New information has emerged suggesting that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) is the secret hand behind the mayhem within the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
Botswana Guardian has uncovered a 2016 top-secret Project Proposal by the DISS’s Special Task Team whose main objective was “to neutralise Ndaba Gaolathe as ‘centre-of-power’ in both BMD and UDC.” The proposal has only four objectives. The other objectives were to:
To neutralise Ndaba Gaolathe’s political credentials.
To fragment BMD into warring factions.
To neutralise the UDC which is an existential threat to prevailing political order and the DIS
Gaolathe is the president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)—a splinter party of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). BMD is a member of united opposition parties; the Umbrella for Democratic Change which was formed in 2012 and had a sniff of power during the 2014 general election when it won 17 parliamentary seats and more than 50 percent of the popular vote.
The DISS’ proposal which sources say is now in full operation describes the UDC performance in 2014 as having “sent shockwaves throughout Botswana political landscape” inversely presenting a credible political threat to the political order under which the BDP has been dominant.“Looking at this political threat retrospectively, BDP is likely to be deposed from power come 2019 General Election. This will have serious political implications that threaten our peace and stability,” reads part of the proposal seen by this publication. The DISS as per the proposal views the UDC as a serious “existential threat” to its existence (DISS). “There is a likelihood that the UDC government will dismantle the service and possibly pursue prosecution against officers. This threat cannot be taken for granted and needs to be given due attention,” reads the document.The DISS’ assessment of the UDC is that the alliance of the BMD, Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Peoples Party poses a major political and existential threat both to the BDP and DISS. “The 2014 Election showed that unlike in previous elections, the alliance had sufficient financial support for their campaigns. This is a new and a serious political development that needs to be given due attention and neutralised.”The proposal reveals that the DISS holds Gaolathe in high regard and thus to destroy the UDC then Gaolathe and the BMD should be targeted.
“Our assessment of the profiles of the UDC leaders is that BMD’s Ndaba Gaolathe is the ‘ace’ of the alliance,” reads the document which further notes that Gaolathe is the think-tank and strategist of the UDC and enjoys overwhelming public support and respect. Gaolathe enjoys good regional and international reputation. Having previously worked for South African and Namibian governments, Gaolathe has proven to be popular with ANC and SWAPO, the report notes. “Information reaching us is that Gaolathe is also popular with US government and is often invited to meet with US Embassy staff. Therefore, Gaolathe is the backbone of the UDC. Our assessment therefore is that, if the UDC is to be neutralised, the focus must be on Gaolathe.”The DISS also states in the proposal that frustrating and ultimately deposing Gaolathe from politics is a plausible strategy to counter the political threat posed by the UDC. “Although, Gaolathe is strong as an individual, our assessment is that the BMD as a party is very weak and therefore presents a window of opportunity. As such we propose to exploit these vulnerabilities in order to intensify factions and internal strife with the BMD.”
BMD wars started in 2015 after its Ghanzi elective congress. The elected National Executive Committee (NEC) got polarised to a point where there was a call for a special congress. The party is scheduled to elect a new leadership in Bobonong over the long weekend where two factions are fighting for control of the orange movement.
Interestingly both camps, the one led by expelled President Gaolathe and his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi and the other led by Chairman Nehemiah Modubule and Secretary General Gilbert Mangole, have accused each other of having the backing of DISS to dismantle the party. Even though they have failed to avail proof to that effect they have always maintained that DISS is sponsoring the other to destroy the BMD and by extension the UDC.
DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi laughed off the matter when reached for comment saying there is no proof that his organisation is involved in BMD infighting. “People should stop saying things without proof. I have always maintained that if there is proof that the DISS is doing any wrong then appropriate action would be taken. I have even told the Public Accounts Committee recently that I would not entertain claims that cannot be substantiated,” said Kgosi.The proposal has a profile of Gaolathe as well as his political beliefs. “As an economist, his involvement in politics was through speech-writing assignments for Botswana’s former President Mr. Festus Mogae, who he also occasionally advised, on economic and other matters of national interest. Gaolathe brings wide experience in economics, strategy, governance, and finance, modelling and general leadership.
“He has worked for an economic think tank, governments, investment bank regionally and internationally at all levels,” it reads in part.
The Opposition coalition deal remains on shaky grounds. The marriage between Botswana Congress Party (BCP)and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) might have been declared done and sealed but the four opposition parties involved are not lying on the same bed. Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has emerged as a suspect behind the controversial additional four constituencies demand made by Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).
Four opposition parties Botswana Congress Party (BCP), BMD, BPP and Botswana National Front (BNF) have formed a united front with the aim of ending Botswana Democratic Party’s five-decade rule. The four parties unveiled their new movement, UDC, after BCP joined the other trio that had been working together. Following the announcement of the new UDC, excitement filled many little knowing that what had transpired behind closed doors was not what has been portrayed publicly by the leadership.
The allocation of constituencies, which has been a thorny issue, is refusing to set the UDC free. It is alleged that the decision by the BPP Central Committee at its recent meeting to push for an additional four constituencies was masterminded by BMD. BPP has been allocated four constituencies.
Sources say that the acrimonious relationship between BCP and BMD, which dates back to 2011 when the first attempt for coalition between opposition parties failed, is the root cause. BMD is said to be bitter that BCP has been given more constituencies and is trying with all it has to reduce the BCP numbers. BCP has been allocated 17 constituencies within the 40 allocated to UDC.
In terms of the constituency allocations, the UDC president Duma Boko revealed that inside the UDC, the BNF gets 22 constituencies, BMD 14 and the BPP four (4) constituencies. Information passed to this publication shows that of the additional four constituencies demanded by BPP, three belong to BCP being Francistown West, Nata-Gweta and Mmadinare while one belongs to BNF being Gaborone South. In all these constituencies, the BPP did not field a candidate in the previous elections.
“What also raises eyebrows is that the BPP has not asked for a constituency from the BMD. And it is known that the BMD has all along been skeptical about us joining the UDC. They just want to dilute the BCP influence. Why can’t the BPP request to be allocated from the 40 constituencies of the UDC and leave our 17 constituencies alone? We have compromised and given the Tati East which was to be given to the BCP”, said a senior BCP official who preferred anonymity.
It is alleged that the BMD hatched the plan so that it would become the biggest victor in the end. A source who was also part of the constituency allocation negotiating team suspects that should the BPP emerge victorious the constituencies would likely be handed over to the BMD under a provision of the agreement. The source wondered why BPP chose the constituencies that it had not fielded a candidate in nor seconded the BDP in the last election?
BPP did not field a candidate in Mmadinare, Gaborone South and Nata-Gweta while it came third under the UDC ticket in Francistown West. A provision has been made that where a party that has been allocated a particular constituency is not able to identify a suitable candidate, it will be expected to approach the other parties for assistance in that regard. The provision allows for trade-offs where necessary between the parties (BCP, BMD, BNF and BPP).
It is suspected that the BMD intends to exploit this provision and use its presence and numbers in those constituencies to persuade BPP to trade-off those constituencies. BMD Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi has described as “an insult” the insinuation that the BPP leadership would make that demand under pressure from BMD.
“We are not in a position to undermine the leadership of the BPP. That is an insult to the leadership of BPP and the party in general. BPP has more experience than the BMD especially in opposition politics and we respect that”, said Mmolotsi adding that as the BMD they would not be party to a matter where the BPP integrity is being belittled.BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse told this publication that everything that had to be communicated to the media regarding UDC was done during the unveiling of the new project. He explained that any other issues arising subsequently are “internal matters” that cannot be shared with a third party.
For his part BPP President Motlatsi Molapisi and his deputy Mbaakanyi Lenyatso could not be reached for comment. Political Analyst Anthony Morima says if the constituencies are genuinely demanded by the BPP this would be an own goal for the opposition as prospects of winning in 2019 are negative. Morima stated that looking at the history of the BPP no one really recalls when the party last won a Parliamentary seat. He explained that even if the BPP was to say that they would be relying on support of other partners, it is unlikely that those partners would vote them because of other dynamics. The analyst argues that the BPP should rather be concentrating on taking advantage of the new UDC to rebuild itself.
It was something that needed to be done; at least before the formal opposition talks began. A genuine camaraderie between the leaders was needed to pave way for the formal opposition unity talks. After weeks of planning, postponements, off-course deviations and frustrations, the time was perfect for the retreat. The silly political season was in recess; everyone was preoccupied with the festive season; the social-media political pundits were on a break.
For the leaders of the country’s major opposition political parties, the holiday period offered an opportunity to ‘sneak out’ of the country to begin what is often known as ‘talks before talks’ in the political circles. Botswana Movement for Democratic Change’s leader Ndaba Gaolathe was in South Africa and so was the Botswana Congress Party’s leader Dumelang Saleshando. For the Botswana National Front and Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, Duma Boko, it was just a matter of few hours’ drive to this secret place. Motlatsi Molapise of the Botswana Peoples Party had delegated senior party official Richard Gudu. The leaders did not bring their spouses along.
The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort in Polokwane was a perfect getaway for the four leaders. And over the next three days, from December 28 to 31, it offered everything that Gaborone could not offer. It offered secrecy. Situated 25km south of Polokwane, the four-star hotel comprises 1000 hectares of pristine Limpopo province bush-veldt, according to the hotel’s website. The meeting was off the radar from curious journalists, anxious party members and snooping intelligence agents. The financier of the retreat was a Gaborone businessman sympathetic to the UDC project.
The ‘escape’ to Polokwane was well managed. The retreat did not leak, at least for a couple of months after the event. Not even senior party members of the parties involved were aware of the retreat. The men tasked with coordinating the retreat, the UDC’s spin doctor-in-chief Moeti Mohwasa and BCP’s presidential spokesperson Martin Dingake did not give away the game either. The secret meeting was well kept. The two men also attended the Polokwane retreat and worked together on the retreat’s programme though it was never followed to the letter, instead being interwoven with a more informal approach.
For the first time the leaders of the four parties learned to “hang out” with each other more informally, shared jokes and played sport. The attire was casual, and so was the language. It was however the game of table tennis that broke the ice between the four leaders and paved way for more formal talks the following day.At a press conference to announce the opposition deal, Saleshando and Boko referred to the Polokwane retreat as a defining moment for the opposition talks, albeit succinctly. Saleshando joked about how he emerged triumphant during a table tennis match between the four leaders. For his part, Boko conceded that as a former amateur footballer he had not played table tennis before and was handicapped during matches.
Only Saleshando and Gaolathe were familiar with the sport and took turns to coach other leaders. The table tennis matches dragged on for hours, at one point lasting the entire afternoon. The epic match was between Gaolathe and Saleshando. It was epic in the sense that the two men had played the sport before. Their match was highly contested. In the end Saleshando won. T
he leaders and their trusted aides, also watched English Premier League matches together in the hotel lounge. The leaders supported different EPL teams. For example, Duma Boko supports Manchester United, Ndaba is a Liverpool fan, while Saleshando is a Chelsea fan. Besides sporting activities, the leaders visited places such as the Mall of the North, Tzaneen and drove around the city of Polokwane.
After a day of sport, jokes and laughter, the leaders finally sat down on the 30th of December to agree on the principle of cooperation. The meetings were highly informal in nature and structure.
The underlying principle that the leadership adopted was to come together and work for the common good of Batswana. This principle defined the way forward. Boko directed and led the discussions. It was at the table and during the discussions that differences and even new alliances emerged. It was here that Boko and Saleshando found each other. The two agreed on several issues.
Gaolathe and Gudu were in some cases on the same corner, though not too distant from the overall conversation. For example, Gaolathe and Gudu initially wanted BCP to apply for the UDC membership, while Saleshando and Boko felt that the four parties should engage in direct unity negotiations. The other issue concerned the inclusion of the mediators. Boko and Saleshando were for self-mediation while Gaolathe and Gudu felt that outside mediators should be engaged. The participation of the retreat organisers, Mohwasa and Dingake was limited.
At the end, a ‘deal’ was reached, a foundation for the talks was laid. While the four leaders may not want to readily admit it, it was at the Polokwane retreat that the cooperation principle was agreed upon. Everything was sealed at the Polokwane retreat. The name UDC+ was initially proposed at the Polokwane retreat. The model of constituency allocation was also agreed. When the negotiation teams sat down to start formal negotiations they were ratifying what was agreed by the four leaders in Polokwane.
After three-day outing, Saleshando and Gaolathe left together in Saleshando’s car, while Boko left with his right-hand man Elliot Moshoke (who played no part in the talks). Richard Gudu and Mohwasa used the same car, while Dingake used his own car. This week Mohwasa confirmed the Polokwane meeting but stressed that the meeting was for the four leaders to lay the foundation for the talks noting that “Myself and Martin (Dingake) were merely there to facilitate and we didn’t take part in the discussions.”
The Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) has formally raised objections about the number of constituencies allocated to it during the just-ended opposition cooperation talks involving the four parties in the opposition coalition - Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The party has been given four constituencies, while the BNF, BCP and BMD have got 22, 17 and 14 constituencies each in that order. In a letter written January 28th and signed by party secretary general, Otlaadisa Otlaadisa and addressed to the UDC secretary general, Ndaba Gaolathe, the party indicates that, it discussed the UDC-BCP cooperation talks and resolved that it was underrepresented regarding the number of constituencies allocated to it.
“It is therefore on that breath that the committee has resolved to make a fresh request and or submissions as we hereby do, through you on our preferred additional constituencies,” said the letter. Specifically, the party wants to be given Gaborone South which has been a BNF stronghold for many years until 2014 when the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won it. Said the BPP, “The rationale behind this request or submission is that our vice president, a capable man, is based in Gaborone. It is therefore appropriate in our view that as a senior member of both the Botswana Peoples’ Party and the UDC he has a constituency in Gaborone to contest.”
The BPP explained that, should the BPP not be allocated a constituency in Gaborone or at least one major city, it will face certain death because, “…cities play a crucial role on the development of a political space.” Mbaakanyi Lenyatso is the BPP vice president and stays in Gaborone. The party would like Francistown West to be given to it, so that, its president, Motlatsi Molapisi, who resides in Francistown, may have a constituency to contest in the second city. The constituency has been allocated to the BCP.
The BPP also wants Nata-Gweta, Mmadinare and Shashe West, all of which have been given to the BCP, to be allocated to it. As a bare minimum the BPP wants to be allocated eight constituencies. Efforts to ask for confirmation of receipt of the BPP letter from Gaolatle could not bear fruit as his cell phone rang unanswered.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership is said to have failed to convince the party’s Parliamentary aspirants for Tlokweng Constituency to reach a compromise and have a consensus candidate. Botswana Guardian can safely reveal that the meeting, which was held this past Saturday in Tlokweng, could not produce the desired results. The BDP leadership believes having a consensus candidate could give the party a greater chance of securing the constituency.
So far there are five candidates vying to represent the party in the by-election expected sometimes this year. This was the second meeting that the BDP convened to convince the aspirants but with no success. The BDP now remains with only one chance to reach a compromise. At press time the closed-door meeting was scheduled for yesterday (Thursday). Information gathered by this publication is that members who are interested are Amantle Matlapeng, Thulaganyo Segokgo, Elijah Fashion Katse, Akanyang Seitshiro and Phineas Molefhe.
Matlapeng and Katse are not new in the BDP political race in Tlokweng. They were in 2014 suspended alongside other members. Katse, who at the time wanted to contest the Parliamentary seat and his council candidates, Tidimalo Motlhose, Stella Matlapeng and Amantle Matlapeng had their primary election victory set aside by the party, alleging vote rigging. However, their suspension was given a blanket pardon by party President Ian Khama in the build-up to the 2014 general election during a star rally in Tlokweng. BDP insiders expect a tight contest between Segokgo, Amantle Matlapeng and Katse should a compromise fail.
Some BDP members are said to be sympathetic to Katse and Segokgo while others believe that Amantle should be given a chance as she has been more active in the constituency even though the party structures there were ineffective. BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane confirmed the weekend meeting and the one scheduled for Thursday (yesterday). He said they have engaged the Tlokweng aspirants over the need to bring their dialogue to closure given that time is fast receding. “We had a good meeting on Saturday morning with them. By Thursday the final position whether we are going for primary elections or managed to agree on a consensus candidate will be determined”, said Ntuane.
The Secretary General stated that it is common cause that the party will sometimes have members agreeing on the compromise but sometimes they do not. “If they do not agree we then go for primary elections because our constitution as the party protects that,” he said.
Party President Ian Khama introduced compromise with the aim of trying to curb factions within the party. The successful BDP candidate either through consensus or election would go head to head with Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate Masego Segokgo. Segokgo, who is Botswana National Front (a contracting member of UDC) Chairman for Tlokweng Branch, was endorsed by the party structures in the constituency. UDC, which will be seeking to retain the constituency, enjoys the backing of Botswana Congress Party.
The switching of political parties has increasingly become the dominant feature in the Botswana political arena. We continue to witness political defections of activists from one party to the other with surprising alacrity. This article endeavors to analyse this experience of political deviance in conjunction with the theory of prevailing politics in Botswana. I have written this article in reminiscence of revolutionary political study circles of the International Socialists Botswana.
The jibe of this article is to a relative extent, preoccupied with the individuals who held key leadership positions during their reign in the opposition and also played active role in frontal attack of BDP political ideology. Their energetic function in the legitimisation, championing of opposition politics and contestation of the BDP rule portrayed them as individuals who had conformed to the opposition out of morality and social conscience, and not coercion. Such individuals attracted accolades like party firebrands and political stalwarts whilst in the opposition. It would seem to me that to be showered with such praiseworthiness, one would have gone through a thorough initiation of political consciousness for his or her in-depth clarity regarding fundamental ideological differences between adversarial parties i.e. BDP vis a vis Opposition.
On the contrary, we are experiencing a different situation. The then political deviants have switched their political conviction as if they had never pioneered opposition politics. They behave as if the social and economic underpinnings of the poor and disadvantaged have all of a sudden evaporated. The former so – called opposition “firebrands” have chosen to ignore the appalling misery and poverty affecting the majority of Batswana. Whilst, it has been established that the BDP uses utilitarian power (use of money) for its recruitment drive, it is also evidently clear that the opposition activists have become calculative on incentives they perceive to gain for having to jump into the BDP bandwagon.
The truth is that these political defectors have been blinded by their opportunistic greed and immorality that they are so determined to worm their way into the BDP`s ruling liberal social clique to the extent of even being used as ‘victims‘ to be saved and liberated by the BDP ‘superior’ leadership. In return the BDP “superiors” fashionably use these economically-marginalised ‘peasants to robotically propagate the BDP government palliative programs which are only useful in curing the symptoms of poverty and not the root causes of poverty. Yet the socio-economic status of majority of these opportunistic defectors has not changed much. The only jobs these poor “ignoramuses” can find include; mowing the lawns of the privileged, picking up their garbage, unplugging their sinks, transporting and delivering so many of their expensive lifestyle furniture, being nominated as specially elected councilors, getting appointed as campaign managers and serving as public - rally rousers.
This new political sensibility ultimately expresses and celebrates a paradoxical lifestyle of self interest. Defectors to BDP from opposition are victims of opportunistic ignorance. In their inquisitive spirit of idle curiosity, they juggle political interests for economic goals. By abandoning sympathy of the poor in preference of ascribing themselves to the ruling class, these former opposition leaders have been ‘mystified’ into conforming enthusiastically to a political system that exploits and their instincts have been contaminated by their vile selfish-interests.
The main reason why we are experiencing this hype of political deviancy is that our politics has become stagnant and is going through a process of degeneration and pollution because all parties are trying to find the cheapest way of galvanising the electorate. The increasing lack of political education and clarity across parties, especially over where they stand on fundamental economic issues and the well being of the electorate at large, suggest that they have all succumbed to the temptation of playing for short-term gains. Sadly, Botswana politics have been subjected to cheap phrase-mongering “election” cry for winning common people votes.
For a fact the BDP state does not have much that it can deliver to the masses. BDP is a party which is not truly serious about using the state as a means of improving the well being of Batswana. The party has failed to ensure ample economic opportunities for Batswana to live a happy and a poverty free life. Its perverse backwash of welfare colonialism has specialised in sustaining poverty and preventing personal autonomy of Batswana. After half a century of its rule, majority of Batswana are either unemployed or underemployed, underpaid and overexploited. The BDP leadership has demonstrated how violent and cruel they are. Their use of police brute force to donkey - whip young graduates with ‘sjamboks’ for their rightful demand of job security, and the closure of Tati Nickel and BCL Mines in the most unscrupulous fashion, are recent cases in point. In a nutshell, BDP`s empty slogan “DOMKRAG” accurately defines its identity.
Conversely, the Botswana opposition lacks the utmost thoroughness in giving true answers to the concrete political crisis brought by BDP. It seems the compulsions and imperatives of finding alliances (UDC+) have become the only alternative driving choice rather than considered political convictions of opposition parties. Some of the leadership in the opposition are allegedly questioning and considering to turn their back on their party`s best instincts, and willing to sacrifice their party`s long-term political and economic interests for short-term gain. In essence they seek to uproot working class politics from opposition. By so doing the opposition will have resolved to launch a ferocious ideological offensive against the oppressed and to assert that capitalism is a natural and permanent form of society. This does not augur well for Botswana politics.
The abandonment of working class politics by opposition will be to drift into the morass of unbelievably disgraceful confusion in the preference of bourgeois democracy. The working class does not only possess a numerical muscle in terms of voting power, but they are the most oppressed and enslaved people under BDP rule. Their miserable condition is the most justification for regime change and therefore it will be disappointingly and flippantly scandalous in the increasing monstrous oppression of the working class by BDP if the Opposition can choose to be opportunistic.
Truth of the matter is that the Opposition describes its politics in a liberal pompous fashion and most of the time without content. The political agitation adopted by opposition exposes its fear to break irrevocably with the petty - bourgeois democracy and therefore countering BDP in a spirit of sentimental romanticism. Practically, the opposition seems to have accepted that BDP must be overthrown but emotionally being attracted by its predatory bourgeois democracy and its perpetual exploitation of the poor. Yet to prune politics to such an extent means to reduce it not only to opportunism, but to ram it into public`s perception in the most shallowest form and therefore imperceptibly falsifying the opposition core political programme: social – democracy.
This character of politics has consequently resulted in the opposition adoption of the tactics of despair in providing alternative solutions to the prevailing conditions bedeviling the masses. The approach has blunted and vulgarised the politics of opposition in that they now push to the foreground and extol what appears to be the same BDP political agenda – the neo-liberal utopia. To put it in Karl Marx words “such a panegyric is by no means a mere impulse, a mere declamation, or a political sally. It is a folly of despair.” This has consecutively caused the state of Botswana political arena to smack of nothing but venal political opportunism and atrocious vulgarism. No wonder all parties across the political divide do claim to be in alliance with tenants of social – democracy.
The failure to adopt the revolutionary boldness by Opposition will cost them a prolonged struggle against the BDP because it now increasingly becomes difficult for the electorates to gauge the difference between opposition and BDP. This even creates a potentially disastrous uncertainty about the future of regime change. For it to appeal in a more resounding way, Opposition has to instill into the minds of the masses, that it is really capable of realising the interests of Batswana, especially the working class and peasants. Opposition politics should mark a new and qualitatively different stage of human development as the question of bringing about a new regime that is capable of serving the exploited instead of exploiters is acquiring practical importance.
This requires the opposition to introduce political education that will strip its members of every shadow of ideological ignorance. The opposition should demonstrate the stronger will, the greater organisation and the most skilful and resolute leadership to deal with the concrete crisis emerging under BDP rule so as to compel the electorates to recognise that indeed the “era of regime change” has set in.
Botswana Democratic Party’s massive recruitment drive launched on the opposition and led by party Chairman and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has completely infiltrated its breakaway party, Botswana Movement for Democracy.
Botswana Guardian has observed that all the BDP’s new recruits come from the BMD. However, the over 50 rank and file BMD members that have defected to the BDP all came from one faction sympathetic to Advocate Sidney Pilane. Since his arrival the party has been deeply divided especially after the Mochudi West Branch admitted him back into the party he founded in 2010.
Sources at BMD have revealed that the anti Pilane faction led by party President Ndaba Gaolathe and his vice, Wynter Mmolotsi is having a field day as the BDP continues to recruit members who are deemed to be pro- Pilane led by BMD Chairman Nehemiah Modubule and Secretary General Gilbert Mangole. “What the BDP is doing is making it easy for Gaolathe who has declared his position against Pilane joining the party. That is one other reason why you would never hear the party leadership position on the exodus and defections of members to the ruling party. This is because those people are the ones who were sympathetic to Pilane”, said a BMD National Executive Committee member.
It is understood that after the BDP started making inroads on the pro- Pilane camp (Modubule- Mangole led faction) the Gaolathe-Mmolotsi led camp decided to come to the table to negotiate a compromise. Prior to the defections they insisted on a Special Congress as opposed to a compromise, which was suggested by the Modubule-Mangole faction. The rank and file members who are joining the party en-masse have been associated with the pro Pilane camp. These are the people according to sources who were ready to fight tooth and nail for Pilane and were holding various positions in the party structures.
After he was admitted back into the BMD, Pilane is said to have assisted in resurrecting the collapsed structures across the country. The rank and file members who were on various party structures were ready to ensure that come the Special Congress they would ensure Advocate Pilane’s admission into the BMD is voted for. BMD Youth League President Phenyo Segokgo is said to be among the party leadership who are against Pilane’s admission. Segokgo even though most of the members who are leaving the BMD are youth has been mum on the matter raising suspicions that he could be among those who are celebrating the dismantling of the pro Pilane camp.
Segokgo has since stated that they are worried about losing members but they cannot be commenting on the same issue each week as the BDP parades the new recruits. Most of the people who have been paraded by the BDP as new recruits from the BMD, have indicated that they left because the leadership is at loggerheads. They have also stated they were being victimised because they supported a certain individual who the party leadership did not want. If what the new recruits said is anything to go by then more BMD members especially those in leadership positions are expected to join the BDP. Yesterday BDP was scheduled to welcome yet another prominent figure from BMD. BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane said their focus is on recruitment and they care less about the BMD factions. He wondered how if politics is a game of numbers- then losing members could stabilise the BMD.
Ntuane stated that those who join the BDM do so voluntarily while others are recruited. “We have three categories of recruits- those who volunteer those that we recruit who promise to join only to back track and those who promise and eventually join the BDP. We do not recruit along factional lines and those that we recruit we make it clear to them that as BDP we do not condone factions”, explained Ntuane. For his part Mmolotsi declined to comment saying the Secretary General is best placed to comment as the custodian of the party secretariat. Mangole could not be reached as his phone was off. Pilane despite having been followed by this publication to respond to a questionnaire delivered to him regarding his return and influence in the BMD has not responded even though he promised to do so.
The Botswana National Front wishes to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the onslaught on basic fundamental freedoms by state security apparatus in Botswana. We have witnessed an insatiable appetite on the side of state organs to disperse peaceful gatherings by meting violence on peaceful protesters.
It must be a concern to all of us when state security apparatus resorts to violence against its people, and thereby trampling upon basic freedoms to associate and to assemble. The importance of freedom of assembly cannot be underscored in any democratic society such as ours. Lately we have witnessed a narrowing of the civic space in Botswana. Peaceful protests which seek to communicate a legitimate societal scourge of unemployment cannot be dispersed with sjamboks and violence in the manner that we have witnessed recently. As the BNF, we hold dear the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. An onslaught on peaceful demonstrators by state security apparatus is an onslaught on Botswana Constitutional democracy, its ideals of humanity, Botho and patriotism.
There is need to contextualize the unemployment protests which are spearheaded by unemployed, yet qualified youths of Botswana. As the BNF, we characterize the protests as a welcome move by youths who seek to enforce and remind the BDP-led government of its obligations imposed by the Social Contract. It is apparent that the BDP government has, for many years, ignored its obligations as far as the social contract is concerned. Instead of discharging its obligations, by creating equitable and dignified employment opportunities, the BDP led government has institutionalized corruption, nepotism and thereby sidelining our population from the mainstream economic activity.
It is worrisome and disturbing that journalists and reporters have not escaped the wrath and brutality of state security apparatus. We learn that Security apparatus confiscated equipment and other work-related material belonging to journalists who were covering the Unemployment protests. Once the state forcibly censors the work of journalists, it is an indication that our democracy is being derailed. There is no law which empowers the police to confiscate material used by journalists in their line of duty. Such actions by the Police demonstrate impunity and arrogance of the highest order.
As the BNF, we view the Public Order Act as incompatible with participatory democracy and active citizenry. The Public order Act seems to suggest that for citizens to exercise their right to assemble, they require ‘permission/permit’ from an administrative officer. It seems to suggest that the leaders hold the rights of the public in trust and only deposit it with them when it wishes to. To us Human rights are God given and cannot be taken away, not even by the leaders.
Although the BNF is alive to the fact that rights and freedoms are not absolute, it is however our firm view that the Public Order Act seems to limit the enjoyment and exercise of freedoms unreasonably and such is unjustifiable in an open and democratic society such as ours. In would appear that, in terms of the Act, without an express ‘permission/permit’ from the police officers, citizens cannot peacefully assemble and protest. It is our believe that such as approach goes beyond limiting the freedom of assembly and potentially takes away the very rights which the constitution and various international human rights instruments sought to safeguard.
The Unemployment protesters posed no threat, real or imagined, to national security, peace, morality, rights of others and as such, their peaceful assembly ought to have been protected by state security agencies even without a permit. It is only a barbaric government which responds to a peaceful protest with violence. As the BNF, we make a clarion call to other civil society organisations to consider testing the constitutionality of the Public Order Act. Our fear is that it would not pass the constitutional muster, atleast in the manner which it is arbitrarily applied to deny citizens their freedom to assemble and protest. Not long ago, members of the #Ishallnotforget movement were capriciously denied a permit to march after the Sebinagate scandal. We are of the view that the Public Order Act is an instrument of oppression used to narrow the civic space for citizens to express their grievances openly.
As the BNF, we applaud the fearless youths who participated in the peaceful protest at Parliament precincts. History will remember your heroic deeds someday. We call upon government to consider dialogue and constructive engagement with the leaders of the Unemployment protest movement. Violence has no place in our society. It is alien to our culture. The state must never unleash terror and violence on its own people. It is a classical breach of the social contract and such a fundamental breach necessitates the citizens to consider cancelling the social contract with the BDP come 2019, or earlier if need be.
BNF Secretary General
The Speaker of the National Assembly has suddenly found herself on the other side of the aisle as the opposition parties, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) take her for just another Botswana Democratic Party legislator.
In their mission to oppose the proposed Bill for Presidential Gratuity and increment of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Ministry’s Bill, the two parties accuse the speaker of mischief in favour of the ruling party and therefore promise no generosity towards her.The speaker has been identified as a major stumbling block following her decision to invoke standing Order 60.4, which she vowed to use on her quest to tighten screws against ‘misbehaving’ MPs.
The opposition whip, Wynter Mmolotsi told a media briefing recently that they were aware that the Speaker would try to intimidate them with the newly discovered Parliament Standing Order. Under this standing order, Kokorwe has so far suspended from Parliament two opposition MPs, Haskins Nkaigwa and Dithapelo Keorapetse of Gaborone north and Selibe Phikwe West respectively.
Kokorwe revealed at the start of the current session that she has been lenient on the MPs and she would stop at nothing to use Standing Order 60.4 against any MP whose behaviour would be un-Parliamentary. Mmolotsi, who is also UDC Member of Parliament for Francistown South stated that Kokorwe is serving the interest of the BDP. He said as opposition MPs they do not need the Speaker’s leniency.
“This standing order was just discovered when Parliament went on recess. This is the same discovery as that of some clauses of the Constitution that have been discovered on several occasions and used. The current administration would continue to use such clauses or pieces of legislation that would work to their advantage. We would not be silenced by the speaker to speak what we believe is true or oppose anything that is of no beneficial to Batswana and our country,” the legislator stated.He revealed that they have expressed their concerns on several occasions during the General Assembly.
According to Mmolotsi they have reached a point where they have no confidence on the speaker. He said they would also oppose the Bill that calls for the increase of Specially Elected MPs and increase of Ministers, which according to Mmolotsi, would be a costly exercise.
Mmolotsi said they were surprised to learn that the Bill would propose for a housing allowance as opposed to the current arrangement where government provides a retirement home for any President leaving office.The MP for Maun West, Tawana Moremi indicated that as the opposition they are against this development. He said they are already constrained to do parliament business, as there are a few backbenchers from the BDP. It is Moremi’s opinion that government was supposed to have first identified problems then look for resources to fix such problems.
“You cannot fix the problem at education ministry by splitting the ministry. You need to assess what you are trying to achieve. Then get resources to fix the problem. There has never been any mention of increasing MPs or ministries during the 2015 State of the Nation Address or even during the budget speech in February this year. Then all of a sudden the issues comes in June, who are they intending to reward?”
With the Botswana Democratic Party’s fondness of claiming credit for the country’s independence, the opposition political parties in Botswana are adamant that their role towards independence in 1966 and beyond has been of significant value.
Of the current 6 political parties in this country, only Botswana Peoples’ Party(BPP), Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) and Botswana National Front(BNF) existed before independence. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin(MELS), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy(BMD) were formed in the 80s, 90s and 2000s respectively.
Discussing the role of the opposition in a democarcy, Julius Kiiza of Makerere University said that, besides holding government to account for its commissions or omissions, the opposition provides the electorate with electoral alternatives. “Parties present a viable alternative to the incumbent government by designing alternative ideas, principles and policies for governing society. Should the party in power let the voters down, the ‘government-in-waiting’ takes over the reigns of power through free and fair elections,’’ says Kiiza. The opposition parties are also expected to articulate the interests of the people they represent both during parliamentary sessions and the budget process. According to him, by “Promoting responsible and reasonable debate, opposition parties promote a national conversation and pushes democratic discussion to a higher level of political development and maturity.” Opposition parties help raise political consciousness in the country by teaching the people how politics affects their lives.
Kiiza further says that parties, including the opposition, are the training ground for future leaders. “Shadow cabinet ministers, for example, typically conduct serious party business in their designated portfolios,” he says adding that the participation of party members at their respective conferences and other party fora engender s the spirit of tolerance, enhance accountability and entrenches the culture of democarcy.
Mpho Molomo of the University of Botswana (UB) says this about opposition parties, “They play a countervaillance role to government and make it more transparent, accountable and responsive to the people.” The academic goes on to explain that, in trying to play their role, the opposition in Botswana was faced with daunting challenges such as financial constraints in a country where there is no political funding. “At the same time, over the years, the BDP has had unfair advantage by receiving funding from external resources. According to him, the ruling party, in 1999, got P24 million from an undisclosed source. “In typical Mafia style, the source of the money was only identified as ‘Client’ under code name MRMDU 33XXXX in the bank telegraphic tranfer transcript,” he stated. Opposition parties have complained that their efforts have been compromised by the ruling party’s dominance of the public media at the expense of its competitors.
The challenges notwithstanding, the secretary general of the BPP, Shathiso Tambula maintains that his party has contributed hugely to the development of this country. “The country is where it is today because we have played our role as an opposition party with alternative views. The BDP was in no hurry to change anything even after the attainment of independence. The BDP had no problem with the country using the South African Rand after leaving the British Pound at the occassion of independence until the BPP raised its voice resulting in the introduction of the Botswana Pula and Thebe, our own currency,” said Tambula who also reminisced that, for some time, after independence motor vehicles had registration numbers with a ‘P’ for Protectorate. For instance, the plate numbers, according to him, were BPA(Francistown), BPB(Serowe), BPD(Gaborone), BPE(Palapye), BPF(Lobatse), BPG(Kanye) and so forth.
Tambula added that it was the BPP that pressurised government to buy land from the Tati Company for settlement by some communities in and around Francistown. “Our first manifesto said that a BPP government would introduce the old-age pension. We also talked about free education long back,” said Tambula whose party came into being in 1960. He added that the BPP’s demand for tribal equality has given hope to the minority tribes some of whom government has begun to recognise. For his part, the information and publicity secretary of the BNF, Moeti Mohwasa, says his party has shaped the modern day Botswana. The party was founded in 1965. “Both in and outside parliament, we advocated for free education and when it eventually came, access to education increased manyfold,” said Mohwasa who further attributed the introduction of Setswana in Parliament as well as the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission(IEC) to agitation by the BNF.
The BNF spokesman gives credit for the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years to the BNF. “Elections in this country have always been unfair but we participated in them in the face of all the provocation. For exmple, the ruling party has always dominated the state media but instead of boycotting the elections in ptrotest, we hoped for the best and mobilised our people to go to the polls. We did not want instability in the country,” said Mohwasa. The BNF official said that one of the achievemets of his party has been to organise labour to rise and fight for their rights. “All in all, we have been a worthy opposition,” added Mohwasa.
“As a collective, the opposition has done a lot for this country. We have been peaceful even under the most difficult of circumstances. For example, we have, since independence, tolerated mismanagement of the elections by the BDP government which made it difficult for the opposition to win. This was not because we did not have the wherewithal to go to war. If the opposition were not tolerant, there could have been war. We perservered because we treasure peace. We love this country,” declared Themba Joina, the founder of MELS in 1984.
“Considering that we were formed as recently as 1998, there is no doubt that, looking at the motions that we have passed which were adopted by parliament, we have an admirable track record,” said the vice president of the BCP, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang. He noted with pride that his party successfully moved a motion seeking the exemption of basic food items from VAT. “First time home owners were exempted from VAT when buying building materials,” remembered Dr Gobotswang. His party tried to push through a motion for the inactment of the Freedom of Information Bill but the motion failed. “Our motion on the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities motion was never given a chance by the BDP either,” regretted Dr Gobotswanag. “
He also mentions his party’s role in civil society activism. “We are the only party in the country that sent out a mission to the CKGR at the height of the controversy to relocate the Basarwa by government. We produced a report and we are happy that, the High Court judgement that followed after the matter was taken to court had startling similarities with our findings. We have also published and distributed copies of the Democracy Alert whenever we saw the need such as during the public service strike,” His party has also used platforms such as the Ombudsman and the courts to advance some of their activism.
The chairman of the BMD, Nehemiah Modubule contends that the BMD, formed in 2010, has been a game changer in the political landscape. “For starters, the split of the BDP and resultant formation of the BMD has made it possible for the opposition to attain the unprecedented 53 percent of the popular vote in the 2014 general election which translated into 20 seats. Because of our contribution and participation in the cooporation talks, a total of three parties managed to go to the election as a united front. Previous efforts at uniting the opposition did not go far,” said Modubule who noted that democracy in this country is much stronger thanks to the BMD. “We are a force to reckon with,” boasted the veteran of opposition politics.
While admitting that the opposition has contributed to this country’s democratic heritage at least by their very existence in the political space, the secretary general of the Botswana Democratic Party(BDP), Botsalo Ntuane, has found the opposition wanting with regard to meaningful contributions in Parliament. “We would not be enjoying our status as one of the foremost democracies in the world if we didn’t have an opposition that since independence has been permitted to operate feely without repression or harrassment,” said Ntuane in a written response to an enquiry. Ntuane, however, said that the opposition has, for the past 50 years, failed to come up with workable alternative policies that resonate with Batswana. “Voters need progressive and life affirming policies and not the grievance politics that increasingly seems to be the stock in trade of our opposition,”