A few months ago I condemned, in this column, opposition youth leagues for viewing their ruling counterparts as enemies. I reminded them that in Botswana we do not have political enemies. We only have political rivals or opponents. My condemnation was sparked by the refusal of opposition youth leagues to honor an invitation to engage in social football games with the ruling party’s youth. I still maintain that such behavior displayed immaturity on their part and was uncalled for.
A few weeks prior to the BDP’s 50th anniversary celebration, I found myself yet again having to defend the BCP and BMD’s acceptance of the BDP’s invitation to the celebration. I saw absolutely nothing wrong with opposition parties dining and wining with the ruling party, atleast on that rare and special occasion. Again, my argument was based on my belief that in Botswana we do not have political enemies.
Unfortunately the BDP, with the help of the media, peed on the noble and brotherly gesture extended them by the opposition parties. I repeat, there is absolutely nothing wrong with opposition parties attending ruling party functions and vice versa. However, the problem arises when such attendances are used for political expediency by the hosts .That is exactly what happened in the case of BMD Vice President Botsalo Ntuane’s invitation to the BDP gig over the weekend. Instead of educating the nation on the importance of Ntuane’s attendance, which shows political tolerance in our country, the media made it look like there was something fishy about it. The media concentrated and dedicated much time and space on Ntuane’s invitation as if he was the only expected guest. Little was reported on other high profile guests from outside the country. The media never attempted to interrogate BDP’s relationship with other parties from outside the country but only focused on Ntuane’s relationship with the BDP. Not only did they report about his invitation but they made it look suspicious. The situation was not helped by the fact that the same media has relentlessly and vigorously reported on his alleged impending defection to the ruling party. Now with his acceptance of the BDP’s invitation, the media ‘invited’ the readers to connect the dots. I understand Ntuane’s predicament.
While he was busy assuring the BDP of his attendance through a radio interview he had on the evening of Wednesday, his party’s National Executive Committee was at the same time deliberating on the BDP’s invitation where the decision to rescind an earlier resolution to honor the invitation was made. Ntuane would later issue a statement that he will now attend in his personal capacity as former BDP Executive Secretary. Ntuane’s itchiness to attend the BDP celebrations, though understandable, was not compelling. Ntuane put himself under unnecessary pressure. I’m not privy to the reasons that prompted the BMD NEC to rescind their earlier decision to attend but I can only suspect the events that prevailed after their acceptance and before the celebration must have had everything to do with their decision.
You see, politics is all about strategy and the BDP know that too well. The BDP have realized how their coziness with Ntuane drives the opposition apart and they are utilizing that realization to the max. Ntuane met President Khama in his capacity as leader of opposition and opposition parties made noise about it. For the BDP it is hip hip hooray when opposition parties fight amongst themselves. Khama realized that opposition parties are resentful of his closeness with Ntuane and that is exactly why he went on to attend Ntuane’s wedding so as to further cause discomfort amongst opposition parties. The BDP is aware that speculation is rife that it’s only a matter of time before Ntuane joins them and they are using everything at their disposal to fuel such speculation and bring some credence to it. For the opposition, the thought of losing Ntuane to the BDP gives them sleepless nights and this makes the BDP happy. Opposition can do without Armstrong but Ntuane is too arms-strong and legs-strong to be lost. The BDP is fully aware that the BMD membership is confused about Ntuane’s true standing in the party and this explains all these propitiatory gestures they shower Ntuane with.
While Ntuane contends he attended the BDP celebrations in his personal capacity, he should bear in mind that people will always look at him and what he does not just as Botsalo Ntuane the person but the BMD Vice President and leader of opposition. You see, there are positions that you can, unfortunately, never detach from your personal dealings. When a leader is involved in a sex scandal, even as he would have engaged in such sexual acts in his personal capacity, his position will always accompany the accusations .That is why even as Ntuane attended in his personal capacity, people were made to know of his position as BMD VP and leader of opposition.
Ntuane says he attended in his personal capacity but what he should bear in mind is, those were not personal but organizational celebrations. That is, those celebrations were different from, say Fidelis Molao’s birthday, Khama’s wedding (God permit) or Merafhe’s funeral (God forbid). It would be discourteous of Ntuane to turn down an invitation to attend a BDP member’s wedding but there should be nothing wrong with not attending the party’s events. Sending a congratulatory message would have been enough in the prevailing circumstances.
Just a few days before the celebrations, BDP recruited members from Ntuane’s party and paraded them before the public where they used demeaning and degrading labels to describe Ntuane and his colleagues. If the BDP can encourage its newly acquired members to be discourteous towards Ntuane and his colleagues, why should Ntuane and his colleagues suck up to the BDP? Ntuane argues that his current political affiliation cannot alter the facts of his history with the BDP. Very true. And Ntuane must understand that even if he didn’t attend the BDP celebrations, the facts of history would still not have been altered in any way. Ntuane was not invited to go and give a lecture on BDP history and as such his presence didn’t confirm any unknown aspects of the BDP history. Ntuane says he felt compelled to attend because it was drawn to his attention that all those who have occupied the office of executive secretary have been similarly invited. This is not reason enough because of all the previous BDP executive secretaries, only Ntuane has been expelled from the party while the rest remain BDP members and as such his circumstances are very different from all others. Infact, by virtue of their membership, all other previous executive secretaries would still have attended even without invitations.
Ntuane says his historic association with the BDP made him accept their invitation. In here we need to remind ourselves that Gomolemo Motswaledi was BDP Secretary General, a position much more senior than that ever held by Ntuane. I don’t think Ntuane would take it kindly if his wife insisted on attending a former boyfriend’s birthday party on reasons she has some history with the former boyfriend. Ntuane therefore, while exercising his independent thoughts, must take into consideration the feelings of his current ‘lover’, being the BMD members and the NEC. Ntuane must avoid making decisions that have the potential to portray him as sanctimonious. That said, I wish to acknowledge that there comes a time when we apply our hearts and not minds to some issues. I also wish Batswana could understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong in opposition and ruling party members sitting at the same table and, as Ntuane puts it, breaking bread. We surely don’t want a situation where opposition parties will end up refusing to observe the country’s independence celebrations just because the BDP is the ruling party.