HUKUNTSI: The problem of factionalism in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has reached a preternatural height in the history of its existence. The BDP factional wars dates back to 1994 when the party nearly lost election to Botswana National Front (BNF)which gained 13 seats missing only 8 seats to dethrone it from power.
The period of unprecedented growth of BNF gave political pundits enough justification that it will ascend to power in 1999. However, BDP did not take the rise of BNF for granted. Ahead of 1999 general elections, BDP engaged the service of South African based political scientist Lawrence Schlemmer to diagnose the demon attacking the party. His findings indicated that factional wars were tearing the party apart and it will affect its chances of election victory if the status quo is not solved.
The report then recommends that the party brings someone who is neutral and respected to unite the party. Therefore, the then Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama was introduced to BDP to neutralize the party from factional wars. The strategy worked for the party as its popularity resurfaced through the famous ‘Khama Magic’ which was centered on appealing to masses and rallying voters to BDP.
However, the prognosis of Schlemmer was temporary though the party’s popularity was promising because factionalism had already formed the DNA of BDP. The factional scenario of BDP is now akin to an HIV/AIDS patient who is accustomed to ARV therapy without any expectation of permanent cure soon.
If media reports are anything to go by, factional wars reported to be uncontrollable in the Francistown region risk the BDP losing all the three constituencies to the opposition in the coming general election. The same demon has now found fertile ground in Kgalagadi North where the political atmosphere is fully saturated with allegations that the transport magnate, Talita Monnakgotla will wrestle incumbent Itumeleng Moipisi in the coming party primary elections.
Supporters of both Moipisi and Monnakgotla are at each other’s throat and their feud has reached boiling point. An insider who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity has confirmed this. Although neither side will win a clear victory, he said both factions had proposed not to support the winning candidate in the general election next year. It has now become a common practice within BDP that frustrated members usually cast their vote to opposition parties which is viewed as revenge on the opponents.
Worse still, the war is not only on supporters as both Moipisi and Monnakgotla have allowed enmity to reign in their souls to extent that they don’t see eye-to-eye, perhaps proving the veracity that friendship in politics is a difficult thing to maintain.
Fresh reports indicate that the BDP meeting held on Monday this week at village community hall excluded Monnakgotla’s supporters and it was secretly held by Moipisi’s supporters. The meeting was organized to prepare for the coming of the party president on the 10 March. As usual the party president, Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama is expected to preach his normal gospel of peace within BDP.
Interestingly, both candidates have been reluctant to declare openly that they are in the race. The attitude was best described by the words of Mmegi veteran journalist Ryder Gabathuse as “a culture of denialism, which is apparently becoming embedded in the ruling BDP political culture”. When contacted by this publication, Monnakgotla said she cannot comment on the matter since it is not yet time to speak.
However, her supporters are adamant that she is the right candidate to redeem the constituency from socio-economic problems such as high levels of poverty, employment and water problem.
“Unlike Moipisi, Monnakgaotla has always demonstrated high degree of compassion for residents of Kgalagadi North for the past two decades. We cannot compare her with Moipisi who has nothing to show on the ground as evidence of compassion. Comparably, Moipisi is selective and he does not associate with residents like Monnakgotla” says a Monnakgotla supporter, annonymously.
Looking at Monnakgotla’s philanthropic resume, political pundits have started to foresee the possibility of her winning the coming Bulela Ditswe. Her company, AT&T Monnakgotla is sponsoring annual activities such as Kgalagadi & Gantsi (KGAGA) football tournament and donates to school prize giving days. Currently, she is busy distributing vegetables in funerals as a way to show compassion. But the question that many residents are asking themselves is whether the donations serve a genuine purpose or are an underground campaign.
Moipisi’s supporters who were interviewed by this publication indicated that all the donations by Monnakgotla are an “underground campaign”. They also maintained that by the virtue of marriage, “she is no longer a local resident” though she was born in Hukuntsi.
Beside her philanthropic work, Mma Monnakgotla, as she is affectionately known in the area, has always had interests of Kgalagadi North residents at heart. In 2013 she built a shopping mall which is situated just a stone throw from the village hospital. The mall has reduced long travelling by residents to Jwaneng for shopping. It is without exaggeration that Mma Monnakgotla could be likened to a Biblical Good Samaritan send by God to advance the welfare of Kgalagadi North residents.
If past experience is anything to rely on, money in BDP politics plays a central role in recruitment of voters in both primary and national elections and Mma Monnakgotla is heavily transactional which gives her more advantage than his counterpart. She is also an additional member in BDP Women’s Wing where she gains experience from iron ladies such as Dorcus Makgatho, Venson Moitoi and Unity Dow.
Meanwhile, it will not be a smooth sailing for Mma Monnakgotla. On the other side, Moipisi is associated with the faction of the vice president, Mokgweetsi Masisi which is well known for its money spinning attitude. Team Masisi, as, it is affectionately known, is even wealthier than the financially struggling BDP. Therefore, as an affiliate, he cannot fear Monnakgotla financially. Even though most of her supporters have crossed the line to join Monnakgotla, Moipisi is supported by all BDP councilors in Hukuntsi Local Authority.
Investigations by this publication show that the main thorn in Moipisi’s flesh is the appointment of Land Board members which was marred by nepotism and controversy. He is alleged to have appointed Henry Maapatsane and Mpho Bapege who are both his relatives and had not applied for the posts. It is also reported that the former Sub-Land Board member (name known to this publication) passed the interview and was not appointed because of his association with Monnakgotla. It has become common knowledge in the area that whoever is associated with Monnakgotla cannot enjoy the blessings of Moipisi who is also the assistant Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.
However, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services has denied all that allegations when he appearing before Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) last year. He defended the appointments saying that the Minister or his deputy have the power to appoint anyone outside all applicants who he finds fit to serve on the board. Efforts to contact Moipisi proved futile since his phone rang unanswered.