And so the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) goes for its inaugural national congress next week in Gaborone where top on the agenda will be the election of the party’s substantive leadership. The party has been under the stewardship of an interim committee since its formation almost a year ago.
It is pleasing to learn the BMD is determined to go ahead with this crucial congress, against all odds. I think it is very important that people start holding substantive positions in the BMD so that we can be able to take them to task, unlike presently where they hold their positions on interim basis. It has been difficult to grill over the coals, people who are, as it stands, in their positions voluntarily without the blessings of the majority of the party membership.
The congress will allow the party membership to determine who amongst them, is best suited to be the torch bearer. It is commendable to learn the BMD will not be copying from the BDP where compromise substitutes elections. The interim leadership of the BMD has been urging the party faithful to stand for elections in the party leadership positions and I am told every member will be allowed to seek election if they so wish. I am also told there will be no difference between the people who founded the BMD and those who joined the BMD. This is something worth encouraging because if those who formed the party are allowed to think, even for a moment, that they are more BMD than those who joined the party later on, the party’s existence would be as good as nothing.
BMD founders should inculcate the spirit of ownership and belonging amongst the entire membership as this will, positively so, fool all members into believing they are part and parcel of the project. Yes it is important to fool people into believing they have ownership in a project if you really want those people to support that project. Take Khama for example, he found the BDP as a party “ya rona le bana ba bana ba rona” (for us and our great grand children) and turned it into Domi Ke Yame (BDP is mine) but because he fooled them into believing they still have a stake in the party, many of them remain unshakable in their conviction despite the glaring signs of who really owns the BDP. Sometimes it is very important to make even the less important people feel they are important in the party. I have heard a lot of people complain that the BMD has of late gone silent.
The hype and pomp has subsided. Infact I have heard some people who swear to God that they belong to the BMD, complain that the BMD interim leadership has gone quiet. I asked: what is it exactly that the leadership is expected to do? The answers have been that they should sell the party to the people. They should preach to the masses what the BMD stands for and what is has on offer that can convince the electorates that they are the alternative government. I have realized that many people think the above mentioned responsibilities lie squarely on the party leadership. I beg to differ.
The BMD as a relatively new project requires the input of everyone who claims to be a member. It requires a lot of resources and time to carry out those responsibilities and it would be unfair to expect a few people to fund such an enormous project from their own pockets while the members stand by with folded arms. This is why it is important that the BMD interim leadership plant the seed of ownership and belonging to every of their members so that these people can know and understand that the task of selling the party falls on the shoulders of every member. If they are to expect every member to be legible for election into leadership positions, surely they have to expect everyone to play a role and contribute towards the project.
This is the time for the BMD to prove to the nation that they are different from other political parties who have emerged out of party leadership elections divided. Infact many political parties get divided before elections during the scramble for positions. For a new party like the BMD to acknowledge the importance of a democratically elected leadership is something worth a pat on the back. One would have expected the few men and women who were at the forefront of the formation of this party to want to be ushered in without any competition from late comers. What they are doing will go a long way in dispelling allegations of them being power hungry. This will prove that they did not form the party out of the desire to hold positions of power as some people have already alleged their move was motivated by an insatiable appetite for power.
That said, what will differentiate the BMD from other political parties is how they will handle the outcome of the elections. It will be pointless and embarrassing if the BMD is going to have elections and then come out divided by the outcome of those elections. It remains to be seen if the BMD will come out of the elections united or divided. We wait to see if the losers in the upcoming elections will accept defeat with grace and embrace the winners. Should the losers storm out of the party or cause havoc and make leadership difficult for the winners, then the BMD would have proved they are just another political party and their existence will be questionable. Their relevance will be next to nil. I am not privy to the list of the contenders but it is pleasing to note, even as the D-day beckons, no public spats have been reported amongst the hopefuls.
One can only hope the BMD members will show up in large numbers to legitimize the leadership that will eventually get the nod at the congress. It will be a very important occasion as other pertinent issues like the party constitution will have to be adopted if the majority condones the contents. I have been accused for always going soft on the BMD but really, I’m still to find anything that they have done wrong to deserve the wrath of my pen. This is why I warn them here and now, to behave during their upcoming congress because should they prove to me that they are just a confused lot, no blows will be barred against them. It’s not a threat, but a promise. It’s high time we had politicians who are serious and who take us seriously so that we can return the favour. It is only natural that differences will crop up when it comes to electing people for such important positions but level headedness and maturity can guide people to differ – in deference.