Saturday, May 28, 2022

Motswaledi’s death vindicates those calling for more formalized inter-political party dialogue

Early this week the country woke up to tragic news of the passing of Gomolemo Motswaledi. Motswaledi was an opposition political stalwart, who was an embodiment of hope for many people in the country ÔÇô including those that were not members of his political formations. He was the Secretary General of the Umbrella for Democratic Change and also the President of Botswana Movement for Democracy. It is worth stating that Motswaledi’s political career started at and took shape at the ruling Botswana Democratic Party where he rose through the ranks until he became Secretary General before he had a seismic fallout with President Ian Khama. The rest is history.

Motswaledi was a likeable character who while holding steadfastly to his convictions also deliberately steered away from public internecine divisions. And this is not in any way to downplay his personal weaknesses. While he suffered personal misery at the hands of many people he had grown to call his buddies at the BDP he still retained personal relations with many at his former party. This is because by his nature politics was not all there was to life. To him people were more important than politics. And this drove him to reach across the political divide so that he could establish friendships with people wherever he could see them. We take it that is what he would have wanted to see reflected in the arrangements following his death. But that has unfortunately not been the case. Instead his death has corralled a kind of polarity as never before seen in our recent political history. He must be saddened wherever he is that as has been the case with his life, his death is a source of such division among the people he liked all in equal measure.

In the wake of his death other political leaders from other political parties outside his have clearly been at pains to show sensitivity on one hand while also maintaining another eye on the fact that they do not want lend Motswaledi’s party an easy shoo-in victory in the elections due in two months. With all public sentiment very clearly behind Motswaledi especially because of the manner that he died, it has been a very uncomfortable dilemma for these political leaders. Watching them playing the role of spectators can hardly be a good sight for anyone with a claim of patriotism. Under the circumstances the best that these leaders or their parties could do has been to send messages of condolences; some clearly doing so grudgingly because they are wary that they can be accused of insensitivity which alone can become a determining factor in the elections.

Some of the messages are aimed at Motswaledi’s family and friends (and there is nothing wrong with that) while deliberately excluding the thousands who make up Motswaledi’s political followers. To Motswaledi’s political followers this may sound infinitely offensive. And from the look of things, some with Motswaledi’s UDC members are already seeing an opening to seize an opportunity to get even with their departed leader’s long time detractors. It is in the nature of politics. But that is in the nature of politics. But in our instance, the situation points to a much more ingrained pattern of underlying polarity that characterizes not just our politics but also our society. When a key national figure such as Motswaledi dies, surely all Batswana including those that would have politically differed with him during his lifetime should feel comfortable enough to participate in the mourning processes without risks of being accused of shedding crocodile tears. That can of course only happen if are our polity is not as polarized to the extent that it currently is.

It should be a source of concern that as we speak some of our national political leaders are unable to play a meaningful role in preparations for Motswaledi’s sending off because no structures exist between political parties to interact even as they continue to differ. Not for the first time we call for a more formalized inter-party form, even if it is on an adhoc basis to bring together our political parties together for the sake of the nation. Such a platform would be handy when personal relations are none existent or have collapsed as is currently the case among our political leaders. It is not the first time we have called for such a forum. Unfortunately we have been vindicated by a very sad moment in our history that we would not want to use as a moment of triumphalism.

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