With close to a month left before the Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth league ( BMDYL) elective congress, youth wing members are embroiled in a dirty campaign of mud slinging where no one is spared, including party elders. The elections have ignited the bitter battle between two factions, those that are pro-Pilane and those that are anti-Pilane, a factionalism that recently threatened the seven year old party’s stability.
At the center of the controversy, is amongst others, the eligibility of one of the presidential candidates Kagelelo Banks Kentse. The latter, who has confirmed to this publication that he is aged 35 years and 6 months has angered some of the youth, particularly those from the anti-Pilane camp, who say he does not qualify to be a youth and cannot contest for the BMDYL elections.
According to Article G (1) of the BMDYL Constitution , “ membership of the BMDYL shall be open to all Batswana youth between the ages of 16 and 35 who accept its policy guidelines, aims and objectives as referred above,” while Article (5) states that once a member reaches the age of 35, they cease to be members of the youth league; “ Members shall join the BMDYL only once , and membership shall lapse when a person turns 35 years, is expelled following disciplinary proceedings, immigrates, resigns from the YL in writing to the organization or passes away. A person’s membership shall also lapse after if after an annual membership audit or review, it is found that such a member has not paid his/ her annual subscriptions for up to 6 months.”
Kentse, who declared on social media that he was contesting for the presidency stated on his Facebook post on 27th February that; “It is now official that I will be running for the BMDYL Presidency with a capable team of young people who have decided to sacrifice their personal preferences, put aside their political differences and commit to true and genuine call to unite the BMD of the UDC. This is the team leader, this is the leadership. The team will be revealed soon.”
However, he seems to be backtracking on his declaration as he told this publication that it will only be at the congress that he will know if he is contesting or not. Kentse, who is the spokesperson and policy director of the current YL said unlike in other parties, expression of interest to stand for any position in the BMDYL was not a formal process. “You do not complete any forms or submit your name to any office,” he said, explaining that it was only at the congress that one is nominated by a branch and must be supported by a required number of branches for them to be eligible to stand. “Anything before that is only expression of interest and branches can reject your interest at the congress,” he maintained. According to Kentse, it will only be after one is nominated that the issue of his age and eligibility will be debated. “At this time the debate is very much informal and cannot be used,” he pointed out.
For his part, Jacob Kelebeng, who is also a presidential hopeful said if indeed Kentse was over 35, then he ought to recuse himself from the presidential race so as to respect the constitution. “I know him to be a very conscious and great man who has been leading the youth league. Therefore he should just follow his conscience and act accordingly,” he said, saying he has only heard rumors that Kentse was 35 years and 6 months.
Incumbent BMDYL president Phenyo Segokgo could however not be drawn into discussing their (YL) interpretation of age of eligibility for membership, particularly as to what “between the ages of 16 and 35” as stated in the YL constitution meant. He explained that they were still consulting on the matter to seek clarity. According to Segokgo, he has not received any formal complaint or sought clarity from any member on the heated debate of Kentse’s eligibility to run for presidency. “No one has approached me on the issue,” he stated, pointing out that he was currently busy preparing for the upcoming YL elective congress planned for Lerala/ Maunatlala or Molepolole on the 28th April 2017.