Humiliated, battered and bruised in the 2019 elections, the once mighty opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) has started a revival campaign to restore party structures around the country ahead of the crucial elective congress in July.
BNF will hosts a series of congresses for its auxiliary and regional bodies ahead of the party’s most crucial congress billed for July, where delegates will elect leadership for Central Committee positions, including that of Secretary General and President. Licking their wounds from a dismal performance at the October 2019 General Elections under the coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), the BNF leadership is running helter skelter to put their house in order.
Although BNF spin doctors have tried to down play the existence of factions in the party, a glaring rift between those aligned to the party President Duma Boko and his deputy Reverend Dr Prince Dibeela has been playing out in public before, during and immediately after elections.
Prior to elections, some members of the BNF Central Committee who are sympathetic to Dibeela complained that Boko was side-lining them and running the party alone without any consultations.
They complained that Boko even hijacked CC meetings, dictating what was to happen and completely muffled their voices. At the height of the tensions, BNF Treasurer General Noah Salakae tendered a resignation letter to the party before later withdrawing it.
The conspicuous absence of Dibeela, who was dwarfed by Boko’s dominance in the campaigns towards 2019 elections, also covered up tensions within the party. While party structures collapsed, Dibeela watched from the side-lines as Boko launched a spirited campaign in an attempt to dislodge the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Muted voices complaining that Boko had totally neglected his own party were growing in numbers. It remains strange that even when the BNF President was leading the UDC coalition campaign, his right hand man was nowhere close to the action except perhaps running his own campaigns in Mmathethe-Molapowabojang.
It was then not surprising when Boko failed to launch Dibeela after crisscrossing the country launching other UDC candidates. Observers saw this as a deliberate decision because the two do not see eye to eye.
In a leaked audio secretly recorded in an interview with a local radio station soon after elections Dibeela was heard casting aspersions on the leadership of Boko and questioning some of his decisions.
While Boko is banking on incumbency, Dibeela enjoys the support of party veterans who openly criticised and attacked Boko for his decision to associate with former President Ian Khama and having links with controversial South African businessman Zunaid Moti.
One thing clear is that daggers have been drawn at BNF as the party goes on a soul searching mission.
University of Botswana (UB) political science lecturer Mokaloba Mokaloba said BNF has been under a lot of turbulence and this could be the reason for poor performance during 2019 elections.
He observes that the body language and posture of some members towards the BNF leader Boko due to their public utterances depicts there is factionalism rocking the party at the moment.
“BNF has been marred by divisions and the party should put its house in order to restore its confidence. All congresses for the structures can make or break the BNF but there is a need to bring in changes because you can tell there is a crisis looking at how the youth wing fights,” he said.
BNF Veterans League has on several occasions prior to the 2019 elections differed with Boko over amongst others his relations with former president Khama. The Veterans league after the elections issued scathing attack on Boko, blaming him for the UDC loss, also accusing him of running party (BNF) as one-man show excluding other crucial bodies.
Another analyst Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao said it is important that BNF resurrects its collapsed structures, insisting that no serious organisation of BNF’s calibre can work without structures. Dr Lotshwao observed that the absence of the active structures within the BNF breeds personal rule in which the view of the leader, no matter how mistaken, goes unchallenged at all.
He said the effects of that are often catastrophic hence putting the party in serious disrepute.
Briefing the media on the resolutions of central committee meeting held last week on Saturday, BNF Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa said the party has decided to set dates for the congresses.
He denied the allegations that BNF was likely not to host the congress for its auxiliary bodies such as central committee although the members’ term of office was ending this year.
“The BNF as it stipulated by the constitution will this year hold congresses for its auxiliary bodies, including youth league, central committee and regions, “he said, adding that regional congresses will kick start on the 21st of March at the South Central region whilst crucial youth league and veterans association are set for 2nd and 23rd May respectively.
He admitted that the party’s youth league has not been stable; saying the commission led by Ketlhalefile Motshwega and Nelson Ramaotwana that has been appointed to reconcile the youth league fighting members will soon give report to the central committee.
According to Mohwasa, BNF leadership – both president Duma Boko and his deputy Dr Prince Dibeela – will tour BNF regional congresses separately in order to interact with party members.
He could not dwell much on whether there are some party individual members who are lining up to challenge Boko for presidency during the party’s elective congress billed for July. “BNF members will elect their chosen members to lead the party. The president will also be elected and I do not know who is planning to contest for positions at the moment,” he added.