We all know that opposition parties in Botswana have failed dismally for four and half decades to dethrone the ruling BDP. They always contest national elections as fragmented and disorganized entities thus making it easy for the BDP to win. The circumstances that forced the BNF to give birth to the BCP make it very difficult if not impossible for the two parties to cooperate and contest elections as a united force. Their relationship has always been acrimonious and there is nothing to suggest that things will change in the near future. Theirs is just a clash of egos. But the reality on the ground is that they need each other to dethrone the BDP.
Another sad reality is that any form of cooperation between the BNF and the BCP cannot remove the BDP from power. They need the BMD and the BPP to do that. Excluding the BMD from the political equation is not a viable option. It can be disastrous. That is why when the idea of the umbrella project was mooted at the beginning of the year, people who believe in the existence of a vibrant democratic system got very excited.
Despite denials by all those who are directly involved in the umbrella project, it is becoming increasingly clear that the opposition bloc is just about to implode one more time. If the project fails, the BDP will retain state power and will continue taking the country in the wrong direction.
Political immaturity, mistrust, intolerance and arrogance on the part of our opposition youth leagues can be presented as part of the reason why the umbrella project is about to fail. When Kagiso Ntime was called to order by the BNF leaders for writing a letter to the newspapers dismissing the umbrella project, he ran to all the private radio stations and made unsavory remarks about the project and the leaders of his party.
According to Ntime, the BNF leadership is chastising him for writing an academic paper. What academic paper is he referring to? What I saw in the newspapers was just a letter with no theoretical framework and therefore cannot pass for an academic paper even in a bogus academic journal. His letter can, at best, be viewed as a progress report presented by someone who was using inside information to discredit the project.
There is a huge difference between letters to the Editor and academic papers. The things that I write in this column can never be mistaken for academic papers. For Ntime and the BNF Youth League to now turn around and claim that what he wrote was an academic paper amounts to an insult to academics.
What is currently happening in the BNF is a clear sign of political immaturity and ignorance coupled with arrogance on the part of their youth league. The decision by the BNF Youth League to publicly attack and declare war on the leadership of the party and on Botsalo Ntuane is based on intolerance, lack of respect for others and the misplaced belief that they are bigger than the party and the opposition bloc as a whole.
The same thing was done by the BCP Youth League recently when it called for the removal of Botsalo Ntuane from the position of Leader of Opposition in parliament. The sin that Ntuane is accused of committing is that of pleading with President Khama to reinstate people who were fired for defying a court order. He is also accused of not attacking President Khama when he was responding to his State of the Nation address.
I believe that all level-headed individuals will agree with Ntuane that it is in best interest of all the people who were fired to be reinstated with immediate effect. The effects of the economic recession that forced public servants to take part in a strike in the first place are felt by all people in all sectors of our economy. An increase in the rate of inflation is not accompanied by an increase in salaries and wages. People are struggling to make ends meet. This is a fact that members of the BCP Youth League have chosen to ignore.
I know many people who work at the UB (some of whom are staunch supporters of the BCP), who have financial difficulties just like me and the people who were fired. As a result of the financial difficulties that we are facing, some of my BCP colleagues are forced to do things that I believe to be unethical. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal them to you dear reader, lest I am accused of discrediting my colleagues and bringing the name of the university into disrepute.
All the people who are telling us that it is wrong for Ntuane to plead for the reinstatement of the workers are unfit to hold political office or to be regarded as the torch bearers of our society. They mischievously give people who lost their jobs the wrong impression that government will one day apologize for its mistakes and reinstate them unconditionally.
What is even worrying about some of our young opposition leaders is that they believe that being in the opposition means that one always has to attack the president and his ministers. This sounds like outdated street politics embraced by people who cannot see beyond their noses. I don’t care about what Ntuane says about President Khama. I care about what he says the opposition bloc will do for our nation if it assumes state power. I care about what he says they will do to assist all citizens to earn a decent living. Batswana want decent education, health care, housing and jobs, not ditlontlokwane!
All the unfriendly remarks made by the BCP Youth League about Ntuane are clear signs of intolerance and mistrust that characterize the relationship between the BCP and the BMD. BCP members strongly believe that Dumelang Saleshando should be the Leader of Opposition and should also be the leader of the umbrella. It is therefore, sickening, depressing and frustrating for them to see the opposition led by a member of the BMD, a political party that is less than two years old. The fact that the BMD is competing with them for political space and attention compounds the situation.
Lastly, I have realized that some of our young opposition leaders believe that members of the opposition parties must be dogmatic ideologues. They need to be reminded that capitalism is the most dominant system of production. It works well when a democratic system is in place as it is the case in the developed nations. So, the debates about which political ideology to embrace are of very little relevance to our modern societies. They are like the debates which deal with the existence or non-existence of God. The simple question that we should be asking ourselves is: what tangible benefits do we derive from engaging in such debates?
Instead of wasting our precious time and energy on useless debates, all that is required is for us to be pragmatic. We need to focus on things that will yield practical and tangible benefits to us. Hence, our young opposition leaders must grow up and learn to respect as well as tolerate their partners if they want to be taken seriously by the voters. The politics of bigotry have no place in our society and will never take us anywhere.
Dr Mothusi teaches Public Administration at University of Botswana