Monday, April 19, 2021

It may be time Gov’t reconvened the All-Party conference

There used to be an informal structure, which was started during the days of former President Sir Ketumile Masire, that brought together under one roof all the political parties registered in Botswana.

At their come together, which happed every other year, the political parties would talk about anything and everything.

Rightly, the meting, called the All-Party conference, was organised by the Minister of Presidential Affairs. It was not unusual to see the person of authority no less than Vice President attending.

At these meetings, all political parties were equal ÔÇô or at least in theory they were supposed to be.

Serious issues of national concern, including such things as electoral reforms, were discussed.

This brought about and entrenched a culture of inclusivity as well as that of consultation.
Represented by a senior minister, the cabinet would look at resolutions and recommendations from the conference and started to see which ones could be implemented depending on the needs, priorities and capacities of the day.

The all party Conference, when it lasted, was yet another example of just how progressive Botswana’s democracy was.

Even as the ruling party would have won the mandate during the General Election, it still saw opposition parties as a part of the system, without which the entire edifice or, should we say, pretensions to democracy would crumble.

It’s not clear why the All-Party Conference has been discontinued.

All we can say is that it had more to do with conveners changing portfolios than a clear directive from the President or from cabinet.

Because the Conference served this country so well we call on all the parties, most especially the ruling party, to consider putting in place structures that could see this noble idea re-introduced.
We say this because we are beginning to sense creeping levels of deep political divisions and polarity that in the long term do not augur well for this country.

The decision by opposition to publicly announce that they do not welcome the visiting President of Malawi is a case in point.

It may well be a statement of political grandstanding by opposition MPs, notably the Member for Lobatse, Nehemiah Modubule, but were the all party conference still alive, a platform would be in place through which the ruling party would engage with opposition on things that unite rather than divide this country.

The President should also consider holding regular consultative meetings with leaders of opposition parties, most especially the Leader of Opposition in Parliament.

We have learnt with shock that since he became LOO, Botsalo Ntuane has not even paid a courtesy call on the President.

This cannot be right.

We remind the two leaders that they are in those positions on behalf of Batswana.
We are well aware of the dynamics that brought Ntuane to his position. But to any Batswana that is immaterial.

What matters is that he is now holding a very important public office and it is impetrative that together with the Head of State he is enabled to better serve Batswana of all creeds, persuasions, political beliefs etc.

Once again, we call on our political leaders to always behave in such a way that will not sow seeds of divisions.

We call for robust and assertive debates.

But we get worried when politicians adopt stances that are clearly aimed at dividing the nation along political lines.

The Head of State, in particular, should be very careful to ensure that in everything he says and or does, nation building is high up on his mind.

This is more so because far better than other politicians, the Head of State has greater following, enjoys greater publicity, is a father and or national figure and many people are likely to copy what they suspect he could be trying to achieve.

In that regard he should never at any time send signals, which could be misconstrued as dividing and or polarizing the nation.

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