The Deputy President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, Gomolemo Motswaledi, says that the Botswana Democratic Party is purposefully underfunding the Independent Electoral Commission in order that it is unable to carry out of a rigorous voter education programme that could threaten its rule.
“In clinical terms, I hold the view that the government under-funds, under-resources and under-capacitates certain oversight institutions deliberately to ensure that the government is preserved as currently structured,” says Motswaledi, who is also the president of the Botswana Movement for Democracy. Naturally this assertion invites the question of whether apathetic voters are necessarily anti-BDP. Motswaledi’s prefaces his affirmative answer with “of course.”
He goes on to state that at the time that he was still with the BDP, there was a perception that these kind of voters were either “fed up” with the ruling party, didn’t find the opposition as an attractive alternative or had just resigned to the fate of perpetual BDP rule. He also quotes a report by the late Professor Lawrence Schlemmer “which suggested that there was a BDP fatigue which had to be dealt with by bringing in Young Turks such as Festus Mogae and Ian Khama into the core of the party and government to rejuvenate membership enthusiasm and improve people’s trust in the government.”
A University of Cape Town scholar, Schlemmer did political consultancy on the side and following an impressive showing by a then intact Botswana National Front, he was reportedly hired by De Beers to diagnose the BDP’s problems and prescribe ways that the party could be restored to good political health. Motswaledi is no ordinary opposition figure because in the run-up to the 2009 general election, he was the BDP’s Secretary General and so when he describes how his former party conducts businesses, he cannot be dismissed out of hand. One would expect someone creatively forced out of the BDP to want to publicly spill the beans on the leadership of the party. Apparently though, the BDP Central Committee operates not unlike Las Vegas is supposed to in American legend: what happens in the Committee stays in the Committee.
To the question of whether underfunding the IEC was the BDP strategy in 2009 and whether this was an issue that the party’s Central Committee would discuss, Motswaledi starts his answer by pointing out that he was Secretary General for only two months. “It will be overzealous of me to suggest anything done in that capacity on a matter of institutional strategy. Besides, even if such was the case, I would not say it to the public just by virtue of the fact that I had a fiduciary responsibility for keeping executive decisions, strategies and tactics and their implementation to that executive space,” he says.
While what he says next is not an explicit admission, it is useful for purposes of connecting the dots and reaching one’s own conclusion. Motswaledi points out that the abuse of the security forces by the powers-that-be, the domination of the state media by the ruling party, the questionable manner in which High Court judges are appointed, the epidemic of jobs-for-the-boys cronyism at the executive level, the domination of the government tender system by a well-connected coterie and “many other examples do indicate that certain things don’t happen by accident. They are as well-crafted as they are measured. What then will make the underfunding of IEC electoral education and awareness an exception when it is known that many new voters are not willing to affirm the BDP government?”
Regarding his own party’s strategy to soliciting electoral support from apathetic voters, the UDC parliamentary candidate in Gaborone Central says that his party is spreading the message that “there is a credible alternative to the agony that the BDP presents to Batswana.”