Today marks the final episode in the series to launch the BDP’s parliamentary and local government candidates for the forthcoming general elections.
I am particularly happy that I perform this function in Okavango, a constituency with which I have a long association since my early days in the party.
Anyone familiar with the political dynamics of our country knows that this constituency is among the most volatile and unpredictable. It is in order, therefore, to congratulate Hon Vister Moruti, his team of councilors and democrats for a job well done in wresting Okavango from the opposition in the 2004 general elections.
That we managed to regain control of a constituency that had been in opposition hands since 1984, and which we had previously held in 1979 is a testimony to our resilience and strength of character.
It is my ardent expectation that come October, every democrat and all party structures will rise to the challenge of defending this hard won constituency. A defeat will make it even harder to win it back in 2014.
Throughout my tenure as Secretary General, I always took the view that difficult areas such as Okavango need all the help they can get. Owing to the socio-economic conditions of the area, a lot of assistance must be extended to enable our candidates and structures to perform to their optimal best.
I can assure you confidently that such assistance will be forthcoming, thereby ensuring we exceed the impressive showing of 2004.
Of the ten wards in this constituency, we presently hold seven. In line with our objective to attain 70% of the nationwide popular vote, in respect of Okavango we must start by winning the three wards held by the opposition. Given your resilience and fortitude, I have no doubt that this feat is possible.
My fellow democrats, I am also minded to inform you that my presence here could possibly be my final act as party chairman. In terms of our constitution, our party will be going to congress next week in Kanye. The purpose of the congress is to, among others, evaluate our preparedness for the October polls.
In addition, democrats will exercise their right to elect a leadership of their choice, which will be responsible for the management of party affairs for the next two years.
For the past few weeks, the Central Committee elections seem to be the only matter on the party and even national agenda. I am not sure if this should be the case. However, that being the case, I have, in common with other democrats, offered myself to be elected as chairperson.
My decision to run for the position has evoked a lot of controversy in some quarters. Some democrats, opposed to my choice, have subjected me to a torrent of abuse and expletives.
To say I am not pained by this conduct towards me would be an act of dishonesty on my part.
Those who have chosen to crucify me have also hurt those closest to me. They have hurt even those with whom I am not acquainted. Throughout this campaign of abuse and vilification, I have chosen to remain silent, and no matter the gravity of provocation, I have never retaliated in kind. I have chosen this road of what some have called “righteousness” because this party belongs to us all.
If today I attack a fellow party member in public, how then can I hold up the same individual tomorrow as a model democrat worthy of the trust of the nation?
As a party, we can only achieve success if we pool our diverse talents for the benefit of the collective. The BDP is blessed with orators, door to door canvassers, choristers, intellectuals and activists of every kind.
We need each and every one of them on board for the general election effort. This diversity of talent must not be distracted by the congress elections to the extent of losing focus. By hurling insults and wrestling in the mud of the public arena, we run the danger of losing focus.
No matter how passionate we feel about the forthcoming congress, every democrat must show restraint if only for the sake of the party. If we allow our personal prejudices to inform our public utterances, then we will have nobody to blame , but ourselves, if the image of the party suffers irreparable damage in the eyes of the nation.
Next to an effective organizational structure, we have always maintained a competitive edge over the opposition because throughout the life of our party, we have carefully nurtured our public image. The mutual respect and civility traditionally exhibited over the years by democrats has generated substantial goodwill for us.
The unfolding spectacle where our party is standard fare on the airwaves and in the media is a source of dismay.
The conduct of some of our colleagues runs contrary to established norms, rules and code of conduct of our party.
However, those of us whose levels of tolerance are high should not exacerbate the situation through actions that add fuel to the fire. Hence all those who have sought to diminish my stature through malice, distortion and abuse have my forgiveness.
In turn, I once again reiterate my appeal to them to think about the party when they launch their next broadside at my person. They must know that even when Kwelagobe is no longer around, the party will remain in existence.
But what are the circumstances that led us to this unsavoury state of affairs? Though I have explained it before, it is vital to restate that at the annual party national council held on 28th March 2009, the party president, His Excellency Lt Gen SKI Khama proposed that, in order to promote broad-based leadership, those members of the Central Committee holding executive positions, and serving concurrently as cabinet ministers should choose, ahead of the July congress between running for party office and staying in cabinet.
In support of the proposal, I opted to forego the material benefits of cabinet and remain with the party by offering myself for the position in question.
I need to again restate for the record that colleagues in a similar situation were granted the opportunity to choose. As indeed was their right, and as dictated by personal, political and other circumstances, they chose to opt for cabinet.
I would have thought that with everyone having made their choice, we would proceed with our different pursuits.
Alas, and sadly, that has not been the case.
The bottom line is that, in concert with other democrats, I am merely exercising my rights under the party constitution. Since the age of 19, I have devoted my entire life to the BDP. When presented with the choice between staying in cabinet and serving the party, I had no conflicting emotions.
Faced with making a choice I followed my inner conscience and made my decision.
Since 1962 when I joined the BDP at its formation, I have consistently applied myself to the party’s cause. I have done this not for personal advancement. We must bear in mind we serve in all structures at the pleasure of democrats who are the custodians and guardians of the party. All of us who offer ourselves for party office are subject to no 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 for other positions, more prestigious and materially rewarding than cabinet minister.
It has never been my ambition to be president or vice president. In the autumn of my career, I still have no interest in those positions hence my commitment to be of service to those who occupy them.
That said, every party member has a duty to serve as enjoined by the constitution. Consequently, if democrats deem it so at Kanye, all those elected in their individual capacity shall join hands to discharge their constitutional mandate. Mischievous rumours that I will not serve under the president if elected as chairperson should be ignored. 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 with utmost loyalty to the best of my abilities.
Equally with our current president, I have and will continue to serve him to the best 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 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.
With all eyes on the national congress, sight must not be lost of the special congress that will take place on Friday 17th July, still in Kanye. As per our constitution delegates will elect the party’s presidential candidate for the general elections. I have been informed that the secretariat has written to the relevant structures outlining the procedure for nomination.
Since the introduction of a two term presidency, our position as the BDP is that every incumbent must serve their two full terms. As a party, we elected former president Festus Mogae as our presidential candidate on two occasions in 1998 and in 2003. He was able to complete both terms. The same goes for the incumbent president.
He must complete his two terms.
Therefore it is imperative that each single one of the twelve regional structures should nominate His Excellency President SKI Khama on 17th July.
I have attempted to lay out the set of circumstances that precede us as we head to Kanye.
In offering myself for party chairman, let me state that my candidature is predicated on the supremacy of the constitution and consolidation of inner party democracy. It is for democrats to determine if the values and principles I espouse, together with other democrats who are up for election, are worthy of their support. Upon being elected I commit myself to serve with the president and any of my colleagues whom delegates would judge worthy of their respective positions.
Indeed that is how it should be in a democratic organization founded on the constitution.
In the series of public rallies and indoor meetings I have addressed over the past two months, I have always emphasized the sanctity of the party and its constitution without fail.
Since 1962, my abiding obligation is to the party and the constitution. Forty seven years later, I still stand by the party and its constitution.
It is on this basis, and nothing else, that you must judge me when you make your choice in Kanye.
In conclusion, I can only say to democrats: my fate is in your hands.