On Monday, legislators will convene for the fourth meeting of the first session of the tenth parliament.
This sitting comes against the backdrop of seismic changes in the country’s political landscape.
For the first time since independence, four parties will be represented in the house when legislators from the BMD take up their seats, alongside their BNF and BCP counterparts on the opposition benches.
This development is ripe with opportunity and should herald a new start for our country. Never before have our founding values under so much threat. This clear and imminent danger behoves all democratic forces to coalesce around a shared agenda to roll back the dictatorship that threatens to overrun our nation and undermine the values that characterize us as a people.
It is the hope of many concerned citizens that this exciting political dynamic will culminate in a change of government in 2014. That the BDP has been in power for too long is not in dispute. It required a schism in the ruling party to throw up the real and viable prospect of a change of government.
The formation of the BMD is a necessary reaction to the subversion of internal party democracy within the BDP. The nadir came in Kanye in 2009 when a popularly elected leadership was subjected to machinations and dark intrigue whose aim was to reverse the democratic verdict of the people. From that time on, with abortive attempts along the way to use the courts to restore democracy, the trajectory pointed to a split of the BDP between apologists of authoritarian one man rule and believers in democracy.
There was absolutely no way in which a people reared on a diet of democracy and accommodation of dissension could countenance this right being taken away from them to satisfy the whims of a leader who served at their pleasure.
An entire party could not be held hostage and something had to give. By the time of the historic meeting of March 20th in Mogoditshane, and following thorough interrogation of the state of affairs in the BDP, the answer, in the words of the legendary balladeer, was blowing in the wind.
Without any prompting from the conveners, all those present, save for two people, made an impassioned case for a schism. Besides party matters, Mogoditshane also revealed simmering discontent over the manner in which the country is governed.
This was unprecedented, emanating from the ranks of the ruling party itself because loyalty to the country’s leadership and its actions has always been an article of faith in the BDP. Delegates who gathered in Mogoditshane spoke passionately about the loss of their country and made it clear the only solution was to part ways with the party to which many had committed their time and resources.
Thus the formation of the BMD can also be seen as a response to the vicious assault on civil liberties and fundamental freedoms perpetrated by the BDP government under President Khama. Upon reflection it seems a lifetime from 1st April 2008 when the incumbent administration took office on a wave of goodwill and euphoria.
Two years down the line, much of the glow of that day has been extinguished and the government is embattled as it faces resistance from democratic forces ranging from the trade unions to the opposition and other progressive elements of civil society. We cannot recall any leader who has gone out of his way, without any provocation, to squander goodwill and popularity like Ian Khama has done.
Forty eight years on and after three presidents who understood what it took to manage a political party, we see the BDP rendered paralytic by a historic split. The party is growing unpopular by the day and is unable to stem the flow of defections, of which more are yet to be announced.
This paralysis manifests itself in its inability to even hold a public rally in the absence of its leader. We now bear witness to a party that has suspended its constitution, and operates by leadership fiat because it is in a state of emergency. Tragically, the BDP has abandoned faith in democracy and this has been possible because it is led by an individual whose democratic credentials have always been suspect.
The BDP remains its original self only in name and colours and is now a sanctuary for opportunists and carpet beggars out to make a quick buck from government tenders awarded corruptly. As we file past the cold corpse of a once mighty organization we must applaud the people of Botswana for refusing to pander to tyranny and authoritarianism.
Unlike our less fortunate kin elsewhere on the continent we have been vigilant enough to confront the dictatorship before it assumed full bloom. Driven by an agenda centered around democracy, human rights, rule of law, equal opportunity, civil liberties and zero tolerance for elite corruption, we in the BMD have stood up to be counted. It is tempting to pose the question what the BMD has achieved since its formation.
Still in our infancy we have registered tangible success. Our message of principled resistance has struck a chord with many of our citizens and emboldened them to rise up and lay a claim to the country and its destiny.
This is evidenced by the astonishing numbers we draw at our public meetings, as in the many more who in private, express support for our initiative. We have enthused Batswana, even those that previously had no interest in politics to claim back their country. No less critically we have brought a juddering halt to irrational and reckless governance.
There was a time when this country was beset by wanton extra judicial killings and rule by decree, as typified by formulation of public policy on the hoof. There was a time when the dismissal of civil servants was common place and conducted with sadistic relish outside due process. Our people still live in fear and cannot interact and converse freely.
This phenomenon is alien to Batswana, and completely unacceptable.
However the emergence of the BMD brings hope that tomorrow will bring a better country. Had we stayed in the BDP, the carte blanche enjoyed by this government to trample on our rights and sense of dignity would be in full flourish. By opting for a schism we have rescued Botswana. Those in power, accustomed to paternalistic rule are now fearful that any more instances of irrational governance will invite a backlash in more people coming into the BMD fold.
Such is our impact that some irrational decisions like the threatened increase in the alcohol levy will never see the light of day. The rulers are aware of a defiant spirit coursing through the nation and that more Batswana are becoming conscious of the fact they hold the power to determine their own destiny. But much as we can claim credit for checking irrational governance the BMD is under no illusion that it can make a significant difference on its own. In the two years of the current administration our country has suffered immense damage.
Our international reputation cultivated over many years lies in tatters as detractors dismiss us as another African farce. The BMD cannot by itself salvage our valuable image and reputation. The wastage of public funds on populist pet projects, and on personal gratification cannot be halted by the BMD alone.
All patriots need to come to the fore. Indeed through the unsung efforts of such patriots, corruption and looting, occasioned by a privatization of the state for the benefit of a coterie of relatives and friends in national leadership, is being exposed daily. Against this background saving our country requires a joint effort because anything less will serve to entrench the satus quo.
From the very outset the BMD has made it clear that ours is a national project whose goals can only be attained if all progressive forces find common ground and place as paramount the freedom of the nation over personal or sectarian interest.
We, therefore, commit ourselves to a partnership with other opposition parties, civil society organizations and all patriots opposed to the tyranny of a ruling party that admittedly, achieved so much, but which, in its last dance of death, seeks to take down our beloved country with it.
*Ntuane is the Deputy Chairman of the BMD interim executive committee