- Party meet in Tsabong under a hostile environment - Congress can unite or further divide the party - Playing ground not level, intimidation at play - claim - We are united and shall emerge even more united- BDP head of communications
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is meeting in Tsabong today as a bruised political movement since its 2009 Kanye Elective National Congress.
The party meets to choose between two opposing camps one led by current chairman and Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and the other by former MP and Minister Nonofo Molefhi. The BDP Kanye Congress saw a divided party that would the following year give birth to a splinter party - Botswana Movement for Democracy.
While the playing field was not level during the 2015 and 2017 national congresses, the party has however emerged united only to split following a Special Congress in Kang in 2019 where the party was to endorse the presidency of Mokgweetsi Masisi.
At the Special Congress Masisi was challenged for the presidency of the party ahead of the general election by Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi an election which according to Dr. Moitoi was rigged before it could happen.
In the Tsabong Congress, the party is marred by controversy from within with allegations that the party leadership is targeting pro-Molefhi supporters by intimidating both candidates and delegates.
This is the congress that is also expected to test the unity of the party. Already there are complaints of unfairness in the selection of delegates.
Botswana Guardian has established that even the voters’ roll which was to be released early this week was not ready at press time on Wednesday. It was said that it might be ready by Thursday (yesterday) or today (Friday).
There are fears that the late release of the voters’ roll might disadvantage others who might have queries ahead of the Saturday elections. .There are also fears that the voters' roll might be tampered with and have some names removed thereby rendering some people ineligible to vote if the voters’ roll is availed late.
There are also some within the party who feel they are being targeted for not endorsing or for challenging Tsogwane lobby group. This is said to have instilled fear within some councillors and MPs to publicly express the candidates they support.
Some of the high-profile members of the party among them former Minister of Finance, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka who is MP for Lobatse, Specially Elected MP, and former Minister Dr. Unity Dow, and Deputy Secretary General Shaw Kgathi have publicly expressed concern that they are being targeted politically from within the BDP.
Dr. Dow has taken a swipe at BDP MPs for being cowards because they have decided to remain, mum, when they see that things are not done right. Dr. Matsheka has told the media that his recent arrest and detention were politically motivated.
Kgathi who is contesting for Secretary General of the party also finds himself battling for survival as he argues that the recent selection of delegates in Bobonong where he is a former MP was marred by irregularities.
He has since lodged a complaint on the matter. Dr. Dow has claimed harassment which is politically motivated just because she is contesting for the Deputy Secretary-General position.
Both Kgathi and Dr. Dow belong to Molefhi’s lobby group which has expressed concern that processes and procedures are not followed. During the National Council Molefhi’s camp expressed concern that the Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) is conflicted as it was campaigning for Tsogwane under the guise of preaching the party’s culture and history.
In an interview, Dr. Dow said they remain intact and hopeful that democrats will hear their message and vote them into office. She said they are aware that the voters’ roll has been delayed. According to Dr. Dow, they would not think along the lines that the delay could be associated with plans to tamper with the roll.
“All we know is that those charged with the responsibility are working hard to have the final product out. Of course, by now it should have been out to give everyone a chance to inspect it, and having it released late may cause anxiety.
“But we have to all bear in mind that because of the COVID-19 Pandemic a lot of activities were stalled and people were not being registered. So COVID-19 disrupted a lot of things. In all fairness we believe our officers are working round the clock to have everything in place and order before voting,” Dr. Dow said.
BDP Communications and International Relations Committee Chairman Kagelelo Kentse said everything is going according to plan. He told this publication that the people have campaigned and lobbied peacefully and within the confines of the BDP regulations.
According to Kentse, there have not been any intimidations or harassment because if such had happened Democrats know processes and procedures that ought to be followed.
“Well with the issue of the voters’ roll we had some challenges but we are on cause and everything is running according to plan. The perception peddled about possible tampering is unfounded and misleading.
“Once the names of delegates are submitted the whole process is left to the Electoral Board which runs our elections. People should stop saying the party is divided and should understand that in BDP lobby lists are allowed and are free to campaign.
“Once a new leadership has been elected we pull together as one and lobby groups become a thing of the past. That is how democratic the BDP is. We are going into the congress a united force and we shall emerge even more united from the congress which is in line with our theme of “Unity and Consolidation”, Kentse said.