Keynote address by Party Chairman, DK Kwelagobe at the launch of Kanye South candidates for the 2009 general elections.
Date: 20 June 2009
As a government, we have been able to deliver the national development agenda because of the unequivocal mandate we have enjoyed from Batswana since 1965.
A healthy mandate enables us to focus on the correct policies and programmes for the betterment of the lot of our people. Parties that assume office on a shaky mandate find it difficult to discharge the function of effective governance.
For as long as this country confronts challenges that require able and visionary leadership, we cannot allow our mandate to come into question. There is no doubt that our performance in the 2004 elections was disappointing for a party of our pedigree and track record.
Come October, we must rectify the situation.
Our stated aim is to garner 70% of the popular vote. We also intend to wrest many of the constituencies held by the opposition whose presence in the legislature has not brought much dividend to the electorate.
At local government level, Batswana, particularly in the urban centers, complain about inadequate service delivery because of deficient representation. We have a duty to put things right.
However, for this to happen, we must approach the general elections with a unity of purpose. I remain confident that we can do better if we all apply ourselves assiduously to the task at hand.
In saying this, I appeal to party members not to allow the forthcoming July congress to detract them from the greater priority, which is the attainment of a healthier mandate in the general elections.
It is imperative, therefore, to maintain a climate of civility and stability in the party in full knowledge that after democrats install a new management team we all have to work together to advance the interests of the party.
In other words, there is life after the July congress.
I say this because our constitution enjoins all those elected to party office to work together for the party.
As servants of the people, we cannot choose with whom to work. It is the people, who are the guardians and custodians of the party through its constitution, who determine which individual members should, as a collective, lead the organization.
It is disconcerting, therefore, that certain people purporting to be democrats have lately been peddling the rumor that if I am returned to the party chairmanship I will not work harmoniously with the party president.
This rumor has no foundation and, in fact, undermines not only my integrity but that of the president as well. This is the handiwork of individuals pursuing an ulterior motive and should be dismissed.
The president and I respect the constitution.
Much as we may have differences of opinion, as indeed is normal in a mass organization, both of us are subordinate to the constitution and if democrats deem it so at the Kanye congress, we shall join hands to discharge our constitutional mandate.
The architects of the rumour fail to state why I won’t be willing to work with the incumbent president when I have served under the leadership of three of his predecessors. Indeed, I have served them to the best, and let it be said, to the limit of my abilities.
Equally with our current president I have, and will continue to serve him to the best and to the limit of my abilities. I am aware that similar insinuations have been made regarding other democrats who have declared notice to contest at the July congress.
Without any fear of contradiction, I must state it for the record that not a single one of them has expressed any reservations about serving the party with President SKI Khama as our leader.
Just to demonstrate how baseless this rumour is, on the Friday of 17th July, the BDP will meet in a special congress at which, as per our constitution, delegates will elect the party’s presidential candidate for the general elections. I, like every single delegate at that congress will nominate President Khama for the position because, in our tradition, every president must serve their two full terms.
Having thus disposed of this matter, the following day we will go into our national congress, which will culminate in delegates electing the rest of the Central Committee to serve with the president.
In this context, the rumour doing the rounds serves no useful purpose, except to cause alarm and suspicion. I wish to state for the record that President SKI will be returned to his position following which a new Central Committee shall be elected. That done both will then takes the party to the general elections.
By now, you are familiar with the reasons for my decision to put myself up for the position of party chairman. The bottom line is that, in concert with other democrats, I am merely exercising my rights under the party constitution to offer myself to the service of a party I love and to which I have devoted my entire life since the age of 19.
When presented with a choice between staying in cabinet and serving the party I chose the only environment I am most comfortable with; the party. I am a man of humble means and certainly cannot thumb my nose at the benefits that accrue from a cabinet position. But when compelled to make a choice I had to listen to my inner conscience and exercise my courage of conviction to take this step.
I have been in the service of this party since 1962. At all times I have applied myself to its cause not for personal advancement and material gain, but to serve my nation.
If I were a power hungry individual as the media purport, I would have long made a bid, given my long association with the party for other positions, more prestigious and materially rewarding than cabinet minister.
It has never been my ambition to be president or vice president. Now in the autumn of my political career , I still have no interest in those positions, hence my commitment to be of service to those who occupy them.
Allow me to also reiterate my views regarding the issue of empowering more female democrats to assume positions of authority in the party.
Having been Secretary General of our organization for a considerable number of years, I am most acutely aware of the pivotal role played by the female constituency in the success of the party. More than any social group, it is women who have shown a more enduring affinity to the BDP.
They have been more receptive to our message because they possess the honesty to see how life affirming how policies are.
As a result, any effort to improve their political situation is commendable. This, though, must not be done to the detriment of other party members who enjoy equality under the constitution. Moreover for such empowerment initiatives to work, we may need to review our key documents such as the party constitution to provide for certain positions to be held by women. In that way, the relevant constitutional provisions would be binding on all party members.
In my view this should be the course of action to pursue.
In the interim however, democrats must be permitted to elect to the party leadership those activists whom in their judgment can serve the party best.
As has been the case in the past, a veritable mix of capable men and women have always come to the fore.
Kanye should be no different. I am certain delegates representing our various party structures will elect capable men and women to take the party forward.
Articulated differently, a leadership must never be imposed on a democratic organization. Rather, the membership must determine the choice of men and women to lead. Anything to the contrary will suffocate inner party democracy.
As democrats, we must not lose sight of the immense historical role played by our party in inculcating a democratic culture within the continent. Our continent considers us a beacon of democracy. This in full knowledge that without internal democracy in the party that has been synonymous with Botswana’s system of governance, we would not be the poster child that everyone looks up to. Any regression on our part, real or imagined, will not only erode our democratic credentials but constitute a betrayal of the many in the continent who aspire to our values because they are exemplary and have stood the test of time.
However we choose to run our party is not a localized matter, but an issue of interest, and even anxiety to those who use us as a benchmark.
The significance of the Kanye congress with respect to consolidating internal party democracy cannot be underplayed.
Let me also appeal to democrats to exercise restraint and self control in the remaining period before Kanye.
I say this because personally I have been subjected to vilification by some colleagues.
My only sin is to exercise my democratic right under our constitution to offer my services to the party. Such attacks run contrary to established norms, rules and code of conduct of our party. In situations like this , other party members who take exception to such behavior may be tempted to respond in kind. In the heat of political exchange the impulsive reaction would be to fight fire with fire.
No matter how justified we think we are, it can never be correct to attack a fellow democrat in public.
My appeal is that no democrat, no matter how provoked, should descend to such a disreputable level because we remain democrats and still have to work hand in hand after the dust of the Kanye congress has settled.
A further note of caution is that all party structures must adhere to the constitution in the delegate selection process. We have already received reports of some functionaries violating the rules in an attempt to manipulate the process to favour certain individuals. When we talk of the sanctity of the party constitution, it need be known that this principle applies without exception. Let us not invoke the constitution when it suits us and discard it when it does not. We must go to congress as a united party, and return even more united because there is greater challenge ahead of us, which is the attainment of a healthier mandate in October.