A month after former president Ian Khama declared that he is no longer a member of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), due to a fall out with its leadership particularly President Mokgweetsi Masisi, confusion reigns supreme at Tsholetsa House.
Nobody seems to have a definite answer about whether Khama has relinquished his membership or not, even though his name still appears in the records of the party registered as a member of Serowe North West constituency. Khama is the former MP for the same constituency under the BDP ticket.
The uncertainty over Khama’s status stems from ambiguities in the BDP constitution over resignations and how membership terminates. Article 9 of the BDP Constitution on termination of membership reads: “Once a person has become a member of the party, and duly pays subscriptions, s/he shall retain membership for life, save when terminated as provided in this constitution or in the Disciplinary Rules of the party”.
The Patriot on Sunday put some questions to the BDP leadership seeking to establish; if Khama has submitted a resignation letter to the party? If not, is he still a member of the BDP? Does an announcement by a member in good standing that they are no longer part of an organisation (BDP) amount to a formal resignation?
After mumbling some incoherent answer BDP Acting Executive Secretary Lesedi Dintwe referred questions on Khama’s alleged resignation to party spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse, Chairman of the Communications sub-committee.
He too was not helpful; instead trying to craft a long winded answer that ended with a defensive “a jaanong waa mpolotikisa rra, ijakg”“, as a response to a barrage of questions on Khama’s status in the BDP. “I can only answer one part of your question. No, the BDP has not received any resignation letter from the former president (Ian Khama),” said Kentse, repeating what Dintwe had already confirmed.
Asked to explain, according to the provisions of the BDP constitution, the attitude of the party towards a member who has never submitted a resignation letter Kentse was non-committal and at best clutching at straws.
In an attempt to hazard an answer, Kentse responded with a rhetorical question about an interpretation of a scenario where a member goes around declaring that he is no longer a member of BDP in different fora.
He, however, failed to explain if what he was suggesting applies to all BDP members who wish to resign or if such is the procedure and culture at Domkrag. It is common knowledge that Khama declared that he is no longer a BDP member at a meeting in Serowe last month, and recently during interviews on radio and television stations in South Africa.
Pressed further to elaborate on what he meant by saying Khama has defined his status by announcing that he is no longer a member of BDP in three different platforms, Kentse ducked claiming that only the Secretary General, Mpho Balopi and party Chairman, Slumber Tsogwane are qualified to answer the question. “Nnyaa eo e mphitile rra. Go na le bagolo ba o ka ba botsang bo SG le Chairman,” was all Kentse could say.
The Patriot on Sunday has it on good authority that on Wednesday Tsogwane was at pains trying to explain Khama’s status to democrats at a BDP internal meeting (NSCIR workshop) held in Palapye.
The Khama dilemma has caused major division of opinion among democrats. A prominent regional chairman, who also led the BDP youth league in the past, said if Khama does not tender his resignation he remains a member in good standing.
Speaking off the record he said: “We cannot convincingly argue that he is not our member when we do not have a resignation from him. If it was there, it would have long been leaked. Khama is doing this deliberately to put us (BDP) in a state of limbo. It allows him the ability to negotiate and if he gets his way he will simply say I never left”.
The BDP leader even suggests that legally speaking Khama can attend any party meeting he chooses to and if anyone claimed he is not a democrat he would have to produce that resignation letter. He observes that the quandary is that there is no precedent of a former president behaving like Khama, and if the party takes action against him they will be placing the matter to be questioned by every elderly person in any meeting the party will have all over the country. “Bagolo ba ka seke ba tlhaloganya gore gatwe ngwana wa ga Seretse o kobetsweng mo phathing ya ga rraaagwe,” he said.
To put the Khama scenario into context examples given include that of a Branch Secretary in Mmopane-Lentsweletau constituency who dumped the BDP when the then MP Moeng Pheto resigned to contest as an independent candidate after losing Bulela Ditswe in 2013. He crossed to the BMD and even became the campaign manager for a BMD candidate for a while. When they fell out he quietly returned to the BDP and became a branch secretary. He later contested Bulela Ditswe and won but his opponent tried to have him disqualified by raising an objection that he had resigned from the party and joined another. The case was dismissed because the prodigal son had never been expunged from BDP data base, despite that he openly wore the trademark orange BMD regalia and chanted their message.
One cabinet minister sees the issue differently. He said while some members choose to write resignation letters others choose to just walk away and join other parties because there is no real laid down procedure. He explained: “For example, when BMD was formed people decided to just walk away to join the new formation thereby automatically terminating their membership through their action. Some who become mekoko (independent candidates) just leave without writing and it is through their action which is against the party principles that their membership automatically terminates. There is a clause in the constitution that talks to that. That is, if you join another organisation that is opposed to the party principles and values, through your action of joining such, you automatically terminate your membership to the party even if you have not written formally hence the party can go ahead and delete your membership from its database”.
“If you join an organisation that is opposed to the principles, values and ethos of the party by so doing you have terminated your membership through your actions,” he reiterated.
Asked specifically about Khama, who has not joined any party or organisation, the former executive secretary insists that his actions contravene the party principle, and therefore it is assumed that by so doing he has walked away from the party and the party recognises this fact and no longer regards him as a member. His membership automatically terminates, he argued.
“The issue here is the party administratively should have deleted the membership of those who walked away to join other parties from the BDP database so that when they come back they re-apply. But if the party did not, they can slip through and find their way in. So in this case, with such a prominent member like Khama it is easy to just delete him from the system but for ordinary members it is possible they may slip through. Under normal circumstances the branch committees should submit the names of such people formally so that their membership can be deleted”.
The latter argument seems premised on the BDP Constitution Article 14 -Discipline in the Party. Sub-section 14.2 reads; “a member of the party has the obligation to adhere to its object, aim and to party policy and to behave in consonance therewith, and with dignity and property in order to propagate the good image of the party and not to embarrass the party by any misconduct”.