• Masisi asked Ndelu Seretse to drop
• Khama fears disunity
• BOFEPUSU to back Seretse
The arrival of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi as candidate for the chairmanship of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has made the race for the control of the ruling party treacherous for some candidates. His candidature has changed the whole complexion of the race which has seven candidates – first of its kind in the history of not only the BDP but for political parties in Botswana.
As the road to Mmadinare – where the congress will be hosted – gains momentum the question on everybody's lips is if Khama will pick his favourite. But the current precarious situation the party finds itself in could defeat any such intentions. BDP members now find themselves in the crossfire of political mudslinging between those backing Masisi and other candidates.
While BDP members were still smarting from the entrance of Masisi into the race, his political nemesis Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) entered the fray on Friday and vowed to decampaign him.
Ahead of the 2003 Ghanzi congress in which the then Vice President Ian Khama was challenging the then chairman Ponatshego Kedikilwe, President Festus Mogae shocked many when he publicly endorsed Khama at women’s wing congress in Selibe Phikwe. Khama would go ahead and humble Kedikilwe at the congress.
Political analyst Ndulamo Morima believes that Khama will not directly endorse Masisi for fear of causing disunity within the party. “But by virtue that Masisi is his deputy is already sending a message to democrats that they must support the number two citizen lest they are viewed as defying the leadership," he said.
BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi said on Thursday that currently President Khama is engaged on team building among BDP members and he won’t jeopardise that by publicly endorsing anyone. Inside sources within the BDP have however revealed that Khama might endorse Masisi at the official opening of the congress.
Top three candidates for chairmanship
Although he is a late comer, his endorsement as Vice President by parliament put him in a pole position for the position of chairman. Though regarded as an unpopular candidate by some, Masisi earned his stripes by managing to beat a spirited attempt to decampaign him by Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU). He was voted both at BDP primaries and national elections, winning with convincing margins. “He didn’t win against us but the BDP helped him by preventing public servants from voting during the primary elections. We could have trashed him,” said BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu on Friday. The federation has vowed to go to Mmadinare during the BDP congress to lobby democrats not to vote for Masisi.
His tone and approach since he joined President Ian Khama’s cabinet indicate a close working relationship with him, whose key objective is poverty eradication and combating unemployment among the youth. He was the fixer-in-chief for President Khama’s pet projects.
Those who support his candidature for the chairmanship argue that this will put him in position to get to grips with the BDP’s regional and branch structures and develop personal support among the rank and file ahead of 2019 General Elections which are expected to be tightly contested. Those who are against his candidature argue that he is taking a political risk that might leave him bruised and losing the little popularity he has among the BDP members.
A source close to the race said that one of Masisi’s undoing is to align himself with the Samson Guma's team. “This is the team that put the BDP in its current situation and anyone associated with it will be viewed with suspicion,” the source opined.
The Guma's team lost at the women’s wing congress in Lobatse recently when their candidate Tshepo Wareus and her team were whitewashed by the Dorcus Makgato’s team. According to a source, this is a sign that whoever is associated with the Moyo’s team will not be taken seriously. Guma resigned as BDP chairman under a cloud of controversy after he was elected at the Maun congress in 2013. Guma has publicly declared his support for Masisi and said that he will campaign for him. Morima said the Guma factor won’t have any bearing on Masisi’s candidature.
On Friday BOFEPUSU announced that they will vigorously campaign against Masisi labeling him an enemy of the workers. “If we can allow Masisi to win the BDP chairmanship it will be doom for labour movement in Botswana as he has clearly stated that he doesn’t like us,” said BOFEPUSU Secretary for Labour Johnson Motshwarakgole.
He said Masisi’s regime will be worse than that of the current president. “If you think President Khama is a dictator wait until Masisi becomes head of state,” he said.
Morima believes that Masisi's chances of sailing through are very high. “There is a lot at stake here and I don’t think BDP members will allow him to lose the elections because it will have a serious bearing on the party going forward,” he said.
Asked what will happen if Masisi loses, Morima said that it will be a serious disaster for the BDP as they will have a weaker Vice President and ultimately the president in 2018. Currently BDP National Youth Executive Chairman Andy Boatile has also publicly thrown his weight behind Masisi.
The first cousin to President Khama, Ndelu Seretse is one of the first BDP members to declare their interest in contesting the chairmanship position. When he declared his candidature many political pundits felt that he is going to enjoy the support of President Khama but the entry of Tshekedi Khama (TK) in the race made the prediction more complex.
While many were expecting an interesting battle between the two cousins, TK dropped from the race. Recently Ndelu Seretse vented his anger against those who want him to drop from the race and pave for Masisi on his Facebook page. “I really do not understand why joining the race by the Hon. Vice President should cause so much concern to the extent that some would think other candidates should give way for him,” he wrote on his page.
He continued to state that by asking the VP to stand is burdening him with more work. “Three doing the Job of three is certainly more efficient and productive than overburdening two with the Job of three.”
Perhaps to beef up his campaign, Seretse has roped in the militant Francistown West Member of Parliament Ignatius Moswaane as his campaign manager. Moswaane is credited with helping Masisi’s late elder brother Tshelang to win BDP parliamentary elections amid tough competition from former Francistown Mayor Peter Ngoma in 2003 and 2009 respectively. Moswaane never shies away from taking the bull by the horns.
Seretse is also expected to receive a shot in the arm from BOFEPUSU who are expected to endorse him. Although BOFEPUSU leadership refused to reveal who they will support, Motshwarakgole let the cat out when he announced that they will support a candidate who is talking about reforms within the BDP.
In his page Seretse calls for reforms within the BDP, cautioning that failure to do that will lead to the party being the subject of change rather than being its agents as it is the case now. Morima believes that Seretse has never been Khama‘s favourite but that it was a case of blood being thicker than water. “I am not surprised that Khama will ditch him for Masisi because the two are just relatives,” he said.
Ndelu Seretse was once demoted while at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) for allegedly defying Khama who by then was the deputy commander of BDF. In an interview Ndelu Seretse said that his campaign is going very well and rebutted allegations that some elders within the party have approached him to pave away for Masisi. “No one came to me because they know my position and my belief in democratic process. Masisi, who is my friend, approached me to drop,” said Seretse.
On allegations that TK has ditched him for Masisi, Ndelu Seretse said that he only read about it in newspapers. “You should understand that he is a politician and has the right to choose a candidate that subscribe to his ideals and not because of family ties,” said the former army officer.
The former diplomat, Tebelelo Seretse is the most experienced politically of all the candidates as she will be trying her luck in BDP top position for the second time. She once challenged Daniel Kwelagobe at the Kanye congress with the support of President Khama.
Tebelelo Seretse, a former cabinet minister, enjoys the support of former Molepolole South MP Daniel Kwelagobe, a grassroots politician who still commands a lot of following within the BDP. She is the only woman in the race and hopes the Women’s Wing will throw their weight behind her although history proves otherwise. In 2013 Venson-Moitoi challenged Guma-Moyo in the race for the chairmanship but lost even though women constitute a large number within the BDP.
Tebelelo Seretse, who is a former president of BDP women’ wing, also calls for reforms within the party. Contacted for comment, Tebelelo Seretse said that her campaign is going very well and is optimistic of doing well in Mmadinare. Asked if she has assembled lobby team, the former Botswana ambassador to United States of America said that she will keep that only to her chest.
BDP secretary General Mpho Balopi has announced that they are ready for the elective congress which will be held on the 3rd to the 5th of July in Mmadinare. Asked how they are going to contain the campaigns to avoid them splitting the party, Balopi said currently all the candidates are adhering to the rules and regulations.
In the race for the Secretary General BDP prodigal son Botsalo Ntuane thought he had it all to himself until the entrance of his close ally former Member of Parliament for Molepolole North Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri.