Botswana's Political Schism

What happens when a potential crisis in one country is overshadowed by events in its neighbors? When it comes to political upheaval on this level it often occurs in Africa and this case is no exception.

By Scott Morgan

In late April a conference of the ruling party in Botswana ended with a surprising schism when supporters of the former President Ian Khama who finished his term as President of the Country broke away from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The former President stated that he is planning to support the Opposition in the upcoming October Elections.

How did the BDP arrive at such a pivotal point? After all current President Mokgweetsi Masisi was handpicked by Mr. Khama to be his successor when his term of office came to a conclusion. Such a break only occurs on either an Ideological Basis or for Financial Reasons. The reason for the schism is interesting.

The last straw appears to the lifting of a ban on Elephant Hunting that took place earlier this month. President Khama imposed the ban back in 2014 and has been known to be an ardent conservationist.

The row is now so deep that reports indicate that Mr. Khama burnt his membership card in the BDP. This party was actually founded by his father Sir Seretese Khama. The location of where the card burning took place should be of notice as well. This was done in the Northeastern Village of Serowe. The importance of this location is that this is the power base of the Bangwato Tribe of which Mr. Khama is currently Paramount Chief.

Mr. Khama has switched his allegiance to the Botswana Patriotic Front and announced plans to work with a new group known as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The UDC is a coalition of three groups the Botswana National Front, the Botswana People’s Party and the Botswana Movement for Democracy. The Movement for Democracy actually finished in second place to the BDP during the 2014 Elections. It appears to that the Movement for Democracy is a party on the ascend. It may be an interesting election to watch.

There is a South African Angle to this row as well. The BDP had accused Bridgette Motsepe-Radebe the wife of Jeff Radebe the former South African Energy Minister of smuggling money into the country to present to the former Foreign Minister of Botswana Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. The situation has caused some concern in Pretoria to the point where President Ramaphosa sent his Foreign Minister to Gaborone to smooth over the situation. How South Africa will react to any future crisis will be interesting to observe.

What is in the best interests of Botswana? A reconciliation between Khama and Masisi? The end of the BDP rule of the Country since 1966? The close scrutiny of neighboring South Africa? All of the above? One thing is for certain the next few months will be interesting to watch in the region.

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