- His withdrawal leaves Boko and Molatlhegi in the presidential race
- Only reading between the lines may hint which way Dibeela leans
Outgoing vice president of the Botswana National Front (BNF), Reverend Prince Dibeela, has refused to openly state his choice between incumbent president Duma Boko or new entrant Dr Baatlhodi Bucs Molatlhegi as the two prepare to battle it out in July this year.
Dibeela recently announced his withdrawal from challenging Boko at the BNF elective congress, citing personal reasons for the decision.
He told The Botswana Gazette that even though he has pulled out of the race, he intends to see a party where there is internal democracy and tolerance of opinion. These marks may be interpreted as being partial to Molatlhegi because Boko has been criticized for stifling inner-party democracy.
“When the party emerges from the congress, I want to see our movement being able tolerate all ideas without any person imposing their thoughts on others,” Dibeela said. “We must have a diversity of thought within the party because we are a dynamic movement.”
“We need a BNF that is in touch with the grassroots more than we are now because we are the party of the ordinary people – the farmers, the unemployed and the workers. So we must have in a structured way a connectedness to this and I do not think there is any party that has that privilege as the BNF does.”
Dibeela, who has been a strong critic of Boko’s leadership, said he wants to see a BNF that has more representation in Parliament and councils because it is the biggest opposition party.He added that he would have liked to spearhead such transformation of the BNF but consultations with family resulted in his decision to end his race for the presidency of the BNF.
“We had covered a lot of ground but of course there are challenges and concerns we had but I want to make it clear that I am not a coward,” he said. “I cannot devote more than a year to campaigning and just pull out without any good reason.”
“It was a hard decision but the best decision. I am still serving the party as its vice president but of course I wanted to be president and I want to be president and I believe that one day I will be president.”
He added that the BNF has other capable people who can transform the party and that his withdrawal will not deter him from serving his country through the BNF. “I believe that there are people who can lead the BNF but our political climate, not just in the BNF, much good because people at the top prefer weak deputies.”
“I do not believe in that kind of democracy. I think we need a variety of people from whom to choose. I have always had opinions in terms of how the party should be run with the engagement of party members, which is is the BNF that we all want.”
BNF presidential hopeful Molatlhegi declared his candidature last month when he described the party as an organisation in the ICU, prompting an official reaction that the BNF was as fit as a fiddle under Boko’s leadership.
Meanwhile , as the campaign hots up, the Kweneng region of the BNF declared its support for Boko to continue president and to lead the party the 2024 general elections.
In July last year, Dibeela’s lobby group accused Boko of destroying inner-party democracy to a point where the BNF has become almost unrecognisable. Led by BNF veteran Mokgweetsi Kgosipula as campaign manager, Team Restoration, as the Dibeela camp was called, campaign manager, accused Boko of running a one-man show at the expense of proper party structures.
Kgosipula said until recently, the BNF had gone for a year and-a-half without a central committee meeting. “Despite this failure by the leadership to meet, important decisions were being taken on behalf of the party,” he pressed on. “One then wonders the decisions were taken by who after consulting who?”