Angry scenes at Motswaledi’s memorial service as UDC youth disrupt BDP speakers
Rampaging UDC youth disrupted Gomolemo Motswaledi’s memorial service on Wednesday as they unceremoniously jeered and booed speakers from the ruling party.
The drama, which turned into a near riot at the University of Botswana (UB) stadium, started when the BDP representative Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, who is also the Acting Minister in the Presidency, was set to address mourners.
No sooner had Matlhabaphiri ascended to the podium and started greeting dignitaries than the (UDC) youth, who sat at the northern stand, began chanting, “We want Sir G! We want Sir G,”in support of their departed leader.
Matlhabaphiri, who looked perplexed and visibly shaken by the slogans and shouts of the hostile youth, nevertheless forged ahead with his speech.
But before he could finish observing protocol the BMD youth charged out of their seats and flung open the gate that were manned by a few UDC members.
Brandishing Motswaledi’s campaign posters the militant youth ran towards the podium, prompting UDC leaders to quickly whisk Matlhabaphiri away to safety whilst appealing for calm amongst the youth.
Urging them to be as peaceful as their poised and polished departed party president would have wanted, BMD Vice President, Ndaba Gaolathe said, “One of the visions Gomolemo had was of a peaceful country – a wise people who believed in themselves. Victory is certain and we should not let circumstances derail us.”
Matlhabaphiri was not the only BDP bigwig who felt the brunt of disgruntled, youthful anger.
MP for Gaborone West South, Botsalo Ntuane and Molepolole South legislator Daniel Kwelagobe were also booed on arrival at the UB stadium.
First to be shouted down was Ntuane who was accompanied by MP for Okavango Bagalatia Arone. Some 30 minutes later Kwelagobe was also booed.
Asked how he felt about his hostile reception Ntuane remarked,“I just came for the memorial and I cannot comment further than that.”
For his part Kwelagobe said, “I came here to bid Motswaledi farewell. If that’s how they felt, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Another speaker, BMD’s chairperson Nehemiah Modubule, whose thunderous voice reverberated across the stadium to great applause and cheering, fuelled the speculation that Motswaledi could have been killed in an orchestrated car accident.
“Motswaledi fought for a free Botswana that is not afraid of its security agents. A journey of emancipation is not an easy one. We may have to cross many rivers before freedom,”he said.
“We are no different from other African countries where people perish in staged car accidents. When the South African apartheid government murdered Steve Biko, the same apartheid government was the first to give their condolences, as is the case with Motswaledi. Although we are not saying he was murdered we have our suspicions about this accident. We are still to know what caused it.”
Modubule further accused the Khama government of denying a ‘hit-list’ of opposition leaders existed.
Warning against further violence he said, “We don’t want bloodshed in this country. Many have died in police custody and nobody seems to care.”
An emotionally charged UDC President Duma Boko, who ascended the podium with his face cast to the ground, informed mourners that Motswaledi’s name was second only to his in a ‘hit list’ he had previously mentioned in the media.
“To the powers that be, if you think by killing us you will stop this movement – then kill us. The hands of our leaders are dripping with the blood of their own people,” Boko said in a passionate address.
Motswaledi who perished in a car accident in Pitsane last week Wednesday will be buried in Serowe tomorrow (Friday).
He was due to face BCP parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central Dumelang Saleshando, Rupert Hambira of the BDP and Sidney Baitsile, an independent candidate in the general election scheduled for 24 October.
An independent UDC investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death was expected on Wednesday this week and the report handed over to party officials.
However, at the time of going to press the UDC was not yet in a position to issue an official statement on the findings.
Meanwhile, President Ian Khama had castigated the media in parliament for taking advantage of Motswaledis death.
Addressing a half empty parliament Khama said: “I am aware that as I speak there is a memorial service being held for the late BMD leader Mr Motswaledi that some members of parliament are attending. What is not acceptable is when there are those who thrive to cause scandal and take advantage over anyone’s death. Misinformation, untruths and scare mongering add to the family’s grief. Such people abandon their morals and culture. This is shameful and outrageous and must be condemned by the rest of the society.”