President Mokgweetsi Masisi is said to have resolved to take a tough stance and crack the whip in order to restore stability in the troubled Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) after weeks of infighting that had seen party members publicly take on each other to the chagrin of the public.
The next Central Committee meeting on Wednesday is expected to be one of its kinds as he will have to specifically deal with instability within the party especially among members of the Central Committee. His next move would be to meet party caucus to address contentious issues.
There is raging fear in the corridors of power that the ruling party is on the verge of crumbling under the weight of internal feuding emanating from emerging factions with some aligned behind former President Ian Khama and undermining the presidency of Masisi.
The recent revelation by President Masisi that the transition from Khama to him was not as smooth as was expected is said to have been his first warning shot that he wants to crack the whip and take control of the party and government.
The climax of his toxic relationship with Khama
Though in an interview with Mmegi newspaper, former President Khama said that the reason he could not attend the SONA was that he was at his farm, information gathered by this publication shows that he was being economical with the truth.
On Friday, Khama was given the government chopper to go to Shakawe where he had an event and came back to Gaborone on Sunday. Though he confirmed that he will attend the SONA on Monday morning, President Khama took the chopper and flew to his farm and came back in the evening.
This is said to have been the 'the last straw that broke the camel's back' as this infuriated President Masisi who decided to include paragraph 270 in his address.
One of the issues that is said to be pushing the political temperatures to a boiling point is the continued campaign for the Central Committee positions which will be filled at a party congress next year. This is causing extreme divisions in the party.
Some party elders are said to have warned President Masisi that “if you do not fix a crack, you will be forced to build the entire wall”.
Masisi is expected to follow what former Presidents the late Sir Ketumile Masire and past immediate Ian Khama did by proposing a compromise ahead of the elective congress next year.
The aim of the compromise is to help align the party to the campaigns of the 2019 General Elections. Insiders have revealed that it is not going to be easy as those aligned with former President Khama want to go for the jugular.
One of the names that keep on creeping up when talking about ‘no- compromise’ is that of MP for Tati East Samson Moyo Guma who is eyeing the Secretary General position.
But Guma has vehemently denied that he is against the compromise deal, insisting though that the constitution of the party has to be respected.
“If the president calls for a compromise I will support that because he will be doing that for the good of the party,” he said.
Guma, who was once BDP chairman but later resigned ahead of the 2014 General Elections, said he is against party members who tend to insult those holding position of leadership, especially in public as it has been happening recently.
Ahead of the 1984 elections when the BDP was embroiled in factions, Masire came up with the concept of ‘go baya party botsetsi’ which meant protecting the party ahead of elections by making compromises in party elections.
Former President Ian Khama in 2011 proposed a compromise which was agreed upon after the split of the party in 2010 giving its first offspring the troubled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Transition challenges within the BDP
Transition from one president to another within the BDP has proven to be a teething problem since 1980 when the late Sir Ketumile Masire took over after the passing of the founding president Sir Seretse Khama.
Some senior members of the party, especially from Central District, were against his presidency and some led by Goareng Mosinyi threatened to leave the party and form a new political party. They were not happy that after the demise of then Vice President Lenyeletse Seretse, Masire appointed a southerner in Peter Mmusi to replace him.
Festus Mogae came in at the height of BDP factions. His troubles started when he was appointed Vice president against the expectations of the Barataphathi faction of the party. This faction had preferred Ponatshego Kedikilwe to assume leadership. They were intent on campaigning vigorously to have Kedikilwe as their presidential candidate for the 1999 elections.
At that time the faction were relying on section 35 of the Botswana constitution then which read thus, “"In the event that the presidency became vacant in circumstances other than electoral defeat, MPs would, within seven days, nominate new presidential candidates for Parliament to vote on".
Realising that his chosen man might be toppled and with advice of lawyers, Masire ensured that the Constitution was amended to allow for Automatic Succession of the Vice president to the presidency, which paved the way for Mogae.
At the height of tensions and sabotage, Mogae threatened to dissolve parliament after some MPs from the ruling threatened to vote against some of his proposals. He had to endure embarrassment when he was ill-advised by issuing a writ of elections before Independent Electoral Commission could finish compiling and certifying a new voters’ roll.
Mogae had to declare a State of Emergency for the sole purpose of recalling Parliament to amend the Electoral Act to permit the IEC to complete its work in spite of the fact that the Writ of Elections has been issued.
Khama’s ascendency to the Vice presidency was also not smooth one as the then President Mogae had to threaten BDP MPs that if they don’t endorse him,
Afraid of going to early elections they relented and endorsed Khama as the Vice President but that was not the end of his troubles as he had to fight to become party chairman. Mogae publicly endorsed him ahead of the 2003 Gantsi congress, something that angered the Kedikilwe faction.
In 2009, a year after ascending to the presidency, Khama faced a serious challenge as the BDP was literally split into two ahead of the Kanye elective congress.
The congress, which was termed ‘kgola disana’, saw the Barata phathi, sweeping the slates leaving Khama with an egg on his face. Khama did not waste time in dealing with divisions. By August of the same year, he had already suspended the newly elected Secretary General of the party, Gomolemo Motswaledi.
BDP went into the 2009 General Elections in tatters and pregnant with an offspring, managing to hold onto power by a reduced margin of 51.73% of popular vote. In 2010, Khama became the first BDP leader to deliver its first political offspring being BMD and MPs to the new party.
Even as President Khama was forced to remind former leaders – Masire and Mogae – that he was the one in power and required them to give him space to run the affairs of state and party.
As things stand, all eyes are on Masisi to see how he will steer the ship – and things might just have to get worse before they get better.