I here use the word “interrogate” not in the sense that police and army officers would. I rather use it as a linguists term which means to probe or question ÔÇô yes, I mean without threats, manipulation or violence. The Botswana political landscape is currently very vibrant. People are crossing the floor from the ruling BDP into the newly formed BMD. Some, having been kicked out of the BDP, somehow, by some default, find a place in the welcoming arms of the BMD. These are incredibly interesting times to live in indeed. Some are even predicting that in 2014 the opposition parties have a chance, for the first time, to rule as a coalition, especially if you consider that again for the first time, the leadership of BCP, BMD and BNF promises to be youthful and dynamic by the end of 2010. But 2014 is such a long time from where we are in political terms.
Much can happen which can change what appears to be the prevailing mood of goodwill towards the opposing parties. There could be some scandal that could rock the opposing parties as to tear them asunder. There is obviously another probability; 2014 is so far removed that the current opposition parties have time on their hands to establish themselves as a formidable force ÔÇô let’s add another caveat ÔÇô if snap elections are not called soon.
But it seems that many have been carried away with the current euphoria that many haven’t paused to ask: “What different policies do the opposition parties wish to deliver once they are voted into power?” Let’s put it bluntly: collective anger against the BDP and the Khama government does not constitute policy of any sort. Regardless of how despondent people may be with the current government, to jump into an undefined entity whose policies are poorly defined and understood ÔÇô to put it in the words of that youthful Kgatleng royal ÔÇô “is not wise”. The opposition parties should not be handled with kid gloves. They should be seriously interrogated so that their critique of the government should not be taken as policy. We have heard much about the government’s slow move to introduce the information’s act, its refusal to declare MP’s assets, its introduction of the infamous Media Act and a plethora of other government failures. We may indeed agree with the opposition parties’ position on their accurate identification of the government’s weaknesses; however that does not mean that we agree with them on their own policies. At the heart of BMD’s objection is the way Khama governs the country and the BDP. When you listen to many of the BMD leaders speak, you realise that they are nostalgic of the days of Khama (snr), Masire and Mogae.
What happens when Khama (jnr) leaves the BDP leadership? Will they wish to return to its bosom? Are they a movement of the angry, the frustrated and the bitter ÔÇô however justified that may be ÔÇô or do they possess something redemptively distinct from the BDP? We must never be blind followers that match to the drumbeat of government bashers. We must subject members of the opposition parties to the same scrutiny as the BDP, if not more. I am still yet to hear, clearly articulated, what any of the opposition parties will do markedly different from the BDP. I listened to Duma Boko speak recently on his bid for the BNF leadership. Make no mistake about it ÔÇô I believe Boko will make a far much better leader of the BNF than his opponent. However, in his recent radio interview he dealt in much generalities and he sounded more academic. He argued that the education system under the BNF will be fantastically different from that of the BDP since they believe in education for production. But what does that mean? Will they teach lemon farming, carpentry and bricklaying at primary school? What about tax? Will they lower taxes? What are their economic policies? What is their position on language, culture, the family and religion? Certainly Christians would want to know whether the church will not suffer waves of repression under the new government, if the opposition wins. The church may also be concerned that these young modern leaders may be insensitive to the conservative Setswana society that has a strong Christian influence, and may move swiftly to legalise abortion, homosexuality and prostitution. What will the opposition members do with the deplorable salaries of members of the BDF where the lowest ranking member of the BDF is paid less than a Special Constable in the police?
So to be different from the BDP should not be considered synonymous with progress and opportunity. Opposition parties must form a shadow cabinet that would be ready to govern if given a chance. Currently many questions remain unanswered about how they would govern if they were given a chance. I believe that the position of opposition parties will gain much clarity if the parties were subjected to more scrutiny and not less. The current mood in the country may indeed be in favour of the opposition parties ÔÇô but opposition parties need to go beyond being critics. They need to clearly state their position on many issues of national interest. Currently, their criticism rings louder than their policies and that’s no base on which to form a government.