First, let me remind the reader that in the first quarter of 2007, I wrote that the next two years would be the most arduous for the left within BNF. Events that have unfolded in the past year confirm and validate my analogy.
I also pointed out then that the present leadership crisis besieging the BNF, epitomised by the BNF Presidency, would not dissipate as his political blunders will become norm political practice within the BNF. However, we need to go beyond Moupo as the nation now knows what he represents ÔÇô a tragic betrayal of the mass and progressive movement within the BNF and an unbridled collaboration with the BDP.
If in doubt, I implore the reader to ask the following questions as we seek to understand Moupo’s tragic-comic leadership: since when has the leader of the BNF received such kid glove treatment from his adversaries in and outside Parliament? Why has the BDP loose cannons remained so tongue tied with regard to Moupo sloppy leadership and the BNF. Clearly, it is either they do not take him seriously or he is part of their grand plan to annihilate this organization through the most politically dubious means.
I write this piece because, as Che Guevara puts it, “silence is argument carried by others”. For some time, I have been agonizing as I saw some of my leading comrades in the BNF fall by the way and we, their fellows kept quiet, or pretended that we did not see or we did not care. My anguish arises from the fact that despite their vilification by the bourgeois press in this country, these comrades have the interest of the party at heart. To put this point in perspective, let me quote extensively from the Sunday Standard, which admits that Moupo is a liability to the BNF and that the BNF as an institution will outlive him.
“The tragedy is that however hard I look through their ranks there is at least for now no natural replacement for Otsweletse Moupo. The most credible person inside the BNF today is their deputy, Olebile Gaborone. But there is one shadow that Gaborone has to deal with first. The fact that he has in the past consorted with the BDP makes him unacceptable to an ill-disciplined left of the BNF. These are anarchists domiciled in their little eccentric academic closets at the University of Botswana but without whose cooperation it would seem no sanity can prevail in the BNF. These are the communists who think the BNF is their fiefdom to manipulate and terrorise (Sunday Standard, 14-20 September 2008).
When I read this statement, it sounded like the one made by P.W. Botha during the heydays of Apartheid or Ronald Reagan ranting about “communists in his backyard” ÔÇô “Eccentric”, “communists”, “anarchists.” This is the usual armoury of right-wingers, meant to instill a sense of fear. It represents what some people term the dumbing of politics.
The voter is rendered a child. There is that monster that is always lurking in the dark ÔÇô communists or “Gogo” in Setswana. Truly, the same old story of the 1970s/80s reverberates here. But what always baffles me is that conservative elements in our society, in their different shades, always project their views as devoid of ideology. They position themselves as highly neutral and objective.
On the other hand, those on the left of the political spectrum are victims of their ideological closets. Ideology is their blinders that prevent them from facing and seeing reality as it is; reality as projected through liberal or neo-conservative lens. This is what always emerges in most of our local papers.
I also think that it is an insult to BNF members to suggest that an organization as big as the BNF with such a pool of individuals, cannot find a replacement for its battered leader. To me this is purely nonsensical and illogical. Similar assertions were made about the late Kenneth Koma. But then, this could have been justified by the fact that Koma had established a strong personality cult. Koma also had a long leadership history in the BNF and was never challenged in that position for many years. Moupo possesses none of these traits.
It also sounds weird to suggest that Gaborone is the most credible person within the BNF. The reader is not informed of those qualities that make Olebile Gaborone a credible replacement of Moupo. The fact of the matter is that Gaborone falls within the conservative element within the BNF ÔÇô and that is what Spencer Mogapi is selling. Yet he does not come out clean on this fact. If this is seen as offensive, so be it. The BNF is a consortium of all sorts of people with different ideological orientations. Stating this fact must not be interpreted as a misnomer, unless we want to entertain false pretences in the name of comradeship.
A couple of weeks ago as we were reminiscing about a range of things during our school days with one of my peers, Moupo’s leadership emerged as a subject and this bloke was quick to remind me how we eulogised him during his tussle with Koma and Woto. After a protracted argument over changed circumstances, he then summed it by quoting Macbeth; “I am in blood. Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er”.
In other words, there is so much damage that Moupo’s has done that, to him, there is no going back. He will perish with the organization and everything that stands in front of him. He no longer has any credibility to talk of ÔÇô he is just Moupo the character with politically soiled hands. Thus so many have to fall before he succumbs. When a friend said this, I could not help but shake my head in acknowledgement.
Unfortunately, this reality has not dawned for the mass followers of the BNF. For those who understand this tragedy, they are clinging on a false hope of surviving in this house of cards in this year’s elections. But the reality is that no sensible voter can cast a vote for an organization that is in total disarray while its leader is battling with a denial of ineptitude.
It must, however, be stated that, the talk about Moupo and his replacement is no longer relevant. We are at a stage where we should recognize him for what he is – a footnote in the history of the BNF. Therefore, our energies, expelled or un-expelled, suspended or not suspended, should be channeled towards assembling a new leadership. The political clowns have done their stage work and squandered all the opportunities that the BDP blunders presented.
The Moupo, Khan, Sengwaketse, Mohwasa axis of tomfoolery is no longer relevant. Therefore, we should cease to waste our time talking about it. What is essential now is a grand counter-mobilisation strategy that looks beyond 2009. Certainly, if the BNF is to get into the 2009 elections with the present leadership, its members and well wishers are in for a rude awakening. But it is never too late.
There are new openings that provide opportunities for progressive politics ÔÇô the crumbling of the neo-liberal induced economic boom as represented by the present crisis of capitalism, in which the myth of an unregulated market economy has exploded. There is a round about turn. It is now suggested that the state should intervene to save capital. There is talk of the New “New Deal”. But these things are not going to come cheap for the workers and those on the margins of the world economy.
This is where a radical leadership fits as we are going to see a massive assault on workers’ rights. The new BNF needs a radical leadership and not individuals who will be preoccupied with balancing their economic interests with those of the workers, the unemployed and the poor. It needs someone who is ready to reverse its gravitation towards reformist politics. It needs someone who is unapologetic about the party’s anti-BDP political stance. Otherwise, there is no reason for its existence. The motto of that leadership should be “a return to our true progressive politics”. Anyone who is opposed or uncomfortable with this view should join the BDP or its prototype in the opposition.
*Dr Polelo is a Lecturer at the University of Botswana