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Bad Khama in Botswana’s ruling party

Botswana President Ian Khama has publicly acknowledged for the first time that his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is at war with itself.

At a BDP soul-searching session last weekend, Khama told party delegates: “Some of the issues that continue to bedevil us are factions. These have reached an unhealthy level, in spite of our repeated resolutions at different forums noting that we need to stop them.

“It is clear that some among us are getting value out of these factions. How they benefit I do not know; by continuing to institutionalise them, we are actually destroying the party.”

Khama complained that the BDP had not gone into recent elections as a united body. “In particular, as the party leader, I was accused of many things and my name was used in vain across the political divide,” he said.

BDP candidates had “decampaigned one another, even supporting the opposition in some cases”.

He was speaking as prodigal sons Phillip Makgelemele and Patrick Masimole staged an inexplicable about turn, returning to the ruling party after a brief flirtation with the three-month-old Botswana Movement for Democracy (BDM).

In addition, the enmity between Vice-President Mompati Merafhe, who allegedly leads a BDP faction called the “A-Team”, and influential party chairperson Daniel Kgwelegobe, the leader of Barapathi (“those who love the party”), appears to be resolved. Nevertheless, political pundits remain cynical.

Increasingly disillusioned with Khama’s allegedly unilateral style, some BDP members have joined the BDM that has six MPs and its deputy chairperson, Botsalo Ntuane, is now opposition leader in Parliament. The combined opposition now has 16 seats — the strongest in the country’s post-independence history.

But BDP spokesperson Segaetsho Garekwe said: “They drum this thing so loudly, the people might think the majority has left the BDP. Not even 1% of the BDP’s membership has left, so there’s no need to panic.”

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