6. July 2009

Botswana: No Turning Back On BDP Congress Elections

Just two weeks before the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) holds its 33rd congress in Kanye, it is apparent that party operatives have abandoned the stringent regulations often associated with elections.

To bring order within its ranks, the BDP had a few years ago imposed stringent elections regulations to avoid polarity often associated with primary elections or contest for party positions.

One of the common regulations is that interested contestants should not contest openly for party positions. Rather, they should employ house-to-house campaigns which are relatively quiet. The use of campaign material is prohibited. The same rules apply even in the race for Bulela Ditswe.

University of Botswana (UB) academic and political commentator, Dr John Makgala, does not see anything new in the behaviour and attitude of BDP factions ahead of the party congress.

"These things happen all the time. It will only after a losing faction could humble itself and talk to the other in attempt to bring elusive peace that there will be total peace in the end" he believes.

Makgala says: "The only difference is that at least, there is an element of principle on the side of Barataphathi which seems to be the anchor of their campaigns".

Makgala says bitter factionalism has occurred in the past and it is going to happen in the future. "Even the involvement of the party and state president in factional matters is not anything new because it occurred during the era of the past immediate president Festus Mogae when he endorsed his then deputy, Ian Khama in the race for the chairman against Ponatshego Kedikilwe".

Another UB academic, Dr Zibani Maundeni, says factions have caused the BDP to abandon principle especially relating to the stringent election regulations.

"Look, the BDP has simply abandoned their principle of no open campaigns. This was previously binding but the position has seemingly changed with members engaging in open campaigns," observes Maundeni.

The political scientist says now it is common for BDP factions to simply wash the party's dirty linen in public.

Maundeni was not certain if the same attitude will spill over into the general elections, but he believes that tempers will possibly go down after the general elections.

He warns that should party diehards go into the elections with the same divisions arising from the Central Committee elections, it will cost them a lot.

"Factions continue discrediting each other. But the Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe faction are talking about themselves whilst the faction backing Seretse is bent on character assassination without saying what they will do if they win the elections," he says.

He warns the Nkate-Merafhe axis that their decision to target the characters of certain people and assassinate them is likely to backfire one day.

"They should be telling the delegates what good administration they will bring to help the party realize its dream rather than attacking some people and discrediting them," he warns.

Asked if allowing the factions to talk at this stage could not restore the requisite stability, Maundeni responds: "Factions should go for the Central Committee elections which will decide on the new leadership. It's too late for a compromise at this stage".

Maundeni says the group, led by Seretse, has lost focus to the extent that they have chosen to reveal secrets of other contenders instead of saying what they will do for the party once elected to party office.

Defending some of the party developments, BDP executive secretary, Dr Comma Serema, says that as the party chief spokesperson, President Khama can summon anyone to do whatever he wants them to do in the party in the manner he prescribes.

He acknowledges that the tone of the contest for party positions has changed. "The political rallies for launching 2009 October general elections are now used for attacking others. It's not good," he says.

Serema stresses that Khama is vindicated because when he was saying that certain people should not stand, he knew exactly that the campaigns would become dirty and deviate from the bigger picture, the general elections.

"In terms of avoiding the Central Committee elections, Khama has done a lot albeit without fruit. Former president, Sir Ketumile Masire, Satar Dada, Parks Tafa, Tshekedi Khama and others have tried their best to influence no elections, but so far, we have not reached a good settlement," Serema says.

Serema says indications are that the BDP is slowly heading towards a congress which will ultimately decide on the leadership. (ALL ARICA)

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