The 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Botswana National Front (BNF) in Mahalapye recently provided the party leadership and its allies an arena to wax lyrical about the party’s contribution to the politicisation of public opinion in this country.
The leadership also used the opportunity to reiterate to the masses what the party stands for. There were also moments of introspection and self-criticism by the party leadership in their speeches. Addressing the hundreds of people who sat in a huge white marquee, the party president, Duma Boko, whose party believes in education with production, said that there is no such thing as a dull student. “Students are endowed with different talents. We in the BNF believe that it is up to government to identify the different talents and help develop those talents,” said Boko.
When deliberating on the aims and objectives of the BNF, University of Botswana academic, Dr Elmon Tafa, said that the party’s mission remains the unity of all patriotic and democratic forces to achieve true independence. “There can be no true independence as long as the economy of the country remains in the hands of foreigners. “Batswana remain hopeful that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) will come together and deliver to this nation true independence,” explained Dr Tafa, who added that the BNF had had numerous challenges ranging from infiltration to splits which challenges it has survived.
Also speaking at the same event, the president of the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP), Motlatsi Molapisi hailed the BNF for bringing political consciousness to its members when it introduced study groups. “This capacitated them to defend their party anywhere since they knew what it stood for,” he said. Molapisi also congratulated the BNF for honouring their former leader, Dr Kenneth Koma whose tombstone had been unveiled in the morning of the same day.
Molapisi lamented that unlike in the past when the BNF and his party taught their followers revolutionary politics, the latter-day leadership hesitate to inculcate radical politics in their people because the leaders fear that the people might one day revolt against them. “In the past, the BNF and BPP communicated their displeasure with certain decisions by marches and demonstrations.
It is up to us as the leaders to revolutionise the people and actually lead the demonstrations from the front. If you look at Zambia and the other countries where the presidents sought a third term, the people went to the streets and in many cases they forced the leaders to go back on their intentions. Can our people do the same in the event the President decides to go for a third term after 2018?” wondered Molapisi adding that, the opposition should be ready for such an eventuality.
He also made it known that, the BDP has committed a lot of sins and that not all of them will be forgiven. Molapisi welcomed the presence of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) at the celebrations and appealed for understanding between the UDC members which went to the election as a front and the BCP which went it alone. “If the Berlin wall that divided East and West Germany fell, what stops us to work together as opposition,?” he asked rhetorically.
The vice president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy(BMD) who is also Member of Parliament (MP) for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi cast aspersions on the recently announced Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) which he said was a politically calculated intervention to buy votes. “There is neither plan nor budget for it and neither has there been consultation,” he said. Mmolotsi warned the opposition to beware of the ruling BDP which he said is going to be using money and tenders to bribe the youth to destabilise their parties. “As the BDP become really desperate, we should expect more wolves in sheep’s skin,” he said alleging that the bribery budget will come from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).
The president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando, whose party split from the BNF admitted that he admired the track record of his erstwhile party which he said contributed immensely to the political development of Batswana. To those who found it odd for the BCP to turn up at a BNF function given the history of the two parties, he said; “Why should anybody be surprised when the son turns up at his father’s celebration party?” Saleshando then sang praises for the BNF which he said was not just a political party but an educational institution as it empowered its members with political education.
“We wish the BNF a long life and may it continue to be a living organisation which believes in internal debates. It must continue to be an agent of change,” said Saleshando who counselled attendees that, instead of continuing the blame game regarding the collapse of the first Umbrella talks in 2011 after which his party decided to go it alone in the election.
“We need to look forward and not backward because we are not going to spend our remaining years in the past but in the future.” he said to cheers of approval. Speaking at the same occasion, former member of the BCP central committee, Vain Mamela, who had been an activist for 17 years before the founding of the BCP in 1998, called upon the opposition parties to resolve their differences quickly and take power before the country degenerates further. “We need to hurry in removing the BDP and save the nation,” said the man who has been accused of being part of the group that caused the BCP to go it alone in the last election.
Simon Kgaoganang, who represented the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) said that his union is not beholden to political parties in any way. “We need you to know that a country is not run by politicians. It is the workers who run it. Even as the opposition, please note that BOFEPUSU does not belong to you. We will not allow politicians to do as they please,” he said accusing the opposition of refusing to take power in 2014. As he urged the opposition to unite, Kgaoganang boasted that he was part of the BOFEPUSU team that facilitated the opposition cooperation talks ahead of the 2014 general election.
Giving his solidarity message at the occasion, the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Carlos Corrales said that his country, which has been struggling against an economic blockade imposed by America, needs fraternal friends such as the BNF. For his part, the representative of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Mpho Motlhabane hailed the BNF for being a defender of the interests of the workers in its 50 years of existence.
He counselled the parties to be patient with each other because politics is very conflictual by nature. “The South African Communist Party and the African National Congress sometimes have serious disagreements but what is important for us is the realisation that the struggle comes first. Self must come last,” said Motlhabane as he assured the opposition parties of his party’s assistance whenever it is needed.
He accused the BDP-led government of being pro-West to the detriment of SADC. “There are a lot of challenges in the SADC region and Botswana is always leaning towards countries such as Britain and America. We know that this will stop the moment the UDC takes over power,” he said. At the end, Boko, Molapisi, Mmolotsi and Saleshando cut the golden jubilee cake together.