Monday, March 1, 2021

“BDP as right-wing as it always has been”

We have read the article by Mr Botsalo Ntuane which appeared in the Sunday Standard of March 29th-4th April 2015. After going through the article one could be deceived ┬áinto believing that Mr Ntuane’s Party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is progressive. He makes what comes across as desperate efforts to position a right-wing organisation on the left. Without mentioning names it is quite clear that he is unhappy with the truth that we (myself on behalf of the Botswana National Front and Cde Gobotswang on behalf of the Botswana Congress Party) mentioned about his party. He feels we are more than cavalier in our comments regarding his party’s admission into the Socialist International and this prompts his response.┬á

Ntuane’s article aims to portray his party as having been stewing too assiduously in its own juice and that it should push harder than it has been to define itself and not leave that to others who see it as ┬á“right wing”, “neo colonialist”. ┬áAs we go along we will say why these definitions of his party are correct though he does not take kindly to them. His article by and large is premised on believe and faith than on a distillation from history and reality. The fatal weakness of Mr Ntuane’s article is that it completely argues that his party espouses social democracy by looking at narrow and shallow definitions of Social Democracy to suit his mission. We cannot just because you give out blankets and food parcels to the poor claim to be a socialist or social democrat. The question that we need to look at Mr Ntuane is the Superstructure and the mode of production. ┬áThe definition of a political party’s position and political outlook is not donated but is earned and defined. You do not conveniently create a check list and then say I qualify. That the Party’s Secretary General perambulated pleading for membership of SI is neither here nor there.┬á

It is also not true that education and health care services are free in Botswana as Ntuane claims. They are paid for in a country that has huge economic inequality.

We are not bitter that the BDP is now a member of Socialist International (SI). Not at all. From the BNF side we would not even have said a thing had the BDP’s Secretary General just celebrated their strange affair with SI without making reference to us. Ntuane makes a number of wild claims about his party’s successes ┬áin ┬áeducation, health, poverty reduction which he then says adequately qualifies BDP for admission to SI.

The latest figures of transition to higher education in this country are appalling. This has been the case over the years. The health sector is another disaster. Poverty and inequality are there for everyone to see. We have long asked that we use the gini-coefficient to measure our progress as a country but this the BDP will not have any of that because it will be exposed. This approach will show the huge disparities in the economy. 

But who is this BDP? One may ask. The BDP is essentially a neo-colonialist party that was formed to counter the Pan Africanist Botswana People’s Party. The British and other western powers were under pressure from the United States of America (USA) to adopt other methods of colonisation so as to allow the USA to also penetrate their spheres of influence. Remember it had just tilted the outcome of the second world war in their favour and it had also come up with the Marshall Plan to shore up their economies which were bleeding as a result of their involvement in the second world war. The USA felt it deserved a prize for this help. It also wanted to grow its sphere of influence but with the rest of the world divided between the European Powers, it had to loosen their grip and influence as it wanted markets for its products. After the second world war a lot of countries gained independence. Even stubborn and poor colonial masters like Portugal had to let go. The independence of some of these countries particularly in Africa influenced the struggles of other African nations. Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana assisted the Botswana People’s Party a lot. They campaigned along land issues and fought hard against racism. They radicalised the country’s politics and introduced trade unionism. This worried the colonial masters.

They wanted to give Batswana independence but felt that the BPP was too radical. Sir Peter Fawcus brought Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire together to form the BDP. They were also linked up with some European Batswana. They received a lot of backing from the white settlers and the British because of what they stood for.

With the BDP in place ready to protect their interests, the British were ready to leave. That’s the BDP for you!
Now coming back to Nr Ntuane’s article which claims that the BDP played an active role in the struggle I say, that’s not completely true. Geography to a large extent played a role in our “help”. ┬áThe African National Congress (ANC) has been magnanimous and quite forgiving. Mangosuthu Buthelezi was acknowledged for his contribution to the struggle, Not left out was Margaret Thatcher who once labeled Cde Nelson Mandela terrorist. Of course the BDP government has also been thanked acknowledged. And they are excited.┬á

The impression that is created by the BDP is that we are jealous of the party’s relationship with the BDP, which of course is not true. In 1994 in a statement issued by the party we said and we say it today, that the assertion is grossly misinformed, misleading and simply ridiculous because the history of Southern Africa is the history of conflict between the liberation movement and their natural allies on the one hand; and the colonialist forces and their indigenous agents and disciples on the other. Our comradely relationship has never been in doubt.┬á

By contrast, we said further, that the BDP, having emerged as a fraternity club of the colonial settler community and their conservative and opportunist indigenous disciples and therefore haunted by the grave legacy of age-long collaboration with the enemies of the liberation movement, would certainly have some cause to make overtures of friendship and appeasement to the liberation movement. During the Wankie campaign, Chris Hani together with some comrades who were facing heaving artillery fire from Smith Regime soldiers crossed into Botswana  to regroup but were detained in Kasane by the BDP government.  Other members of Umkonto we Sizwe were detained in the country. The BDP government went further and stated repeatedly that it will not allow the country to be used a spring board for attacks against its neighbours. We wonder where it expected the MK to fight. From the air? South Africa shares its longest border with us and naturally we occupied a strategic position in terms of the MK incursions into South Africa.

The BDP did not end there. It banned publications of liberation movements. This was done through┬á section 49 of the Panel Code entitled Prohibited Publications Order. The affected publications included the ANC’s Sechaba Magazine, the Voice of Africa and the Assegai (Spear) associated with the Pan African Congress (PAC),┬á the Communist associated with the ANC and the South African Communist Party. Anti-Imperialist publications of Trade Union organisations like the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Executive Secretariat of the Organisation of Solidarity of Peoples of Africa, Pan African Student Union were also banned through government instruments number 67 and 78 of 1969 .

The party went further and its publication┬ápublished an anti-liberation pamphlet entitled “Malomatsebe a Domkrag”, “styled Beware of Wolves in Sheep Skins”. On page 14 it said, “.He (Koma- the then BNF leader) and other hired communists agents like him are working to bring about an armed clash between the countries (western) listed above and the so called liberation movements. We may wake up one morning to find ourselves dead and captives. It happened in Cuba and Tibet”.

In 1967 the BDP government delegation protested at the OAU about the activities of freedom fighters who were destroying “happy relationship with our neigbours”- Daily News no 2034 of Monday, September 10th 1967. ┬á
The BDP government was one of the last countries to recognise the MPLA government. It took the University of Botswana students strike influenced by the BNF to push the BDP to do so. 

With this track record of collaboration with the enemies of the liberation movements and the fact that their honeymoon with the colonialist forces is over, it would not be surprising for the BDP, out of shame and frustration, to make all overtures and advances to patch up with the liberation movement. The BDP is certainly trapped in a dilemma that their own historical actions helped to create and from which there is no easy or obvious escape. They would even attempt to purchase friendship with the liberation movement. 
 
The claim that the BDP can now without reference to this history, claim to have been at the fore front of the struggle, no matter how hard Ntuane rhetorically cloth it, defeats logic and the truth. It is also shocking that he believes they are social democrats. His intervention is simplistic and imprecise. There are echoes yes of Social Democracy but this are completely watered down and cannot stand the test. This is the main reason why the party does not see itself as being social democratic. This half attempt at self definition is  done for convenience.

We are talking about a party that has excluded its people from the economy. They remain superfluous actors, unheard and unseen in the wings of a great drama, which is to be completed without any call being made upon them and the party dares to define itself as social democratic.
 
*Moeti  Mohwasa is BNF Information and Publicity Secretary   

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