The battle for leadership positions of the newly registered opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) has intensified ahead of its inaugural conference scheduled to be held in Kanye in two weeks, where a new National Executive Committee (NEC) will be elected.
Opinion remains divided over the possible impact of the new party as the BPF comes at a delicate time for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which faces political uncertainty ahead of the 2019 elections due to the split. BPF has faced heavy criticism from its parent party, the BDP, who accuse the founders of breaking away to form a new party only to serve former president Ian Khama's interest.
Widely described in political circles as Khama’s party, BPF founding members are yet to determine which role the former president will play in the party but for now all indications are that he will continue operating behind the scenes.
July 6 conference
One of the BPF conveners Roseline Panzirah Matshome confirmed that their inaugural conference will be held in Kanye on the 6th of July and will among others discuss the constitution of the party and other issues. “We will also discuss the party policies and ideology as well as possible coalition with other opposition parties thereafter elects an interim committee which will take us to the 2019 general elections,” she said.
Asked if there are members they are targeting to lead the party, Matshome said nominations will be done from the floor.
On Wednesday some councilors at Central District Council resigned en masse to join the new political movement and when asked if they are expecting more, Matshome answered in affirmative. “Everything will be revealed on the 6th of July in Kanye, including those who will be crossing over to our party,” she said.
University of Botswana political analyst Leonard Sesa said one of the issues that the nation will be waiting to hear from the new political party is their ideology and what new ideas they are bringing.
He said the party will need a strong and powerful leader who will be able to go pound for pound with BDP and UDC leaders Mokgweetsi Masisi and Duma Boko respectively, a tough exercise by any measure. “Being a convener doesn’t really mean one can be a leader of the new movement. I don’t think Butale has the capability to do that. I have listened to his radio interviews and feel that they need someone who can attract people,” he said.
Sesa cautioned that when electing new leaders especially a founding president BPF members must avoid people who come with issues and feel entitled to lead the organization. “They must avoid people who feel that because they have been expelled by another political organization they now deserve to lead the new party,” he said.
With the uncertainty regarding Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi who has been visibly absent in the build up to the party formation, the party might be forced to look elsewhere for a founding president.
Samson Moyo Guma
Though he is still in self-imposed exile in South Africa, the maverick politician is expected to come back home and help build his new political party.
Should Venson Moitoi continue showing cold feet, Guma might step up and lead the new movement and with his experience in forming splinter parties he will be the perfect person to lead the BPF.
Guma was one of the BDP MPs who ensured that the ruling party gives birth to its first political offspring, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and now he helped the party to give birth to its second born BPF.
With his experience in both the ruling party and the opposition, BPF members might be tempted to elect him to lead them ahead of the 2019 General Elections.
Member of Parliament for Tati West Biggie Butale who has been in the frontline for the registration of the new political movement might be elected to be the national chairperson. Although he is the convener, Butale still lacks the charisma and political magnetic pull of a leader of a political movement, emotional discipline and intelligence needed for a party president.
He is fighter yes, and can do well as the right hand man for the founding president, offering necessary support to lead the new NEC.
Roseline Panzirah Matshome
Just like Guma, Matshome has immense experience in forming splinter parties as she was part of the youth that formed BMD youth League in 2010.
Almost nine years later she is also part of a group of disgruntled members who broke away to form BPF after she was removed from the BDP Communications sub-committe. This time around she is in the thick of things to galvanise the BPF political machinery.
With experience from positions she held at BDP, she is reasonably experienced and politically mature enough to lead the party secretariat and be the engine of BPF. Although she is not a good public speaker, Matshome has always been characterized by determination, incredible capacity for hard work as shown by her ambition to contest as deputy Secretary General for BDP, a dream that has now gone up in smokes.
Deputy Secretary General
He is one of the young politicians who sacrificed their political careers within the BDP to support Pelonomi Venson Moitoi and rally behind Khama.
He is a former Vice Chairperson of BDP National Youth Executive Committee and with that experience, coupled with that of sitting councilor he can do well as deputy secretary general working with Matshome who has been his political mentor.
National Organizing Secretary
Former specially elected councilor in Francistown, Moiteela is a good public speaker and can easily connect with people due to his humility. The party will need someone of his character who possess emotional discipline as he is not easily intimidated and is a hard worker.
Before Guma went on self-imposed exile in South Africa, Moiteela was one of his campaign managers for the position of BDP Secretary General, traversing the lenght and breath of the country canvassing votes for him.