Iwill tell you what misconduct in parliament and councils is; it is when a Speaker is very biased and needlessly evicts opposition MPs from the house. It is when a Speaker brings in security agents into the National Assembly to intimidate the MPs on the opposition isles.
It is when there is manipulation of the scheduling on tabling of questions and motions such that it appears as though opposition Members of Parliament are not contributing. It is when parliament is steam-rolled through the night in order to pass controversial legislation without adequate debate. It is when a councillor beats another and leaves him bloodied and his party simply ignores such an incident. This is what misconduct is and this is what should bother Batswana.
The bottle throwing incident should not have happened. It was an isolated case and the person concerned was made to apologise.
In recent times, we have been seeing church leaders becoming active in politics including opposition politics. Does the Bible not say leaders should be obeyed and not opposed because they have been appointed by God?
The Bible is a radical book that presents narratives of struggles against empires and systems of oppression. The first such political narrative is the story of the Exodus, which is about the resistance of the Hebrews who were oppressed by the Pharaohs in Egypt. Moses and his followers opposed the oppressive political system of the time. The second major narrative is that embodied by the resistance of the prophets. Their language is a language that challenges and chastises oppressive rulers and they speak of the need for justice to roll like a stream, or the need to break the bonds of oppression and such other militant language.
Other narratives include the book of Daniel whose opposition to the king led to him being put into prison and in a lion’s den. In the New Testament it is John the Baptist, Jesus himself and the early church leaders who are ever in conflict with the rulers of the time because the latter sought to keep the majority of God’s people under bondage.
As for the text in Romans 13 which says that believers should obey the rulers, because they are ordained by God, we have to take note of a few things. The first thing is that we should realise that this is a unique text and there is none similar to it throughout the Bible. The context is that the church in Rome, which had been started by Paul, was over-zealous. They believed that the return of Jesus was going to be in their lifetime. So they lived together and waited for the second coming of their Lord and were not interested in being part of secular governments. They refused to pay taxes and did not want to be part of the secular state. It is for this reason that St Paul admonishes them to obey the king and those who are in leadership. St Paul was dealing with a particular situation and his statement cannot be universalised Is it not difficult for a Christian like you to lead a political party? Do you not find some of the practices and language reprehensible to you as a Christian?
I think we can do without foul language in our political contestations. We need to learn the oratory of older politicians who could speak in jest to or about each other without being disparaging. We can employ a category of speech akin to the jape that often exists between ‘cousin ethnic groups’ in our Setswana culture.
The institution of marriage even among political leaders in this country has lost value. Is this a concern especially on the background of media reports about issues of defilement?
This is a broad question that can be discussed on its own. However, the one point I would like to make is that we need ethical leadership, especially in public life. Those who are involved in issues of defilement and any form of sexual impropriety should be struck off their leadership positions immediately. This is an issue that cuts across all parties and we all have to address it urgently and earnestly.
Also of late, we have seen high profile people from the civil service joining the opposition. What is the meaning of this given the fact that in the past, former civil servants almost always chose the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for a political home?
The public service has been de-valued under the leadership of General Khama. Many were summarily dismissed and described with pejorative terms such as ‘deadwood.’ The public service salary scales and conditions have remained the same for many years and when they appeal for increases the government of the day is very flippant and condescending towards the workers. Many who have worked for many years building effective public service machinery have seen it obliterated through the governing directives of General Khama. Obviously such people cannot rush to the party that has caused them so much heartache. Many see the UDC as the hope for Batswana.
Although the BNF has been applauded for stability which had hitherto eluded it for a long time, there are concerns that party members are ideologically illiterate? Is this a concern for the party leadership and what are you doing about it? Where are the study groups?
I do not agree that party members are ‘ideologically illiterate.’ Many people join the BNF because of its traditional emphasis as a movement of the workers, students, farmers and rural dwellers and the urban poor. However, I do agree that we need to revive study groups to teach Pamphlet No. 1 and other literary corpus that exists within the BNF.
Through such study groups we would be able to create space for ordinary people to problematise the so-called poverty eradication programmes of the BDP and other wasteful projects such as the so-called Economic Stimulus Programme.
What is the one thing that, if the BNF were to take power today, you would have them do first?
It will be a UDC government. I would hope that we would create a platform(s) through which we would focus on how we re-structure our economy with the view to decentralising it by way of giving more powers to the District councils in the budgeting, revenue creation initiatives and project implementation. Such restructuring would also include revamping the public service, removing draconian acts of parliament that contravene International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and setting up a think-tank to drive the economy.
I hope we would divert the Ipelegeng budget and other poverty eradication expenditure to massive infrastructure development such as electrification, water reticulation, roads construction and internet connectivity.
I believe these can be done within the first term of our government.