In an unexpected development the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is seriously entertaining joining a socialist international organisation that seeks to establish democratic socialism around the world.
According to the party officials, the party is ready to join Socialist International (SI), but on condition that Botswana will not abolish death penalty. While its common knowledge that Botswana National Front is a long time affiliate member of the organisation, the admission of BDP will surely come a shocker to many pricisely because BDP subscribes to the politics of the right. The news of the BDP’s flirtation with Socialist International comes following a meeting between the BDP secretariat staff led by secretary general Mpho Balopi and a high powered delegation of the African National Congress led by secretary general Gwede Mantashe last Friday. The purpose of Mantashe’s visit was to cajole the BDP to join Socialist International family.
Besides meeting with the BDP secretariat, the ANC delegation that also had Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Ibrahim paid a courtesy call on Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe in his capacity as BDP chairman. In principle, the BDP sees the need and agrees to join the Socialist International, but so far the secretariat has not committed the party and will table their discussion before the central committee meeting scheduled for March 3.
Indications are if the central committee favours the move, the idea for the BDP to join the Socialist International will be brought as an agenda item at a special congress, which has been penciled for April 4 at Boipuso hall and will be followed by the National Council on April 5 and the launch of the party manifesto and general election candidates the next day. However, what has come out from the meeting is that the BDP has made it crystal clear to the visitors that they agree with the principles of the Socialist International Charter, but can only become a member if they are not expected to abolish the death penalty because it is a constitutional matter and has been endorsed by the nation after consultation.
Some of the clauses of the Sao Polo Charter of the SI state that members are to ban the death penalty; respect and reinforce the fundamental human rights, be they individual rights (respect of private life, freedom of thought, belief, education, sexual orientation and right to equal treatment etc.), social rights (freedom of trade unions, right to strike, social protection etc.) or political rights (freedom of association, universal vote). The Sao Polo Charter states that members solemnly undertake to respect, defend and promote those values in the spirit of the fundamental declarations and campaigns of the Socialist International.
This week Balopi confirmed to Botswana Guardian that indeed the Socialist International is courting the BDP, and that they (SI) agreed with the BDP’s position that Botswana can still become a member without abolishing the death penalty considering that so far Botswana has proven itself to affirm all the values of equality, freedom, justice solidarity and peace, which are seen as the basic foundation of democratic socialism. He said that Mantashe who is also the former South African Communist Party chairman and his delegation came here as Socialists International and not ANC per se.
Balopi revealed that the latter is a member of Ethical Evaluation Committee. He further stated that in the past many have brought various views regarding “our engagement concerning whether we want to be members of the Socialists International or not. We told them that we do appreciate that parties globally do not follow a straight line in terms of polices or ideologies. But, parties are very transformational looking at how they can serve their people better.” Balopi said the BDP had assessed the ethical charter clauses of the Socialists International and realised that they were in tandem with BDP’s.
“I must point that in principle, we believe in almost all the clauses of the charter, save for the one that talks about barring or abolishing death penalty.” The BDP strongly affirms the relevance of capital punishment on the basis of wide research carried, which shows that “there is absolutely nothing that can replace a man’s life once he has been murdered. But our constitution is very clear on the death penalty and there is no how we could remove that as a party because death penalty has been fully endorsed by the nation through a consultation process.”
In response Mantashe is said to have hailed BDP’s policies that have promoted stability that prevails in Botswana, the rule of law and good governance. He then urged BDP to share these with other countries which are the family of the Socialist International., “The truth is Botswana is quite developmental in its approach, and these attributes have to be shared with other parties around the world,” said Balopi.