13 December 2018

Botswana: 'Masisi Is Not BDP President' - Jacobs

A sequel to the 2008 Gomolemo Motswaledi vs Ian Khama & Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) case is playing out before the High Court in a more dramatic fashion after a Bulela Ditswe loser, Kamal Jacobs, raised questions about the legitimacy of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Jacobs has dragged the party, its Secretary General, Mpho Balopi and its President Mokgweetsi Masisi before court, arguing that the latter is not a legitimate president of the party and therefore does not have authority to act as one. Holding that Masisi is illegitimate, Jacobs therefore argues that decisions he made in that capacity are by extension invalid. One such decision was the establishment of a working committee of the BDP central committee to investigate and recommend solutions on Bulela Ditswe appeals and grievances.

In a surprising twist to the fight for the soul of the embattled BDP, on Thursday morning Jacobs applied to amend affidavits to add former President Ian Khama as one of the respondents. When the matter came before court on Thursday morning, Jacobs lawyers wasted no time in seeking a postponement to allow Khama to file his response after being enjoined to the proceedings. Judge Chris Gabanagae rejected the application, persuaded by BDP lawyers who argued that Khama has always been an intergral part of lawsuit, thus forcing Jacobs' legal team to beat a hasty retreat and withdraw the case, clearly demonstrating the significance they attach to having Khama testify in the matter. Court papers motivating the Thursday application read in part: "The object of this application is to have the 7th Respondent (Ian Khama) being joined to the main application as he is the last person to have been elected at a National Congress of the BDP that was held in Gaborone 2014 at Ave Maria Pastoral Centre".

The court case is anticipated to morph into a sparring match between the feuding foes face to face, as Khama's affidavit, if it ever reaches court will also denounce Masisi's presidency. Khama has openly espoused this position. Sources say, the decision to rope in Khama, which is touted as a master stroke by the New Jerusalem faction was hatched at a clandestine meeting in Gaborone last Saturday.

Khama's shocking appearance in the Jacobs case, though not surprising, presents a platform for him to intensify the protracted transition battle against Masisi that has seen the former publicly claiming that he never resigned from the BDP presidency. Khama is expected to advance arguments to support his unenviable stance, should he opt to take the stand much to the chagrin of the BDP hoi-polloi. The former president recently sent shockwaves throughout the nation -particularly within the ruling party- when he declared that he never relinquished the BDP presidency to Masisi, further claiming that he remains the incumbent. To buttress the point, he even promised to start attending central committee meetings in that capacity, a threat he never followed through.

First time contestant in Bulela Ditswe, Jacobs, was recently clobbered by Dr Thapelo Matsheka in the race for the party parliamentary candidacy for Lobatse constituency in the 2019 general elections. His appeal to the central committee was thrown out, forcing him to resort to court action arguing that the primary elections were marred with irregularities. While many expected Jacobs to enumerate the alleged irregularities, he instead went for the jocular asking court to declare that Masisi is not the substantive president of the BDP. As such, Masisi does not have powers to appoint Commitees of the Central Committee (in terms of Article 33 of the Constitution of the BDP), including the Electoral Board chaired by Peter Siele, he said. Article 33 of the BDP Constitution reads: "There shall be working committees of the central committee whose members shall be appointed by the president of the party from among members of the party in good standing. The president may also appoint and advisor to each working committee".

Opposition allies

New Jerusalem has deployed a multi-pronged attack to discredit Masisi, including spreading falsehoods and exaggerating their foothold within the BDP. As part of the strategy to destabilise the BDP and discredit Masisi, New Jerusalem is said to have joined forces with opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), and is using them to raise questions about the President and his administration.

Haskins Nkaigwa (AP)

Last week Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkaigwa asked Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration to confirm whether Masisi has business interest in Choppies Group and to state the value of the shares he holds and how they were acquired. Nkaigwa also asked the minister nto reveal other companies that Masisi has business dealings with.

In his response Presidential Affairs minister Nonofho Molefhi denied knowledge of such information. "If anyone is interested they can check with the Registrar of Companies," answered Molefhi, adding that he is not aware of Masisi's business dealings with any other company as that will be a private business and nothing to do with his office.

On supplementary, Nkaingwa wanted to know how president Masisi acquired a farm valued at P8 million and other property he is said to have bought in Gaborone. "I will be bringing a Bill on Declaration of Assets to Parliament next year. Once it is implemented those kind of questions will be answered," Molefhi said.

Dithapelo Keorapetse (BCP)

The Selibe Phikwe West legislator recently caused a stir when he raised questions in Parliament about Masisi's academic qualifications. To some, such inquiry raises eyebrows as it has never been pursued vehemently against former presidents.

Duma Boko (BNF)

Although the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President, Duma Boko, denies that the motion of no confidence against Masisi, which he recently tabled in Parliament had anything to do with BDP internal fights, many are not convinced.

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