The former Member of Parliament for Gaborone West South, Robert Molefhabangwe has launched a personal war on the BNF.
Molefabangwe who joined the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2009 following his expulsion from the BNF has vowed to do all in his powers to destroy his former political home of 33 years, the BNF. He also has a very interesting story to tell about his life at the BDP
Q. You have been quite since you were expelled from the BNF. How have you been?
When the BNF expelled me I decided that I would contest for the elections anyway. I was the last to register with the Independent Electoral Commission, meaning I did not have enough campaign time. I decided that, should I lose, then what? I had two business plans, recycling of scrap tyres and leather shoe manufacturing. Why recycling? I am an environmentalist. I won the Somarelang Tikologo environmentalist award of 2005. These are some of the things that you people don’t want to know about me because quite often people do not want to know the good side of somebody. They always want to create a bad side, to an extent that someone can call you demonic, immoral.
I settled for shoe manufacturing project because from then until now, there is nobody who is seriously into this business and there was somebody selling the leather footwear plant. The person had attempted to start a similar project but failed.
Q. I am told the BDP funded you.
After seeing the equipment, I approached CEDA. I found out that there was a lot of politics in the leather industry. Ceda officials I approached did not know the difference between ternary, taxidermy and the leather footwear manufacturing. Knowledge of footwear manufacturing is lacking in the potential financiers. I submitted my application on the 9th December 2009, before I even became a member of the BDP.
The whole of 2010, I was being tossed around, people rejecting my application and giving reasons that were not satisfactory, giving me incompetent consultants. I made several appeals to Thapelo Matsheka (the then CEDA Chief Executive Officer), later it was Dube and later Thamani. I appealed to the Minister who was of little or no help to me and told me that CEDA was an autonomous institution and could not give it instructions or interfere in its works. In August last year that is when CEDA decided to fund the equipment alone at P4.5 million, two days after my wife passed away. I had applied for P7 755 386, 00. But they gave me less with conditions that I have to convince them that I would be able to raise the rest of the funds. There is no place that I have not been to. If I was not a church going christian I would say unprintables to the people who tell you that the BDP gave me a lot of money!
Q. Yes, I am told you were given a lot of money but instead you put it all in the machinery and failed the operations?
That is what I am saying. It is people who don’t know you who would go around telling all sorts of stories about you. If the BDP funded me, would it have taken so much time for my application to be approved? That is dirty talk! And some of the people who say that get favours by sleeping around. That is dirty politics, from the mouths of non-achievers! Those who kicked me out of the BNF could be the ones who were paid. They could have been told, “Look, kick this guy out of the party because he is troublesome.”
Contrary to what people say, CEDA under financed me and I am still going through thick and thin to get started. Actually I find it a disadvantage to be a BDP member than to be in opposition when it comes to funding issues. Opportunities favours opposition members more than those from the BDP.
Q. But why were you kicked out of the party?
My guess is as good as yours. Even now they can’t tell me what I did and I don’t want to revisit that issue.
Q. I heard that you are most likely to join the BCP.
That is rubbish. Ask any BCP member of your choice whether the BCP have ever approached me. Not even Rra-Dumelang (Gilson Saleshando) whom I have close relations with has approached me. I just told him I was fired, by then. I know what politics is and I qualify to be anything including being a state President on my own. I have my own understanding of politics.
Q. Isn’t that the reason you were chased out of the BNF? Understandably you were too ambitious and viewed as a threat by some in the leadership.
I was not ambitious. For many years they were doing all the nonsense and I told them well in advance that I would not contest for internal elections. Secondly I did not want to take sides with anyone. I would accept and work with the elected leadership. As the BNF continued to weaken, I later on wrote them a letter that I would contest for the party leadership. Two days later I received a letter summoning me to come and answer for comments I made in Parliament as a whip, regarding a letter written by Mohammed Khan (then BNF Secretary General) to Patrick Balopi (Speaker). Khan requested that Nehemiah Modubule be removed from the BNF seat following his expulsion from the party. Modubule contended that he was still a BNF member and Balopi did not know what to do about the matter. He called the Parliamentary administration and asked for advice. I said, “Balopi, you will put yourself in trouble. First you don’t have powers to remove Modubule from his position and secondly no one from outside Parliament has the power to instruct you on how to proceed on this matter unless Modubule tells you otherwise.”
I was the whip because at that time, the other one (Otsweletse Moupo- then BNF President and MP) was not in as usual. It was around the time when he was going through a lot. I was called to a disciplinary hearing by the BNF executive and when I got there I found that the executive did not quorate. Present was the Vice President, Olebile Gaborone, Chairperson, Bashi Sengwaketse, Deputy Secretary General, Mokgwesti Kgosipula and Kagiso Ntime who was to take notes. The Executive quorum is three, provided that among those present is the President or Secretary General. The meeting was adjourned with the promise that I would be called again, which never happened. A year later I received a letter of expulsion. I told them that, “fine, I was not going to appeal but I will make sure that you do not retain any councillors in Gaborone.” However that is water under the bridge.
I am the only MP of Gaborone West South who served two continuous terms under the same party. You’d remember that Paul Rantao was elected in 1994 and defected to BCP before the end of the first term. He later rejoined BNF. Botsalo Ntuane defected to BMD and later rejoined the BDP. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with what they did, but the point I am making here is that I have never defected from BNF and I am not going to defect from the BDP. You would recall that I served one of the terms without the support of councillors . They said they were punishing me because I did not have a car.
Q. Yes I remember. But surely there must have been deeper issues than that?
The conflict surrounded the use of constituency office. They said it should be used to the advantage of the party and I refused and told them that an MP represents the whole constituency, regardless of political affiliations. They said when I supported the then President Mogae’s HIV/AIDS campaigns I was putting the BDP at an advantage over the BNF. Satanic insinuations! Isn’t it? Highly diabolical!
When I walked from Kanye to Gaborone, I was given diamonds and we sold them. Balume Chamme said instead of me donating the money to the HIV/AIDS organisations, I should compensate my campaign team and the voters for their efforts of putting me in Parliament. I refused and that is when accusations that I was eating with the BDP and other dirty talks and gossips started.
Q. Are we likely to see you contest the next general elections?
Contesting per say is not of paramount importance to me now. What is of importance to me is to see BNF coming to an end.
Q. How are you going to achieve it?
I am going to do exactly what I did in 2009. This time it is even going to be simpler because BNF is the party that is not there.
Q. You think so?
I am a grassroots person. Just think about it. Contrary to what it has been said, that I am frustrated, I am a member of the sub-committee of the BDP central committee. Actually ever since I joined the BDP, it has been winning every bye-elections. I am betting you whatever you want that the BDP is going to win the coming bye-elections in Sebele. I have started the campaigns.
Q. Sounds serious.
It is significant for me to see BNF down. I have just one little problem though. I don’t want Kgalagadi South MP, John Toto to be caught in this fire. Because of him, maybe Phillip Khwae (OF Kgalagadi North) would be spared and I am saying maybe because if Toto loses the primary elections, Kgalagadi will not be spared. BNF would then emerge from 2014 general elections without a single MP.
Q. So there are no chances of you going back to the BNF?
I told you before that I am fighting a personal war, not a political war against the BNF. We are squaring up to make sure that BNF rests in peace. I don’t have problems with Duma Boko. I have friends in the BNF and I have many friends in the BCP. But when I join a party I join it to stay.
Q. You were in opposition politics for a long time. Was it easy to switch to the ruling party language?
There is nothing like opposition or ruling party politics. Politics is politics. I am a leader, a public figure and many people look up to me to do good. I am a role model to some. One thing I can tell you about myself is that I am short-tempered. So when someone makes me angry I can beat them and hit them real hard until they wet their pants. That is not a secret. I can be rough. I am capable of being a rogue. I am not saying I am a rascal or a bully. I am ever sober and respect others. I am well behaved.
Q. So you don’t take alcohol?
No I don’t. I am Catholic.
Q. Who recruited you to the BDP?
Frank Ramsden. It is not President Khama as some alleges. People do not know that I have known Khama way back before we met in parliament. He is my chief and I am one of his Lieutenants back home. I am more closer to his Uncle, Sekgoma Kgama and his Cousins, sons of Leapeetswe.