told it was not necessary.
According to highly placed sources the announcement by former President Khama is part of the grand plan to cast doubt on the leadership of both Masisi and his close associate Balopi within the party.
The recently suspended BDP member Tshepang Mabaila – who is a close associate of Khama – has in his appeal letter questioned the legitimacy of President Masisi as party president relying on Section 29.3 of the party constitution.
But when quizzed Mabaila confirmed that he has appealed his suspension but was very economic with truth when asked if he has questioned the legitimacy of Masisi as party president.
“I am still awaiting the outcome of my appeal and President Masisi is my leader,” he said.
According to those who attended the clandestine meetings, should all fall into place and Khama be allowed to finish his term as party president, they will convince him to revoke Article 34.1.6 which gives him exceptional powers to suspend any member of the party for up to 60 days pending action by the disciplinary committee.
Khama – who has recently openly criticised Balopi labeling him as being economical with the truth and betraying him – will with a blink of an eye suspend him from the party; revealed one party official.
A member of the Central Committee and former ally of Balopi, Samson Moyo Guma will challenge him for the Secretary General position next year. The two were in the same camp during the Maun Congress where Guma was elected the chairperson while Balopi became the Secretary General. At the Tonota Congress they were also in the same camp.
In an interesting turn of events, a strategic meeting organised by the Kgalagadi South constituency which was to be officiated by Guma was cancelled at the last minute. Contacted for a comment, he confirmed the cancellation but said he will deal with the issue at the Central Committee meeting.
Since he assumed power, Masisi is said to have ruffled some feathers by not appointing some of the key BDP members to positions within government. In an interview after he appointed cabinet, he admitted that some are not happy with the appointments but “they will have to live with it!”
Four months into his presidency, Masisi faced his first political hurdle when his own party mooted a motion of no confidence against him though tabled by the Leader of Opposition Advocate Duma Boko.
The motion came after some of Khama’s loyalists allegedly met in Palapye the weekend before the motion was tabled and urged BDP MPs to support it.
After getting a tip off, President Masisi called a parliamentary caucus of BDP MPs and who were instructed not to support it.
It was later revealed that Khama’s blue eyed boy, Mabaila, mobilised BDP MPs to support the motion something that led to his five-year suspension.
Masisi critics’ plan included revealing some of his sponsors during the Mmadinare and Tonota congresses as a way of discrediting him, revealed a BDP source.
Another motion looms
Another motion of no confidence against President Masisi is planned for the 1st meeting of the 5th session of the 11th Parliament.
His relationship with his predecessor is said to have given his detractors an opportunity to launch an attack on him, mobilising regions to vote him out at the special congress next year. Though a candidate has not been fingered to challenge him, the faction is said to be working around the clock to find a formidable BDP members to take on Masisi in July next year.
Some of the people who have been approached and declined include Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and former Minister of Trade Neo Moroka.
“It will be premature to reveal the candidate now because they might purge him,” revealed a source.
Contacted for comment, BDP Secretary General Balopi said that they have sought legal opinion regarding Masisi’s BDP presidency, maintaining that there is no doubt that Masisi is the lawful BDP President.
“Article 29.3.4 of the BDP constitution does not envisage a situation where the offices of the State President and Party President can be held by two different individuals when the party is in power. It seeks to consolidate the authority of the person of the State President over the party. This makes sense given the powers of the Party President who is solely responsible for convening meetings of the governing body of the party being the central committee as per article 34.1.2 of the BDP constitution,” he explained.
He said that the BDP constitution is very clear that when the Party is in power, the President of the country shall also be the party president.
According to Balopi, this means that in the current situation where the incumbent is ceasing to hold office of the President of the Republic of Botswana by operation of the constitution, then the BDP constitution enjoins him to also vacate the office of the party president so that the incoming can hold the fort on both ends to give effect to the spirit of the BDP constitution.
“Article 34.1.3 of the BDP constitution which states some of the powers and functions of the party president as being ‘when the party is in power, be state President.”
Article 34.1.3 further adds to the interpretation above that you cannot be state president without being arty president when the party is in power,” he reasoned.
President Masisi is said to have shocked many when he appointed Tsogwane party chairman and ultimately the Vice president, leaving some within his inner circle angry.
Though he doesn’t have lot of skeletons in his political wardrobe, the Boteti West MP is going to be challenged for the party chairman next year. Some within the party wanted former President Khama to contest the position but is yet to make the decision.
Balopi said that it is unprecedented in the history of the party that members are lining up for positions of leadership a year before the general elections instead of aligning their parliamentary candidates.
“For the first time in the history of the party we see this kind of indiscipline among democrats with some openly trying to discredit the party president and the chairperson,” he said.
Put to him that the buck stops with the Central Committee to instill discipline among members, Balopi said President Masisi has been addressing regions on the importance of party unity.