Beyond room temperature tempers, tension so thick a knife could cut through, insults hurling and physical assaults; a preview from a postmodern action movie? No. Such is the mood within the Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth post Mochudi congress which took place last the week.
Two teams contested the elections to head the BMD youth league, one headed by Phenyo Segokgo, the youthful sitting councilor in the South east district council. He was also voted in as the South East council chairperson. Segokgo was up against Roger Mphafe, whose political profile among other things includes contesting the Ramotswa constituency parliamentary seat under the UDC ticket.
Although Segokgo and his team claim a landslide victory, Mphafe and his team have since rubbished the elections terming them fraudulent and marred by maladministration and violation of the party constitution. Mphafe and his team have subsequently announced that upon realisation that there were in for an unfair contest, they took the decision to withdraw from taking part, a claim that has been dismissed by their rivals in the Segokgo camp.
Among Mphafe’s grievances that have since seen tempers flaring and insults exchanged by supporters from the two teams, is the claim that some party leaders fuelled the irregularities and used their positions to give Segokgo and his team an unfair advantage.
Mphafe accuses the Party interim Chairperson for Ramotswa branch Keipeile Isaiah and the Party Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi of publicly declaring their dislike for him and pledging their support for Segokgo and his team. ”Our party vice president also endorsed the Phenyo Segokgo lobby team by instructing the Francistown youth to vote for them. This went to the extent of causing violence among the Francistown youth as some violently defended the wishes of their MP, assaulting a 22 year old woman in the process after she had attempted to nominate Joyce Disoso Pheto. Dr Mmatli is also guilty of the same as he intimidated our delegates in the constituency, we have evidence of this,” Mphafe told members of the media at a press briefing in Gaborone on Monday.
He also accused the Segokgo team of among other things meddling in the running of the elections by actively being involved in registering delegates; an activity he says should have been solely reserved for an independent body. Even worse Mphafe further pins this on the party leadership who he says even though they at times tried to take heed of their complaints they would immediately side and agree with Segokgo’s team whenever there was a protest.
Mphafe further accused party Secretary General Gilbert Mangole of calling the police on them and falsely accusing them of causing trouble when all they did was peacefully protest the irregularities which in their view were going to cost them the race.
However, Segokgo’s team has dismissed the allegations leveled to them by Roger and his team. According to Tollie Itumeleng, who contested for the Secretary General position, as far as they are concerned the elections went through smooth and party procedure was followed. Itumeleng said party constitution was used to set guidelines.
BMD Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi has also denied the allegations leveled against him saying he only offered a word of advice to Segokgo and his team, an innocent gesture that was misinterpreted by Mphafe and his supporters. He denied pledging support for Segokgo saying his only involvement was by virtue of his position in the party.
It is common knowledge that youth leagues are by their nature full of vibrancy, radicalism, high spirits and in some instances gangsterism. They are the foundation and grooming place for future political leaders. A good example of some of the known defiant youth leagues would be the African National Congress Youth League whose products include among other Fikile Mbalula, Julius Malema and even the late former President Nelson Mandela. Coming close to home some of the local political figures who are direct products of party youth leagues include Dumelang Saleshando, Botsalo Ntuane, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi to mention but a few.
It is for this reason that some political observers have expressed interest and concern on what is taking place in the BMDYL, with some fearing that it could be the beginning of the end for the BMD and subsequently the Umbrella for Democratic Change, which the BMD have a tripartite membership to with the Botswana National Front and Botswana People’s Party.
But does the current mix-up in the BMDYL necessarily spell doom for its mother body the BMD? The answer to this according to a local political commentator Anthony Morima is; “not necessarily”. Morima told The Patriot on Sunday that this might be part of the BMD’s rite of passage. He explained that for a party or any organisation to grow it has to go through three stages, namely the formative, the storming and the stabilization stage. The BMD is according to him finally going through its storming stage. A stage he says they had missed because things moved swiftly for them, with their formation, making the decision to join the UDC and contesting in the general elections. “It will be premature for anyone to assume that this will have far reaching implications on the party’” he said.
According to Morima this storming stage is very much appropriate now, considering that the general elections will only come in 2019. He said what is only needed now is the cooling off of tempers and talking things over. It is in the nature of young people he says, that they disagree and go to the extremes but says the good part is that they always find a way of mending relations. Even good he says is the fact that the current differences are not ideological but based on leadership and personality differences, hence easy to solve.
Morima was however quick to point out that in order to ensure a smooth transformation, party leadership need not to get involved in youth affairs. Unfortunately this might have to be handled with cautioned because he says though not confirmed and following constant denial, there is evidence suggesting that the party leadership is in fact taking sides. He cautioned that despite suggestions that those involved might be in fact aligning themselves with the team that they deem would ensure their political fate come 2019 general elections; it was too early to judge. "People are reading too much into this, the youth league that will be voted in, in 2017 is the one that will be better positioned to be game changers, but then again it does not necessarily mean that those who won now will retain their seats,” he said.