Friday, July 19, 2024

Things fall apart for BNF

The incessant struggles within the Botswana National Front, as witnessed by the current quagmire over the Gaborone mayoral elections and the bare knuckled fights between Moupo and some of his one-time allies, one of whom is Mino Polelo, is a clear indication of a party in abyss and disarray. By and large, this is an indictment on the BNF leadership, and in particular the BNF President Otsweletse Moupo. This state of paralysis the BNF finds itself in should hardly surprise anyone as we all could see it coming and even warned in advance that more is still to come – ‘we aint seen nothing yet’. Back then, I attributed the current jinx to a leader who had lost control of his party, adopting Gordon Campbell’s reasoning that:

“True leadership is accomplished by example, not by exception. A true leader is both a teacher and an exemplar of his convictions…If the leader honors virtue, the students will value reverence and respect. If the leader acts properly, the students will be ashamed to be greedy and competitive. If the leader is lax and thereby loses face, then the students will become scornful and rowdy, an impediment…If the leader gets into a dispute and loses composure, then the students will be quarrelsome, a calamity…leaders cause people who behold them to be transformed without even being instructed”.

The fall of Nelson Ramaotwana from the mayorship, at the hands of another BNF member, Harry Mothei, (one time mayor), is another clear indication of a ship that is sinking with the captain. In yesterday’s Mmegi (Thursday 25 January 2007) the BNF’s Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, was quoted as having said that “whoever has defied the caucus will face disciplinary action. This reminds me of the case of Ginger Ernest and Paul Rantao. Ernest was later expelled from the party”.

It is good for Mohwasa to remind us of the Rantao-Ernest saga, yet when the BDP expelled some councilors who had defied the caucus it was like we had taken the most untoward of actions and were accused of trying to stifle democracy. Talk of hypocrisy at its best! Anyway, this cancerous act of hypocrisy has since become part and parcel of the BNF, and, therefore, it is not surprising. By standing against Ramaotwana, Harry Mothei was exercising his democratic right, ‘BNF style’. One would advice the BNF leader to regain the initiative, show that he can be a leader by seizing this opportunity to stop any disciplinary hearings against Harry Mothei and others. Any such actions against Mothei would further reinforce the belief that the BNF is double-dealing.

An analysis of these events (Gaborone mayoral elections), point to nothing but a lackluster kind of leadership. This has roots from the failed opposition unity talks, whereby the BNF was accused of stalling the talks. Kenneth Dipholo could not have captured it better, in an article entitled “The pangs of a bitter separation”. Kenneth Dipholo delved in an essay published in November 2004, in which he pointed out as follows:

“A few years ago, the BNF under its living symbol and standard bearer of poor people and workers’ plights, Dr Kenneth Shololo Koma initiated unity talks. Being the main opposition party, the BNF usurped ownership of the initiatives and the mode of operation. The BNF behaved like a mother figure…Whereas opposition parties were willing to work with the BNF, they were equally put off by its insincerity, treachery and inherent indiscipline. The BNF behaved as though it was doing other small parties a favour, as though it possessed the Wisdom of Solomon. The dreadful display of refereeing in opposition talks by the BNF led to the subsequent collapse of the negotiations”.

He concluded that it was for the very same reasons that the ‘Mpotokwane’ unity initiatives collapsed. This time around, the BNF is under the stewardship of Otsweletse Moupo. At some point during the talks, Moupo adopted Koma’s ‘mother figure ‘behaviour’ making it clear that other smaller parties should be aware of the fact that the BNF was the major opposition party and that ‘lethaku le lesha le beiwa mo go le le gologolo’. What is interesting at this point is that we are beginning to see a similar pattern of leadership style between Moupo and Kenneth Koma.

By the same token, it could well be that the BNF problems and the circumstances by which Moupo and his compatriots had had enough of Kenneth Koma, are now playing themselves out against the very Moupo who eventually took over the BNF leadership. This is mainly in part that the BNF and the BNF leadership fail to read and make sense of history which could, to some extent, guide them on the way forward. On the basis of the foregoing, one can predict that Otsweletse Moupo will face the same fate as he and his compatriots had inflicted on Kenneth Koma. Again, one can predict that a new BNF offspring is in the offing, as then did NDF. It would be too harsh of me to predict a BNF split of gigantic proportion as was with the formation of the BCP, but still that is a decent possibility.
The daggers are now out for BNF leader Moupo. It was Mogalakwe Mogalakwe who, at Mahalapye, openly called on Moupo to go. Of late, a one time Moupo trusted ally who defended him left right and centre, Mino Polelo, came out blazing in an article published early this year. He was ‘scornful and rowdy’, exposing his leader’s laxity and that he (Moupo) had lost face and composure, all clear signs of calamity. Mino Polelo in an article entitled “Moupo: betrayed or simply a turncoat?” (The Sunday Standard, 14 ÔÇô 20 January 2007) writes: “A principled leader should know when to resign instead of asking party members on the basis of frugal information whether he can resign. As a consequence of his tactics of clinging to power, we had the unprecedented situation where the leader of the party became its greatest liability ÔÇô dragging the name of the organization through mud for a very long time. In classical bourgeois democracies, the London debacle alone would have been enough to force him to resign not to mention the numerous scandals that followed. For some one who claims to be a socialist, these are unpardonable blunders. But it is very clear that Moupo’s leadership blunders are not receding. He surely closed the year on a high note in Parliament. Any feeble apology for that blunder cannot convince anybody in his right senses”.

This is indeed nail-biting stuff from adrenalin driven BNF activist, whose views are fast gaining momentum within the BNF members as well as some who were sympathetic to the Party. One member of the press confided in me recently that they wonder what could have become of the country had the BNF been voted into power under the present and past present leaders, Moupo and Koma. “Our country would be in a mess, things could be worse,” they confided. It is, therefore, on the basis of this I say to a politically na├»ve new UB academic, a certain Jim Holm (Kenneth Good mark II), that whilst the government is doing all it could and continues to look for more avenues to increase diamond driven employment and reduce poverty levels, things could have been worse had it not been for the BDP.

In conclusion, one can argue that all these problems that the BNF is going through are minor, suffice it to say that all the BNF needs is a decisive leader, a leader who honors virtue and a leader who acts properly. Undoubtedly, these problems are but an indication of a Party that does not have a leader. We in the BDP are comfortable with Moupo in the driving seat. In fact, for those who do not know, he is ‘ours’.

*Raphael Dingalo, a University of Botswana academic, is also a BDP activist

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