BY PETER MADIYA The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) victory celebrations after walloping Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in a by-election in Mochudi East this past weekend were abruptly cut short when Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Secretary General Kentse ‘Nchi’ Rammidi quit opposition ranks for the ruling party this week. Hardly 24 hours after the Mochudi East results were announced on Sunday, Rammidi on Monday dropped a bombshell, handing in his resignation before being welcomed by BDP President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Tuesday. BCP is a key partner in the UDC as their president Dumelang Saleshando also doubles as the Vice President of the Umbrella coalition. UDC Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa declined to comment on the impact of Rammidi’s sudden resignation from a coalition partner, saying the man did not hold any important position in the UDC but at BCP.
“At this present moment, we cannot comment but BCP can since he was their member,” Mohwasa said. BCP president, Saleshando confirmed Rammidi’s resignation saying the latter only cited personal reasons as opposed to any wrongdoing on the side of his party. Immediately after he was welcomed at the BDP, there was talk of Rammidi having had financial problems assumed to have led to him seeking possible assistance from either the ruling party itself, or from a moneyed member of the ruling party who might have offered help only if the politician returned to the party. Social media posts yesterday suggested with ‘In the matter between’ cuttings that he was owing the National Development Bank (NDB) and his land was thus being auctioned away to recover the money.
The narrative thus pointed to him going cap in hand to the party that made him, moreso that in the opposition, no one seemed to care about his personal predicament. Rammidi is also believed to have lost patience with the leadership of the UDC that failed to allow for fair selection and election of candidates to represent the coalition. Rammidi has several times expressed sentiments seeking that primary elections be held by the UDC, a matter the party did not entertain. That way, Rammidi was left with a situation where he would have no parliamentary seat to contest for since his Kanye North constituency he represented as BCP candidate in 2014, was given to the BNF.
Nchi as he is affectionately known by his hordes of supporters debuted his political career at BDP in the Southern District where he once held the position of Chairperson for two terms before successfully trying his luck as Member of Parliament. He would later land himself an assistant ministerial position in the ministry of local government and lands in 2011. Rammidi was not only a Secretary General at BCP but a very important figure within the UDC who is well experienced as a politician, having earned his stripes through hard work and devotion to the struggle of political movements. When he joined BCP as their Secretary General, he had made it clear that if the party did not match his ambition for growth and win-win partnerships, he would not take long to make his mind to quit. Those close to him say a divided opposition does not make sense at all for him since it cannot topple the ruling party from power in the 2019 general elections.
He wanted the UDC member parties to disband and a form just one solid party where positions would be contested for. His desire to be a future leader of a party whilst at BDP was shown when he chose to resign as assistant minister to run for the position of Secretary General. Barely a month after being elected as Secretary General he resigned from BDP accusing former president Ian Khama of running the party like a one-man show following the 2011 industrial strike which left a good number of public servants jobless. He joined the BNF, but before long defected to the BCP. His sudden departure comes at a time when some disgruntled members of the UDC want the recent constitutional congress resolutions resolved as quickly as possible. He was welcomed to the BDP along with hordes of other BCP members, among them Phagenyane Phage, Councilor Elijah Motsamai, Ernest Nthobelang and University of Botswana academic Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe.
The University of Botswana Student Representative Council is disappointed by Minister Thapelo Olopeng’s remarks quoted in the media, and his failures to address issues faced by students. The Tertiarty Research Science and Technology Minister told reporters that the students are pulling political stunts.
This was after they were arrested for locking Department of Tertiary Education Funding (DTEF) employees in office some three weeks back as demand for student attachment allowance grows much greater than before. However, SRC vice president Tumelo Legase dismissed the minister’s remarks during a press briefing on Monday morning at the University.
“It’s disappointing to see the minister being petty instead of addressing pertinent issues that students face. It has been three months and students have not received their allowance, that’s the issue he should address,” he lashed out. The SRC’s endless scuffles with DTEF seem far from over. Legase said that DTEF has been inconsistent with crediting student allowances for the longest of times and they always have to ensure that they do their job. “We have proposed an advanced student allowance management system but they are still failing to take up such ideas.”
Following various engagements with the DTEF and UB Management that have failed to bear fruits, the SRC resolved to petition the DTEF Director and University of Botswana Student Welfare Director. According to Minister of Justice Carter Joseph the University Management has even failed to provide them with transportation to DTEF offices. “We are doing voluntary work for the students and management can’t even fulfil their duty of providing us with transportation,” he stressed.
For his part, UB SRC President Amogelang Mokwena said they are left with no option but to petition DTEF Director and UB Student Welfare Director. He said they will call a mass demonstration and petition these “two who are failing to do their job come August.” “We don’t encourage incompetency that’s why we want them to leave office so that someone befitting and capable goes into office, we will mobilise together with other SRCs across the country and we will get enough numbers to over throw them.”
The SRC has also expressed apprehension at the absence of University of Botswana Vice Chancellor Professor David Norris who is always available to give them an ear and extend a helping hand.
“We have a solid relationship with Professor Norris. It’s sad that he is outside the country and cannot be of any assistance.
“In his absence we have no one to run to. I can say we have no relationship with the Director of Student Welfare,” Mokwena lamented.
LIES AND DECEIT
On the surface it looks like a storm in a teacup but it is a brewing tornado which threatens to rent asunder the harmony subsisting between tribal leadership and politics.
And at the heart of it all seems to lie bits of dishonesty, lies and deceit. It all started with a luncheon meeting hosted at Maharaj Conference Centre for nine (9) Bangwaketse Dikgosana, supposedly called by Kgosikgolo Malope II. On the way to this luncheon from Kanye, the Ngawaketse capital, new information turned by one of the trip organisers revealed that the meeting was just a political gimmick by the Botswana Patriot Front (BPF) and its patron former president and Bangwato Kgosikgolo, Ian Khama.
Happening two weeks before the launch of the BPF in Kanye, the luncheon was a masterstroke by the party’s strategists to secure legitimacy amongst the tribe’s leadership as well as the much-needed numbers for the party’s launch and elective congress. But now some of the Dikgosana say they were tricked into participating in a partisan meeting whose motive they were never privy to.
The alleged association of Gangwaketse with BPF reportedly started with Khama’s visits to Kanye in search of a suitable venue for his party’s historic inaugural elective congress. This is where, according to emerging reports, officials of the BPF struck an association with one of the tribesmen who would later be used, amidst promises of money, to mobilise the other tribal leaders for the Maharaj meeting.
Last week Thursday, Bangwaketse Kgosi Malope II summoned all these Dikgosana to explain their actions. These Dikgosana are Gaonakgang Gaonakgang (Mmangwato ward); Thomson Ntsima (Tsima ward); Gaokgakala Monnathebe (Goo-Logaba); Frank Boakgomo (Boakgomo ward); Lewatle Kgosiyareng (Mongala ward); J. Ramoshane (Lotlhakane East); Kepatilwe Mafoko (Tlagae ward); Gaofenngwe Bome (Bome ward) and the Kgosana of Moshana village.
The meeting was attended by District Commissioner of Southern District Mmoloki Edward Raletobane as well as tribal administrators.Of these tribal leaders, it is Bome who reportedly met and agreed on the Maharaj meeting with the BPF patron. Both men are believed to have been contacting each other for some time and it appears they even spoke about how Khama could involve all Dikgosana in his grand political plan.
Following conclusion of the master plan, where two more tribal elders were brought into the plan, Bome is said to have then called all the other Dikgosana to inform them that Malope II – who at the time was in Gaborone attending Ntlo ya Dikgosi session – has invited them for lunch in Gaborone and would send a bus to collect them.
It was when the men were about to touch down in Gabs that Bome allegedly changed tune saying that they were in fact going to be meeting with Khama, not Malope. This allegedly brought worry and division among the Dikgosana but they nevertheless went ahead to Maharaja where they were met and welcomed by BPF interim President Biggie Butale. One of the dikgosana reveals that Butale would then request them to have patience because “Morena o etla” (The king will be coming), referring to Khama
And then Khama arrived
The common narrative from the elders is that upon arrival, Khama gave them the impression that he did not know anything about the purpose of the meeting, but that he had nonetheless come because he had been informed that they wanted to meet with him. Upon asking them why they had wanted to meet with him, it was Bome who curiously jumped to the opportunity to be the first to speak.
Some in the group reveal they were shocked when Bome told Khama that they had come to seek his assistance against President Mokgweetsi Masisi whom they alleged was making them lead miserable lives. Bome allegedly stressed that since Khama left the presidency, they suffered under Masisi who was forcing them to pledge allegiance to him. Khama was further told by some of the tribal elders that they were not comfortable with the oppression and sought his advice on how they could petition Masisi to Queen Elizabeth.
It is said that Khama advised them to rather take their petition to the British High Commission in Gaborone. One of the Dikgosana, Kepatilwe Mafoko, is said to have chipped in to add that Government was refusing to promote him even though he had served the morafe for long a long time. Records however show that the same Mafoko had long been brought to the Kgotla years back, just to help with a few things, and that he has remained there since. The other Kgosana who spoke was Lewatle Kgosiyareng, a former political activist for both ruling BDP and opposition BNF but has since quit politics. In his response, Khama is said to have told them that he too is suffering under president Masisi (Le nna Masisi o a ntshwenya) even as he is the one to have chosen him to succeed him when he retired.
Khama allegedly then told the Dikgosana that he too would love it if they give him support in removing Masisi through the ballot in October. “I therefore request you all to mobilise people to come in numbers for the BPF launch,” he allegedly said. In his address to Dikgosana, Khama allegedly told them that he was currently talking to other Dikgosi throughout the country seeking their support for this cause. Some of the elders reveal that after deliberations of the day, two of their colleagues would later have a private meeting with Khama. The Midweek Sun has established that the two were Bome and Mafoko. There is suspicion that the two received some monetary incentives as what would transpire later in the village gave rise to those suspicions. A source close to the village’s development committee – VDC – revealed that one of the two would later that day arrive pay back the P3000-00 debt he had had for some time.
Reports say Bome and Mafoko, from their side meeting, arrived to tell the others that they had been promised that transport would be organised and each of them would be paid P6000 to mobilise Bangwaketse for the BPF launch and efforts to remove Masisi. As it turned out, not all Dikgosana could hold the secret for long, and soon the secret meeting reached the ears of Kgosi Malope and a meeting was called for Wednesday, where the concerned Dikgosana were advised to stay away from politics. Malope and his administrators would then call another meeting with Dikgosana on Thursday and asked them to explain their actions to other village elders. This is where some of the issues were revealed. It is at the same meeting that Bome allegedly confessed and exonerated Malope, saying he never gave them permission to attend a meeting with Khama.
Instead, he confessed that before the Maharaj meeting, he had gone to Malope to tell him Khama had invited him for lunch, to which Malope only said he didn’t find anything wrong with him dining with Khama if they are friends.
Word was already spreading in the village that Ngwaketse royals had been given huge sums of money to mobilise morafe for the Saturday launch of BPF. But after this clarification by Bome on Thursday, Malope then called a Kgotla meeting on Friday in order to clear the air for the villagers. The meeting was addressed by deputy Chief, Kebapetswe Telekelo.
Efforts by this publication to speak to Khama proved futile, but The Monitor quoted him this week denying that he ever sought to meet with the Dikgosana. “They are the ones who had asked to see me on that day, but unfortunately I was not available in the morning and they had to come for lunch,”Khama is quoted to have said, adding that the Ngwaketse royals then complained that Masisi was forcing them to support him.
What Bome told The Midweek Sun
Kgosi Bome also denied most of the allegations against him but confirmed that they indeed travelled to have lunch with Khama and were provided with transport although he says he does not know whose vehicle it was.
“It is true we travelled to Gaborone at the invitation of former president Khama who invited us for lunch. We accepted the invitation as we did not see anything wrong with it,” Bome said.
“But we have since apologised to Kgosikgolo Malope for having attended lunch without having followed proper channels, so questions on this matter are not necessary.” But then again, Bome denies ever organising transport or calling other Dikgosana to attend the lunch meeting with Khama. Yet his colleagues contend he did. “I did not organise the transport for Dikgosana as they claim. Our transport came with Kgosi Lewatle Kgosiyareng.
He told us that they were coming from Letlhakane where there was a donation for a wheelchair.” Bome said it should be noted that this is election time and people are bound to lie about others. “There is nothing more I can say. We called Bangwaketse to clarify our position on Friday. I also confirm that I have heard stories that Khama offered us money. The Morafe continues to ask me about this and some close to me tease me for a share,” he told this publication. And then he added: “The fact is we never talked politics with Khama – even the law is very clear that we have to remain apolitical as our major role is arbitration and uniting the tribe.
Instead he only told us he is retired and only wanted to spend time with us as he has done with other Dikgosi.” District Commissioner – Southern, Mmoloki Raletobane confirmed being aware of the matter. “I was informed by the tribal administration and know everything by virtue of my position. We allowed the chieftainship to resolve the issue in the best way possible,” he said. The contradicting versions on what really transpired have not been helped much by the refusal of other Dikgosana to speak to this publication. Kgosi Malope II could neither be drawn into discussing the matter as he said the matter had been successfully resolved.
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LIES AND DECEIT