Wednesday, January 19, 2022

An expose of Pimples and Pitfalls in Botswana’s Opposition

“An expose of pimples and pitfalls” was a mastermind of the late Paul Rantao through his publication entitled ‘Makatolole’. Paul Rantao was a maverick and charismatic politician who kept his audience spell bound when he was at it addressing a political rally. Twin him with the late Maitshwarelo Dabutha, (AKA ‘Bombshell’, the bombshell which unfortunately failed to detonate), one could be treated to a rib cracker of politicking. Little did the late Paul Rantao know that his expose of Pimples and Pitfalls will visit upon the Opposition Parties in the foreseeable future.

In my last intervention entitled “Load-shedding Modubule’s Parliamentary Hopes” published in same Sunday Standard, I had penned as follows: “What I know for certain though is that they [BCP], together with UDC will not be fielding a houseful of 57 candidates contesting the 57 constituencies. This is a disgrace!!! I mean out of a population of around 2 million, Opposition Parties fail to field 57 candidates to contest the 57 constituencies, and they lay claim they are ready to govern?”

I want to re-emphasize my point. Botswana has a population of around 2 million, and there are 57 constituencies. It should be very simple to field candidates in all 57 constituencies even if we could have more than 10 political parties or so. Each political party should be able to make the numbers and field candidates in all 57 constituencies if they are serious contenders. If it is difficult to field all 57, out of a population of around 2 million, what about picking Cabinet of about 26 members from 57 elected MPs plus 4 Specially elected? The latter will prove a difficult challenge if one has failed the former.

Like many Batswana, I just can not fathom it. Whilst the process of selecting individuals to stand as Parliamentary hopefuls is daunting, it is a reflection of the capability of a particular party to conduct its business. Fielding Parliamentary hopefuls is a precursor to what a political party holds and whether it can deliver on its promises. This time around political parties at this electioneering time are bombarding the electorates with mouthwatering promises some bordering on near impossibilities not far from the ‘Nka e nesa” acclaim. A simple basic test on whether a Party can deliver on its promises rests amongst others on whether it is able to meet its 57 Parliamentary seat quota.

Undoubtedly and beyond reasonable doubt, failing to meet this simple ABC test brings into sharp question the credentials and capability of a particular Party to lead this country to prosperity, whatever promises they may dish out at political rallies and in their campaigns.

Surprisingly, it is not only MELS, PUSO, Bathokatiro Party etc. that have not been able to meet the simple test of meeting their 57 Parliamentary seat quota. Even the Pretenders to the throne, UDC and BCP fail the simple test. In essence and real meaning the UDC and BCP are no different from MELS, PUSO, Bathokatiro Party etc. Worse off is the UDC because they claim to be made up of an amalgam of Parties, being BNF, BPP and BMD. If they can not make up the 57 Parliamentary quota allocated having combined their efforts what more of running a government where much more tough decisions than fielding candidates are at play.

The BCP and UDC’s failure to meet the quota spells disaster and expose exactly what they are made off, empty rhetoric. One can argue that their failure to meet the 57 quota could mean they will not be able to make up and agree on a complete Cabinet. They will squabble to the extent they will not agree on Cabinet members. Being unable to form Cabinet means they will not be able to develop their policies and programmes, nor will they deliver on their promises. Talk of empty promises. Actually Kenneth Koma once accused then BNF (BNF plus the renegade BCP) that ba lwela dirwe tsa phologolo e ba iseng ba e bolae.

Again I should not be unkind to the BCP because for them they can argue that unlike the UDC, they at least have a Shadow Cabinet. Indeed they deserve a commendation for that. The BNF has been inexistence for many years but up until now they have not been able to come up with a Shadow Cabinet. This should not excite the BCP much though, because a Shadow Cabinet means nothing when they failed the simple 57 Parliamentary quota. Who doesn’t know a “Shadow”, it is ‘here today gone tomorrow’. Need I praise the BCP again for a master act in having a branded campaign bus, and as the BDP we must learn from them and outperform them on their initiative four fold. After all the bus does not come up with policies and programmes to improve the lives of Batswana and the bus does not form Cabinet that in turn drives government’s agenda.

Cabinet is a body of high-ranking state officials that form the Executive branch and they are collectively responsible for all government policy. The role of Cabinet is to make the broad policy decisions about what actions the government should take in an endeavor to improve the living conditions of its people. Ministers are accountable to Parliament and ultimately to voters, for making the right decisions. Their main sources of information and advice are the civil servants who make up their Ministries and Departments. But it is the Ministers who make the decisions. Those decisions are often hard ones, but of course Cabinet is the place where the hardest decisions must be made, much more than fielding 57 Parliamentary hopefuls.

It therefore does not matter how eloquently presented or sullied and besmirched the BCP and UDC manifestos could be, evidence on the ground due to their failure of the simple test to meet the 57 Parliamentary quota tells us that the Opposition has failed dismally. Whatever the Opposition is saying for now is nothing but oratory with no substance.

My friends in the Trade Unions and workers in general should be wary of empty promises by both the BCP and UDC. They should take hid of Dr Patrick Molutsi’s advice when delivering a keynote address at the 10th Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) elective congress at Majestic Hotel in Palapye recently. Dr Molutsi noted that the experiences of the governments of Zambia under the late Fredrick Chiluba, Malawi under Chafuka Chihana provided interesting insights as they had promised the workers manna from heaven only to disappoint when they took over. Had it not been for the prudent financial management, many workers would have lost their jobs when the economic downturn was at its worst, but the BDP government did all in its powers to preserve jobs.

Batswana must therefore reject BCP and UDC as they are no different from MELS, PUSO and Bathokatiro Party. For this the electorate must snub and send them on a cleansing exercise until they are ready to meet the 57 Parliamentary seat quota in 2019 before they can be considered to lead the Country. The electorate should be reminded of the adage ‘do not judge a book by its cover’. Truth be told, not even the book covers and content of the BCP and UDC manifestos are appealing for now, “Ke bo nka e nesa” .

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