Its rise or sink for Ndaba Gaolathe
In 2011, following its formation the previous year, BMD was dismissed as an unproven party which many analysts said needed to go through an election first then deal with the fall outs that usually dog political parties when factions erupt as internal power dynamics shift for one reason or another.
The 2014 general elections came and the party did well, helping the Umbrella for Democratic Party (UDC) register a historical 17 parliamentary seats. Following the election, Umbrella parties, including the BMD were buoyant and irrepressible, with the memory of Gomolemo Motswaledi being the glue which ensured unity and warmth within the party.
It also seemed that the BMD leadership rode on the prevailing general goodwill of their members who, at the instance of party events or bye elections thrived in evoking the spirit of Motswaledi under which it seemed everyone was unquestioningly united. However, what was always clear is that after his death, no one emerged from the party- with a similar larger than life personality like Motswaledi who despite being loved by many was a hard worker and strict in making sure that party was in line and uncompromised.
Ndaba Gaolathe who deputized him, while celebrated for his intelligence, emerged as a soft idealist who placed too much of his faith in the good will of people, and did not stamp his presence as his more deliberate contemporaries in other political parties. This was however celebrated as a good quality, and when during the 2014 election campaign the refrain “Calm Change” was coined, it was coined around his tame, agreeable persona.
With the eruption of the Pilane BMD re-admission tension, it seems Ndaba has placed before him the second test which doubters of the party said it must overcome to prove that it is durable, dependable and capable of defying the odds it said it would defy upon fissuring away from the ruling BDP.
Some voices are emerging which say that Ndaba’s problem is that the BMD has an excessively liberal constitution which, unlike other traditional parties, gives a lot of room for dissent. This is interesting considering that the Barata Party of BDP who formed the BMD had a serious problem with power being centred on the party president. This point did not escape the BDP Youth League President Andy Boatile who continuously taunts Ndaba on Facebook, challenging him to “lead” instead of coping out for the same reasons he and others left the BDP.
With all the factions and internal dynamics within the BMD understood, there emerges a real question of whether Ndaba has the mettle, as a man, to withstand the perceived leadership storm within the party. One of the often glossed over characters of Gomolemo Motswaledi is that he was an uncompromising, almost dictatorial leader, who had little patience for casual dissent and disorder, who was not as given to diplomatic platitudes in the face of challenges such as Ndaba is facing.
While he is a brilliant leader in his own right, questions are emerging as to whether his approach to leadership is “too English”, meaning- instead of approaching leadership the African way, where a leader always has to carry a stick and make show of his power. It’s not clear what the BMD will decide with regard to presidential powers at its Special Congress, but it seems that Ndaba is faced with a real challenge to rise as both a man and leader in the face of what has been termed by some as open defiance by some of the party members.
It would seem at this point that the romance is over at the BMD as the party is evolving into its second phase of growth, and it may be an opportunity for Ndaba to exert himself on the party like his late predecessor Gomolemo Motswaledi.