Guma Moyo is on song. He is talking about democracy, the independence of parliament and the future of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The outspoken Member of Parliament for Tati East is banging the table, bubbling with humor, bits of anger and patches of homegrown philosophy and then suddenly ah! ah!…. The ah! ah! is because of another tring! tring! from his pocket.
The BMD Member of Parliament’s cellular-phone number is the hottest eight digits in town. He is currently the biggest buzz in local politics since he took a stand against the opposition line during his contribution to the national budget debate in parliament.
“No one owns me. I am my own man and I don’t want to be intimidated and threatened by anybody. I have an independent mind and I will address national issues as I see fit.”
Opposition MPs who have so far contributed to the debate all followed the path beaten by Botsalo Ntuane, the Leader of opposition and BMD Member of Parliament for Gaborone West South.
Ntuane has thrown his weight behind workers demand for a salary hike and took issue with government for giving away the lion’s share of construction projects to foreign contractors especially Chinese companies.
Guma on the other hand spoke against increasing civil service salaries: “trade unions are perfectly within their rights to negotiate for salary increases on behalf of their members. My argument however is that government has recently adjusted civil service working hours and this increased government wage bill. In fact if you calculate the adjustment you will realize that the wage bill went up by 10%. I cannot support a union strike action for wage increment. I won’t. I can’t support that. We are a fragile economy. It would affect our economy which is just emerging from a deep recession. It would affect all of us. Sometimes people demand things because they do not have information. As leaders let us encourage both sides of the dialogue and accommodate competing narratives. The budget is a highly sensitive technical document and it should be treated and debated in that manner.”
Speaking about the award of lucrative tenders to Chinese contractors, Guma told the Sunday Standard that “Ntuane’s contribution had a lot of positives. I agree with him on the issue of citizen empowerment which he articulated very eloquently during the debate. My point, however, was that companies come here at our invitation and it does not look right when we seem to be turning around and maligning them. The problem is with our processes not these companies. We should be targeting processes not foreign nationals. Fighting foreign nationals does not address the issue.”
Guma who is continuously banging the table to drive his point home insists that, “there is no tension between me and Ntuane. We at the BMD debate issues frankly and openly. We know that when people listen to us speak in parliament, they are listening to national leaders. I have always insisted on speaking my mind. No Mp- should be beaten into toeing the line. That is part of the reason why we left the BDP. I will continuously agree with government where I feel they are right and differ with them where they are wrong. I will correct my colleagues where I feel they are wrong and support them where I feel they are right. The day I am reduced to a parrot of the party line is the day I will stop being an MP.”
Guma, sees politics as a calling. “I am not a politician, but what you want is not necessarily what life throws your way. However, when there is a calling, you have to answer.”
Is Moyo thinking of jumping the BMD ship? The MP suddenly shifts to the edge of his chair, screws his face, bangs the table and says: “Show me a person who has the guts to question my loyalty to the BMD and I will show you a patient of a mental asylum.”
He reminds the Sunday Standard team that like Ntuane, Wynter Mmolotsi, Kabo Morwaeng, Gilbert Mangole and others he did not voluntarily leave the BDP. He was sacked after he questioned the way things were done at his old political home.
“To me BMD is a political home. I am very happy at the BMD. One thing I like about BMD is that we debate issues. Everyone is free to make a contribution before a party line is adopted.”
He is not only pained but also annoyed by endless insinuations that his loyalty is somehow suspect.
He has noted that every time he opens his mouth either to commend the ruling party or correct his BMD comrades he is accused of disloyalty.
“Together with many other people I have dedicated a lot of my services to the BMD. The party is growing and I am happy. But we should never forget the ideals that brought us together. Do we agree on everything just because we are in opposition? I do not think so,” he quips.
Moyo’s close relationship with President Khama and business partnership with Khama’s confidante Thapelo Olopeng has also set many tongues wagging. And he is painful aware of the gossip.
The rumor mill has simply joined the dots and a sinister outline has emerged: That Guma may be a Trojan horse in the BMD camp who will be welcomed to a lucrative post in the BDP once the enemy forces have been defeated.
Moyo responds with a dismissive smile: “I have known Olopeng before I joined politics. We are family friends and business partners. My relationship with him has nothing to do with politics. Its family, its business, its personal. I regard Rre Kwelagobe as my mentor although he is in the BDP. He visits us very often but this does not compromise his or our political convictions. My father is a member of the BDP and so is my mother. Do we stop being relatives simply because we belong to different political parties.
“As for the president, I relate with him as head of state. The president is not only the president of the BDP, but the president of the whole country. That is why when Motswaledi was being auctioned off, I phoned him. It was because I have respect for him and his office and I did not want a situation where the president is seen to be a vindictive leader. The president is always talking about discipline and dignity and I feel that discipline should be applied in a dignified manner. What the president said to me was that he was not aware that Motswaledi was being auctioned and as far as he was concerned Motswaledi should be given an opportunity to raise money and only is he is unable to pay can he be auctioned off.
Asked about BMD’s chances in the next elections, Moyo again shifts to the edge of his chair, squints his eyes, looks out through the window and then “ehhm, ehhm, It is not going to be easy. We have a mammoth task. It is a 50/50. We are dealing with a totally different market, a totally different generation. I see something similar to a hung parliament. Whoever wins will not win with an absolute majority.” Because of his independent mind, Moyo’s judgment of the country’s political development tends to be more believable.
He is adamant that the days of absolute majority for the BDP are over.
Touted as the BMD Chief financier, their Satar Dada if you want, will Moyo be standing for any executive position especially that of Treasurer in next month’s inaugural congress?
Again he shakes his head: “I am more effective in the midfield where I am allowed to p-lay without any substantive position. In any case I am not excited by positions. Politics is not my best line. I see myself as a community builder than politician,” before adding that he has not yet decided whether to stand or not.
“I hold a strong view that it is not healthy to compete and fight for positions when the organization is still new. What is important is to build this organization. If people are this time around maneuvering and jostling for positions then we should ask ourselves if they are the right people for leadership. What we need to be doing now is building consensus. If I become Treasurer, does BMD have any money for me to be looking after? I don’t think so. Frankly speaking I don’t like the job. My emphasis is on uniting the party.”