Friday, September 25, 2020

What has happened to the All Party Conference?

A few years ago, the Government of Botswana came up with the idea of an All Party Conference.
This proved a hugely popular idea where representatives of all political parties registered in the country came together to discuss issues of mutual interest.

The All party Conference bridged the gap between political parties and, by extension, their members.
At this Conference, where the ruling party was often represented by a person no less than the Vice President or at the very least, the Minister of Presidential Affairs, resolutions were adopted often leading to policy and/or even legal reforms.

It is not clear why such a noble idea has since been stopped.

Our suspicion is that the Conference died out, most likely not as a result of any deliberate policy shift, but rather because it fell through the cracks as ministers moved from one post to the other.
We call on the Minister of Presidential Affairs to revisit the idea.

There currently are just too many issues dividing political parties, issues which can, however, very easily be resolved by way of introducing a platform that allows for a dialogue between political parties.

Such a dialogue is ultimately in the best interests of the nation as it also tends to minimize unnecessary bickering and polarity between political parties.

When approached with sincerity by all concerned, the All Party Conference can also help bridge the gap between parties when they debate and formulate laws and policies in parliament.
Though largely superfluous and cosmetic, currently the gap between political parties is so large that a lot of time is wasted in parliament debating minor technical differences that can very easily be resolved between parties outside of the parliamentary floor.

Of course, there is the all party caucus in parliament, but there is a huge difference because the All Party Conference was attended also by functionaries that are not Members of Parliament.
Parties that are also not represented in parliament were allowed at the table of the All Party Conference.

That tended to build trust between and across parties while also promoting the culture of national unity, tolerance and consultation.

The All Party Conference gave the ruling party an opportunity to engage opposition parties as equals.

This allowed the participants to be candid, forthright and upfront on an array of national issues.
Going forward, given the recent political developments in Botswana, it is important that there be established a platform through which political leaders could interact as equals.
First and foremost should be the interests of the nation.

Of course, each party will have to argue its side.
There is nothing wrong with that.

There are issues of constitutional reform, electoral reform, which better be handled by the All Party Conference.

If and when it is resuscitated it is important that the long outstanding issues that were agreed at the last meetings are revived.

Given the above, we strongly feel that the Office of the President should consider bringing back the idea of an All Party Conference.

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