• Party structures collapse under Khama
• Begs for reconciliation, unity
• Bulela Ditswe probe findings out
• 'BDP at war with itself'- Balopi
In his first major address to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faithful since last year’s General Elections which saw the worst performance ever for the party, President Ian Khama has conceded that he failed the party he leads as President.
He went further to blame his pre-occupation with government business, which he said made him neglect the party, leading to the collapse of structures. Ahead of the 2014 general elections some democrats felt that the party leadership was failing them by being detached from the general membership.
Addressing the 53rd BDP national congress in Gaborone on Friday Khama confirmed these grievances and acknowledged that he thought by visiting constituencies he was also checking on BDP structures but realised that it was not the case. Khama said he has realised that party structures have almost collapsed and his aim is to ensure that they are resuscitated after the upcoming elective congress in July 2015. “We have to go back to the basics of building structures and ourselves into a team,” said Khama, adding that he is going to visit all the regions with the newly elected central committee to see if they are working after the congress in July.
He said that one of the diseases bedeviling the BDP is people who always want to lead regional committees but fail to attend meetings. He warned that those who do not show commitment will be removed from office.
To ensure that the BDP wins the 2019 General Elections, Khama said they are going to ensure that political education is revived and that the spirit of volunteerism is restored in the party. “If there are no structures, Madomi then there is no party. It is as plain and simple as that,” said Khama.
Regarding the controversy prone primary elections, President Khama said the [Peter] Siele commission on the review of Bulela Ditswe is expected to yield results that will reduce disgruntlement, disunity and disharmony within the BDP. He cautioned the BDP delegates that if they fail to mount a simple fool-proof and cost effective and intact internal election process going forward might lead to its members turning against the party in 2019 as they did in 2014.
In the last general elections most of BDP members who lost in the primaries stood as independent candidates especially in council wards. Khama believes that the 47% popular vote the BDP received is not a true reflection of the general elections as the party could have performed better were it not for party members who voted for the opposition.
For his part BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi said prior to the 2014 general elections the party was at war with itself. “This party is at war with itself. We have to portray a positive image in the eyes of on-lookers,” said the BDP chief scribe.
In an unprecedented turn of events, in the run up to last year’s general elections former Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae attacked Khama’s regime.
Balopi further called on the delegates to deliberate on how they can reinforce security at their internal party meetings. “The council deliberations should include, among others, rigorous accreditation of delegates, not allowing the use of recordings devices such as cellular phones and other recording devices in our internal meetings,” he said.
Last year during the BDP national council proceedings were leaked to the media in which President Khama announced that the secretary general and campaign manager will attend cabinet meetings.
In his report Balopi confirmed that the party has joined Socialist International (SI) and has paid the annual subscription of 7000 British Pounds as required by the organisation. It remains to be seen if the BDP government will implement a requirement by SI that members should abolish the death penalty as per the Sao Paolo charter. Balopi said they have been advised that they can join SI without abolishing death penalty. He also informed BDP delegates that as per their policy they relate with governments of the day, as such currently their partners are the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom.
One of the delegates to the national Council, BDP national youth executive committee member and councillor for Lephaleng ward Slumber Mokgosi said it is good that Khama has accepted that the party is facing some challenges. The Project and Fundraising Officer said to improve performance it is critical for the BDP to revive cell committees in wards, who are the foot soldiers recruiting new members and ensuring that they stay in the party. He said for the party to be succesful cell committees, ward committees and branch committees should be vibrant and engaged in activities that promote party programmes. "Because these structures are in touch with people they can also appreciate their grievances and address them. I believe now is the right time for the president to focus on the party because as he says he has been concentrating on government at the expense of the party," he said.
Another democrat, Member of Parliament for Nata/ Gweta Polson Majaga also shares the sentiment that party structures have collapsed from the levels of cells upwards to regional level. He said efforts by the president to revive the structures should be driven by MPs and Councillors because they are closer to people on the ground. He said Khama's visit should just be to augment efforts of the leadership in the different regions, adding that the structures collapsed despite that the president has been going around the country meeting democrats.
A contestant for chairmanship of BDP at the July congress Dithapelo Tshotlego holds a different view. He believes that the biggest problem at the BDP, which caused the dismal performance, is Bulela Ditswe. He argues that structures have not collapsed but people have become inactive due to disgruntlement as a result of Bulela Ditswe. "People are just demoralised. Khama's visits will help motivate revival of party structures. If the central committee starts visiting regions and addressing their grievances our fortunes can improve for the better. Hopefully the Siele commission has made some useful recommendations," he said.