The Botswana Movement for Democracy and Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe, says that he has not had a “one-on-one” meeting with the man who is telling the world that he is recruiting him back to the Botswana Democratic Party, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
On any objective basis, Gaolathe is a highly effective MP. During parliamentary debates, he intellectually overwhelms the entire BDP bench on matters of finance and investment, all the while maintaining a gentlemanly disposition that seems to be lacking on both sides of the house. Once before he compelled the Bank of Botswana to release billions of pula to stave off an impending liquidity crisis in the country’s banking system through a parliamentary motion. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, has said that Gaolathe would make a good assistant minister. Lately, Masisi, who is also the BDP’s Chairman, has been hustling a story about a campaign to recruit Gaolathe that is about to bear fruit. On the other hand, the MP maintains that there is no snowball’s chance in hell he’ll return to the BDP.
Breaking his silence on this issue, Gaolathe told Sunday Standard that he hasn’t even had a “one-on-one” meeting with Masisi since he (Masisi) joined politics. At a conservative estimate, that would be 2009 when Masisi became Moshupa MP but the process of getting into parliament typically starts at least two years before the general election. To be clear though, both men work at the same place (parliament) and naturally, are bound to literally cross paths. Gaolathe confirms organic meetings with Masisi in the chamber and the tea room and that during these meetings, they have had brief chats that have never been about him rejoining the party he left in 2010 to co-found the BMD. The latter is now part of a loose opposition confederation, the Umbrella for Democratic Change, that is made up of three other parties: the Botswana National Front, Botswana People’s Party and the Botswana Congress Party.
If it is part of a recruitment strategy at all, President Ian Khama has also worked Gaolathe’s name into his freedom-square routine. Not too long ago, he lamented how Gaolathe got a raw deal in a recalibration of UDC’s reward system. If the objective was to make Gaolathe feel ill at ease in the UDC, the BDP may not be where he wants to go because its president has not approached him.
“The last time I sat and had a brief chat with the President of Botswana was at my late sister’s funeral in 2005, when he was still Vice President,” Gaolathe says.
This and other facts aside, the Gaborone Bonnington South MP is well aware of the fact that what Masisi and other BDP leaders have publicly stated has “aroused spirited discussion in newspapers and social media.” This interview is the first of a push-back effort and he reveals plans to hop on social media platforms soon and set the record straight.
In Gaolathe’s assessment, talk of his imminent return to the BDP has created four broad categories ÔÇô that of believers, the faithless, “slash-and-burners” and the objectively clueless. Believers in the UDC cause reject the idea that Gaolathe could betray the struggle by going back to BDP.
“These purveyors of hope, fondly known as “moononites”, understand the immense sacrifices that so many ordinary citizens have already and continue to make, which sacrifices would be of no value if one of their own, with whom they share a vision and values, would stray away from a future so pristine for so many of our people,” he says.
“Moononites” would seem to be a conflation of the word Setswana word “moono” (meaning consensus) and the noun suffix, ‘ite’, which, as used, denotes a group associated with a particular principle. Congregated under one big Umbrella, Moononites are a multi-generational, multi-social station, multi-tribal, even multi-racial cast of political characters whose consensus is that a red steam locomotive called the BDP has run out of steam and instead of being fired up, should just be retired to a scrapyard in Tsholetsa House.
“It is precisely these “moononites” that keep the dream alive for they refuse to allow anyone to steal their hope of a better future. They refuse for anyone to use their hearts and minds as the seedbed for weeds of suspicion and confusion. They refuse to drink from the cup of doubt and cynicism and they realize that their dream is far larger than individuals skipping and hopping between political affiliations out of convenience and not principle,” he says.
Ever the gentlemen, he eschews the raw, emotive language of rough-and-tumble politics for one more tempered to describe the non-believers. The meanest he gets is describing them as being “faithless about or blind to the wind of change” that has begun to sweep through Botswana. He says that these people are neither bad, impossible nor necessarily rogue ÔÇô his adjectives.
“They simply do not believe that transformative change in our land is possible, that it is coming or that it is imminent. Some of these people are comfortable with the current ruling elite and the way our country is being governed. If they are not comfortable, it is by a small margin that they think it can be re-calibrated by recruiting one, two or a few individuals, to assist “tweak” a few things so the system may run again to their taste. These people have the right to hope and wish that their version of a new Botswana can also be attained,” he says adding that the hopes of the faithless “should not be treated as gospel.”
The third category “believes in the politics of ‘slash and burn’, the politics of rumour-mongering, slander, suspicion, defamation, intrigue, conspiracies and cynicism.” Gaolathe remains unfazed by these, he says, because “something wonderful in me still burns, because we are a generation that understands that darkness can never put of light, and that hope will always trump over cynicism.”
The fourth category is of “so many of our people, young and old, poor and rich” who don’t have access to accurate information.
“They hear news and read statements and because they have never met some of us, they are not sure what to believe,” the MP says.
While they may not know what is happening, these people have a choice: “They face a choice ÔÇô they must choose either faith or disbelief; they must choose between hope or cynicism; they must take the new Botswana or stick with the old; they must decide if change is possible in this country or if change is impossible; they must choose between Vice President’s recurring theme of “Ndaba recruitment” or our message of a new Botswana, a message of change, a message about how we can do much better as a nation and a message about a Botswana where every citizen can dream and become anything they creatively work towards. This is a personal choice that our people must make, one which I cannot make on their behalf.”
Within the context of access to state media, it is interesting to observe how Masisi can use state media to claim that Gaolathe is about to join the BDP and that the latter will never be extended similar opportunity (in the form of airtime on Radio Botswana and Btv and editorial space in Botswana Daily News) to rebut such claims.