Tuesday, 02 June 2015 12:32

BDP: reforms or demise – part 2

It was previously submitted that in order for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to stand a realistic chance of retaining state power at the 2019 general election and beyond, it has to confront its shortcomings head on. This instalment discusses some of these shortcomings, many of which have been in existence for decades but became glaringly evident under President Khama’s administration. Most prominent amongst these is the party’s lack of control over the BDP government, hence the party’s dismal failure to rein in government over its excesses.

The remarkable success of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at the 2014 general election was to a large extent due to its deft exploitation of excesses by the BDP government, against which rebuttals by the party were impossible. Without the unrestrained behaviour of the government, the UDC would not have gained the kind of traction that resulted in its electoral achievements. Government excesses have taken the form of extra-judicial killings and corruption by public officials.
It would appear that extra-judicial killings by security agents did not start with the administration of President Khama; but they increased significantly under his watch. Under previous administrations, there were rumours doing the rounds of extra-judicial killings by military intelligence agents, but these were rare and it would seem that every effort was made to keep the killings out of the public domain. People took comfort in the fact that the government of the day was fearful of such acts being made public, given the likely political repercussions.

And when, in May 2009, Mr John Kalafatis was executed in full glare of the public by members of the Botswana Defence Force reportedly on loan to the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), public reaction was complete disbelief. The act shocked the nation to its very core. And the insensitive remarks that made light of the incident reportedly by the then vice president did not help matters. Before long, the police also jumped onto the bandwagon and incidences of criminal suspects being shot dead spiked, with some suspects mysteriously disappearing under police custody.

The fact that the president and his vice were retired army generals, both having headed the Botswana Defence Force, caused some degree of public apprehension that was largely driven by incessant warnings from the opposition (parties, media and unions) about the advent of a military dictatorship.  The appointment of a former soldier to head the newly formed DIS in some ways lent credence to the opposition allegations. It was against this backdrop that the public execution of Mr Kalafatis took place.  And instead of addressing a nation still in shock over the execution of Mr Kalafatis at the hands of state agents, in June 2012 President Khama comes up with another shocker and pardons and reemploys the convicted killers of Mr Kalafatis a few months into their jail term, without taking the nation into his confidence about the pardons. President Khama is yet to explain his actions, and the party is powerless to take him to task over them. The BDP’s failure to publicly condemn extra-judicial killings gave the electorate the distinct impression that the party just could not be bothered. The party’s inability to call Government to order over extra-judicial killings meant that it went into the 2014 general election with a huge albatross around its neck.

Because of this perceived indifferent attitude by the party and its president over extra-judicial killings, it was quite an easy task for the opposition to convince a sizeable section of the electorate that it was under siege from what was described as a heartless military regime. The UDC went further by concocting a hit list of opposition leaders that it said were to be assassinated by state agents in the run-up to the 2014 general election. The hit list claim was a master stroke because, as providence would have it, soon afterwards - merely three months before the election - Mr Gomolemo Motswaledi, president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and deputy president of the UDC, had a fatal car accident. And to the astonishment and chagrin of the BDP, an already malleable electorate was told by the UDC that Mr Motswaledi had been assassinated by state agents in accordance with the hit list.

Naturally, the UDC exploited Mr Motswaledi’s death to the fullest – sucking it dry for political mileage. A gullible University of Botswana student community swallowed the assassination claim whole - bait, hook and sinker - and on Election Day Mr Dumelang Saleshando did not know what hit him, as a UDC political novice unexpectedly found himself in parliament. Without the extra-judicial killings and the attendant blasé attitude, the UDC would not have pulled off this stunt, which helped the party increase its seats in parliament two and half-fold.

As earlier observed, the other notable form of government excess is corruption by public officials. However, this is more of a perception rather than proven conduct, as illustrated by incidents of cabinet ministers and top civil servants charged with corruption being routinely acquitted by the courts. The fact that cabinet ministers and other top public officials can be hauled before the courts on corruption charges had, on the whole, convinced the electorate that the BDP government does not tolerate corruption within its ranks nor is anyone above the law. The existence of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) also helped government parry corruption allegations levelled at it by the opposition. Consequently, opposition allegations of corruption on the part of the BDP government never found traction. Until Mr Isaac Kgosi and the DIS happened.

A DCEC docket on its investigation into Mr Kgosi’s alleged corrupt conduct somehow found its way into print media houses. And the revelations were stupefying. The allegations painted Mr Kgosi as an unscrupulous man who abused his position to unlawfully enrich himself with impunity. He was said to haul to the bank suitcases full with some of the loot for depositing. Some media reports even went to the extent of suggesting that he was willing to take out those who could implicate him in alleged corrupt dealings, citing his possible links to the brutal slaying of Mr Harry Tembo, a Malawian national who was alleged to be corruptly linked to Mr Kgosi and was about to be questioned by the DCEC as part of the agency’s investigations into Mr Kgosi.

The BDP was totally blindsided by the revelations, which surfaced just before the 2014 general election - it had no defence against the exposé. It was a total nightmare for the ruling party as it was also trying to deal with the aftermath of Mr Motswaledi’s death that the opposition blamed on the state security apparatus. For the anti-BDP newspapers, the expose was a wet dream; with the allegations and other perceived missteps by the DIS becoming the staple front page news until Election Day. The BDP faithful and election candidates could only watch helplessly as President Khama refused to yield to demands that he should suspend Mr Kgosi from duty pending the conclusion of the DCEC investigation and the subsequent judicial process in order to take the steam out of the opposition onslaught. 

In his refusal to suspend the DIS chief, President Khama cited people whose careers had been derailed after he suspended them from duty only for them to be later on cleared by the courts. The allegations against Mr Kgosi and President Khama’s refusal to suspend him from duty were seized upon by the opposition and sold to the electorate as proof of wide-spread corruption in the upper echelons of government and the condonation of corruption by the BDP. And as President Khama continued to stand by Mr Kgosi, the BDP continued to bleed until Election Day. The discussion on the shortcomings of the BDP will continue in the next instalment.

*Bugalo A. Chilume is a member of the BDP
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Published in News
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 12:14

BDP: reforms or demise – part 1

The 2014 combined legislative and local government elections have come and gone. In terms of the legislative outcome, it was a mixed bag. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), an opposition collective, increased its parliamentary seats two and a half-fold (from seven to 17), garnering close to a third of the popular vote (30%) in the process - a remarkable achievement for a political formation established on the eve of the elections. On the other hand, it was not a good election for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

The BCP lost 60% of its parliamentary seats (five out of eight), including that of its president. However, to its credit, the party managed to hold on to its popular vote albeit having marginally decreased by 1% to 20.4%. Incidentally, under a proportional representation system the party’s share of the vote would translate into 11 parliamentary seats and the UDC would still have the same number of parliamentary seats it obtained at the elections.

As a party in power, the election results were nothing less than seismic for the BDP. In terms of parliamentary seats, it garnered 65% of the contested seats, the lowest share of seats the party has ever attained. It shed 14% of its share of seats it acquired in 2009 (79%) to the opposition. It will therefore not be such a difficult task for the opposition to slice off a further 16% from the current 65% share of seats at the next elections and attain state power. Furthermore, given the volatility of the BDP’s share of seats over the years (it plunged 23% at the 1994 general elections), a 65% share is very precarious.

Most disturbing for the ruling party, however, is its share of the popular vote, which, for the first time in its existence, dipped below 50% to 46.5%. This does not however invalidate the party’s victory nor does it make the BDP government any less legitimate. Nonetheless, the level of the party’s popular vote does not bode well for its future for two reasons. Firstly, the opposition will capitalise on this to create doubt in the minds of a largely gullible electorate about the legitimacy of the BDP government on the basis that it received a mandate from a minority. And any misstep by the government will be seized upon as proof that it is illegitimate; that it cannot be entrusted with the nation’s welfare, and should therefore be voted out in 2019. Secondly, sooner rather than later a tipping point will be reached whereby the first-past-the-post electoral model will cease to favour the BDP.

At this point, the decreasing popular vote will no longer be able to deliver the required number of parliamentary seats for the BDP to remain in power, at least on its own.  In the past, after experiencing losses, the BDP would bounce back and increase both its share of parliamentary seats and popular vote, but this was during an era when its political opponents did it favours by splitting opposition votes. Unfortunately for the party, that era has now come to end. The fact that the UDC collective has mutated into a seemingly unstoppable political force, coupled with the expectation that, despite public pronouncements to the contrary by its activists, the BCP will join the UDC in preparation for the 2019 general elections, presents a somewhat hopeless scenario for the BDP going forward. The odds will certainly be heavily stacked against the ruling party and chances of it retaining state power at the next general elections appear extremely slim. Credit should be given to the man behind the success of the UDC, the biggest threat to the ruling party since the pre-1998 BNF.

The Harvard-educated Duma Boko, president of both the BNF and the UDC, is a highly intelligent man albeit with a considerable dose of cockiness that perhaps emanates from his sense of self-confidence. With political guile and savviness, despite being a political rookie, he created self-belief within the ranks of an erstwhile moribund BNF and fashioned a political behemoth out of the UDC. The UDC’s electoral achievements make Boko the most successful political leader in the country’s history especially in light of the huge challenges he had to overcome. He took over an unstable BNF beset with infighting, indiscipline and rock-bottom morale. His detractors within the party mounted numerous court challenges to nullify not only his presidency, but his very membership of the party he led, and to stop it from joining the UDC.

Within a limited space of time Boko also had to oversee a complex and particularly sensitive process of forging a new political party out of three separate political entities; a process that included the distribution of wards and constituencies between the parties that make up the collective, as well as the harmonisation of different ideologies to craft a single electoral platform. Against this background, his achievements are remarkable to say the least. In particular, he had the foresight to stick with the umbrella project even after the BCP, a major political bloc, had pulled out (they vehemently deny this). And by the look of things, Boko and company do not have the slightest intention of being in the opposition for too long - they have already started campaigning for 2019; they cannot wait. This is the kind of an adversary that awaits the BDP at the next general elections.

Given the momentum that the UDC has created, in its current shape and form, the BDP will be easy meat in 2019. However, not all is gloom and doom for the ruling party; if it plays its cards right it can turn its fortunes around to win the 2019 general elections, and the next one. The fact that in 2014 the BDP managed to snatch a number of seats from the opposition means that it is still a force to be reckoned with and is thus far from having run its course. Above all, it still has a lot of political goodwill it can exploit to reclaim its past glory. However, this can only happen if the party institutes reforms to address its plethora of shortcomings, notably those that the UDC successfully capitalised on in its campaign for the 2014 general elections. Opportunities in the past for the institution of reforms in the party have gone begging. And when the BCP opted out of the opposition collective ahead of the 2014 general elections, the BDP was fortuitously handed a final opportunity to candidly introspect and introduce the required reforms. This is where the party finds itself today. There is no way around the reforms; the BDP has to face up to hard truths for its very survival. It is that simple.

The next instalment will discuss the shortcomings of the BDP.

Bugalo A. Chilume
BDP member
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Published in News

Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) is yet to assess the extent to which Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Members of Parliament have kept their promise regarding workers’ interests.

The two entered some form of relationship prior to last year’s general election, which led to the coalition’s electoral success and dismal performance of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which could only get 47 percent of the popular vote. The remaining 53 percent went to the opposition. This translated into 37 and 20 parliamentary seats respectively. Asked if UDC MPs have kept their side of the bargain since ascending to Parliament through the support of workers, BOFEPUSU deputy secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa says: “We are yet to make a comprehensive evaluation of our relationship with UDC before we make a pronouncement on that.” He says their committee will sit down and look at “Our expectations regarding UDC MPs and measure them against the motions and questions asked by the UDC MPs raised in our name.”

But Wynter Mmolotsi, one of the UDC MPs, says BOFEPUSU should not and will never regret its decision to endorse the coalition. According to him, the workers supported the UDC because the coalition MPs always represented the interests of the workers even before the general election. “The first ever petition from the workers was presented by me,” says Mmolotsi. He believes that UDC MPs proved their understanding of the interest of the workers during both the State of the Nation address and Budget speech. “Time and again, when a labour-related matter is brought to parliament, we meet workers representatives to get their position on it. We have never missed an opportunity to be the voice of the workers,” he says in an interview. This year’s Labour Day (May Day) is the first one after the 2014 general elections in which government employees, particularly those under BOFEPUSU worked openly with the opposition to achieve a change of government after they were refused a 16 percent salary increment.

During the 2011 historic strike, the government workers under BOFEPUSU held public rallies which were patronised by leaders of the opposition eager to benefit from the thousands of angry workers who were annoyed by what they considered an intransigent government. BOFEPUSU leaders, hoping to help usher in a government friendly to the workers, also insisted on opposition party cooperation in return for votes from the 90, 000 or so workers in the 2014 general election. For their part, the opposition parties committed themselves to coming together in the form of a united opposition front ahead of the election. The twosome soon adopted ‘regime change’ as their agenda. In the event, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), due to disagreements with the other parties especially on the allocation of constituencies, fell by the wayside and was not part of the UDC by the time the election was held. BOFEPUSU later announced that the workers would de-campaign both the ruling BDP and the BCP but actively campaign for UDC candidates.

The labour union made a hit list of BDP and BCP candidates to be specially targeted for de-campaigning. Many prominent individuals in the two parties lost the election much to the delight of BOFEPUSU which gleefully let it be known that it was happy with the outcome of its project. It is common cause that the unprecedented open alignment with the opposition by BOFEPUSU, further strained the already fragile relationship between government and its workers. Predictably, there was instability in the federation as some individuals, especially those sympathetic to the BDP, were not eager to become party to the regime change bandwagon. BOPEU, an affiliate of BOFEPUSU publicly disagreed with the mother-body over the endorsement of the UDC. Several government employees, especially those listed under the category of essential service providers lost their jobs. A blame-game ensued as the federation failed to either have the workers reinstated or provided them with sustainable sustenance.

In the event, President Ian Khama continued to make unilateral decisions concerning the workers without regard to the bargaining council. Despite all the challenges faced by the workers as a result of their going on strike and openly supporting the UDC, Motshegwa believes that, “The 2011 historic mother of all strikes ushered in a paradigm shift by raising working class consciousness and seriousness in defending, advancing and deepening the rights of the workers.” However, he explains that the ‘regime’ is launching a response strategy of trying to divert the working class by infiltrating them by making some union leaders, including those in the leadership to betray the struggle by becoming agents of the regime. “This thus creates a struggle within a struggle when comrades abandon the agenda of the working class and resort to teaming up with the regime for personal gains which are short-term.”

Published in News
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 14:24

Disbanding parties could wreck UDC

Fireworks are expected at the Botswana National Front (BNF) conference that will be held during the President’s Day weekend in July. At the heart of the matter is whether or not the parties that comprise the coalition Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) should disband and form a single party.

The parties that make up the UDC are the BNF, the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana Movement for Democratic Change (BMD). Those against dissolution of the parties have accused BNF president Duma Boko of having designs to disband the party and turning the UDC into a single entity with a unitary identity. Some of them are so strongly against this that they have threatened to leave the UDC should the BNF be dissolved.

A prominent BNF member who once served on the party’s central committee has described such a move as suicidal. “We have worked hard for the party. Such a brand cannot be destroyed by an individual,” he told Northen Extra in an interview this week. “As a group, we are not against cooperation. What we are against is the killing of our brand,” he added.

Another highly placed source says the problem is that BNF members are kept in the dark. “During the formation of the Umbrella, comrades were not informed about the project. We heard a lot of issues with the BMD. This clearly demonstrates that BNF members are taken for granted,’’ the source says. He wants the BNF leadership to take the Sefhare leadership forum seriously. When it is brought to his attention that the Sefhare leadership forum is not binding, he returns that it informs the party about the mood of members.

Nevetheless, a view that is gaining currency is one that holds that Botswana should have two major political parties and that the UDC should become a single entity in order to present a credible alternative to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Proponents of this view believe that as a sinle entity, the UDC will still be led by the BNF because of the latter’s numeric strength in the coaltion. “We aim to form a government in 2019. If people still want to stick to old names, they will hold us back. We should take over in order to free the people from the yoke of oppression,” says a proponent of this view who wants to remain anonymous.

Prominent BNF theorist Elmon Tafa recently penned a newspaper article in which he critisised the current BNF leadership for its intention to form a single party, saying  the formation of UDC was on the mould of a united front as proposed by the founder of the BNF, the late Dr Kenneth Koma. Boko, who is president of both the BNF and the UDC, was soon attacking certain “educated individuals” at a political rally in Francistown, accusing them of writing articles about the Umbrella when they did not understand the project.

This was widely received as a thinly-veiled reference to Tafa.  Efforts to reach the Publicity Secretary of the BNF, Moeti Mohwasa, proved futile at the time of going to press. Reached for comment, Mohwasa’s counterpart at the BNF Youth League, Malatsi Mokhubame, criticised BNF members for always rushing to the media instead of channeling their grievances within party structure. He pointed to media reports quoting a BMD leader as saying the tripartite alliance that is the UDC had no intention of disbanding the individual parties..

Published in Northren Extra
Friday, 13 July 2012 11:00

BNF won’t go back on umbrella

Botswana National Front (BNF) national conference billed for Maun from July 14 to 17 is expected to thrash out contentious issues around the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and discuss allocation of constituencies and wards under the arrangement. {jvrelatives}In an interview on Tuesday, BNF Secretary for Information and Publicity, Moeti Mohwasa, said next month’s national conference would be like any other gathering aimed at reinvigorating the party. Mohwasa said the conference is in accordance with section 14.2 of the BNF constitution.

Published in News
Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:46

Umbrella conveners now part of UDC leadership

Following the conclusion of the Umbrella talks which recently gave birth to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the party launch on November 11th, the conveners of the negotiation process are now part of the leadership of UDC.

With only Lebang Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane as the conveners of the negotiation process at the beginning of the talks, the number later rose to five after the inclusion of retired High Court Judge John Mosojane, Rev. Prince Dibeela and Rev. Cosmos Moenga. The team facilitated the so-called Umbrella 1 talks which included the Botswana People’s Party (BPP), the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

After the collapse of Umbrella 1 the conveners called and chaired meetings of Umbrella 2 which the BCP declined to be part of due to differences with its negotiating partners, especially the BMD particularly over the allocation of constituencies.

According to the transitional clause, Article 28 of the UDC constitution, before the holding of the 1st meeting of the National Congress (NC), three out of five of the conveners together with the Presidents, and Secretaries General of the BPP, the BNF and BMD shall, together will give one more negotiating officer per party, have, on behalf of the Umbrella, the power to exercise any power vested in any structure of the party”.

Besides the power to amend the constitution this body is vested with the power to suspend the operations of any party structure, appoint or remove persons from any offices that are established by the constitution.

According to Article 11.5 of the UDC Constitution, before the NC meets for the election of the National Office Bearers (N0B), the conveners of the negotiation process shall be part of the structure that will do the day to day running of the UDC alongside the party President, Vice President, Deputy Vice President, Treasurer, General Secretary and Deputy General Secretary.

Another body to which they belong is the Governing Body (GB) which consists of the NOB’s and delegates from group members.

 They are also part of the National Executive Committee (NEC) whose composition includes NOB’s, Chairperson and Regional Secretary of each region and Leader or President of group members.

The NEC which is the largest of the UDC structures after the NC and which the Governors also belong to shall have the power to give broad direction concerning organizational ,political and educational issues within the Umbrella.

This  structure, whose mandate is to manage the affairs of the Umbrella between meetings of the NC and GB shall have powers to admit or refuse to admit application for membership to the Umbrella.

This structure also has the power to fill vacancies in the positions of NOB, adopt or amend a leadership  code of conduct as well as approve the Umbrella budget.

Published in Northren Extra
Page 5 of 5

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