Tuesday, September 22, 2020

BDP – lessons from the Pono Moatlhodi saga

Against the emotional trauma he is going through, there is one thing the current BDP MP for Tonota South, Pono Moatlhodi, should not hesitate to point out and in black and white: that regardless of the outcome, he remains a loyal member of the BDP and that he shall continue furthering the aims and objectives of the BDP; that he shall work hard at ensuring that the candidate who eventually wins the BDP primary elections in Tonota South should there be a rerun, will have his unwavering support. It should be remembered that Triple P has neither been suspended nor dismissed from the BDP. All the Central Committee pronounced on was that Pono Moatlhodi will, like all other multitudes of hardworking BDP members, further the Party’s agenda outside Parliament.
The BDP is an organization, whereas an organization is the coming together of people from different backgrounds, who share a particular ideological conviction and political perspectives, and this in itself (bringing together people from different backgrounds) is a challenge. To prevail on this major challenge, organisational discipline is paramount in ensuring that the organisation “moves in a cohesive and homogeneous manner in its struggle to convert its stated objectives into realistic and attainable goals”. It is my hunch that the problems currently afflicting the BNF are nothing but a product of lack of organizational discipline left unchecked over time. To this chaotic end, the BNF sacked their seating MP for Lobatse, Nehemiah Modubule, and a horde of others from their fold whilst Akanyang Magama is hanging in by a thread. I am more than certain that no reasonable person envies the BNF in its current state.

Like all progressive organizations, BDP members must be loyal in defending and implementing decisions of the organization for it to be effective in meeting the developmental agenda it set out for the people. In short they must be disciplined. To attain this, political organizations are over time converting their operations to match corporate organizations. In corporate organizations, the shareholders delegate decision rights to the manager to act in the principal’s best interests, and in the case of the BDP, the shareholders, being Party members, have delegated their decision rights to the manager, being the Central Committee.

The current Pono Moatlhodi saga should, therefore, not be viewed as if the Central Committee usurped and commandeered their powers and went beyond their mandate. The issue broadly revolves around whether there is a need to balance Parliamentary immunity with protecting the interests of the Party, whereas the Central Committee is of the opinion and belief there is a need as there can be no democracy without discipline. Others opine that there is no need for the balance, but undoubtedly events in the BNF shows that there is a need.
MPs have to walk the thin line in maintaining the balance lest the BDP, like the present BNF, becomes a victim of its undoing. This should not be viewed as ‘gagging’, for MPs should be the first to know that organisational discipline is paramount in ensuring that the BDP attains its goals as a cohesive and solid unit.

The Central Committee, in its wisdom felt, I suppose, that Pono Moatlhodi had failed to maintain a balance between Parliamentary immunity with protecting the interests of the Party, which was likely to throw the Party into disrepute. In its position on this matter, the Central Committee draws support indirectly from renowned UB Political Science guru Dr David Sebudubudu as quoted in one of the local Newspapers: “Whilst he (Dr Sebudubudu) acclaims the virtue of immunity for MPs, he however cautions that as politicians they are there to protect the interests of their party. More than that they are there to further the agenda or policies of their own party, because politicians are governed by rules and where there are no rules, there is chaos. We have to appreciate that if you are a politician and when you stand to speak, you are expected to abide by the rules of the party, that is very important”.

The Central Committee also draws support from a certain Walter Mothapo, writing on ‘On the Question of Collective Leadership’ when he notes as follows: “Organisational discipline ensures that members become loyal in defending and implementing decisions of the organisation. During discussions about particular issues, some members might feel dissatisfied on a particular conclusion as supported by the majority, but once it becomes an organisational position, each and every member has a political obligation to rally behind it. Organisational discipline also advocates that we have to raise issues constructively and internally. This principle is against seeking media gimmick and as once said by comrade Netshitenzhe, on the issue of “false popularity”. (Netshitenzhe, 2000).

Controversial as it may seem, the desire by the Central Committee to maintain this balance should not be hijacked by our adversaries, some of whom are peddling their own crude agendas. BDP members must deal with this matter in their usual level headed and cool way. The preposterous, ridiculous and absurd suggestion that Botswana is fast sliding into a dictatorship should be rejected in its utmost as the Central Committee’s actions as per their jurisdiction and mandate are/were meant to maintain order and discipline within the ranks and to ensure that members raise issues constructively and internally first.
The current saga could probably have exposed a grey area within the operations of the BDP, which needs immediate attention: the lack of an explicit ethical code. An ethical code “promotes and reflects the culture and other aspects of organisational life of an organisation, such as its internal politics, its system of decision-making, its acceptance of its social responsibilities and its methods of control”. To avoid, therefore, a repeat of the unenviable position the BDP finds itself in, the Party should come up with a ‘compliance and ethics program’. This programme will go a long way in ensuring that there are no misunderstandings between the role of an MP as representing the Party and the role of an MP as representing the electorate.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.