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Home » Columns »  Alliance for Progressives, beware of pitfalls (Part 1)!

Alliance for Progressives, beware of pitfalls (Part 1)!

Publishing Date : 03 October, 2017

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

There is a Setswana adage which says ‘E re gobona bodiba jo bo jeleng ngwana wa mmaago o bo kakologe.’ Literally translated, this means that when one sees a well into which his fellow human being fell and perished he or she should avoid it.



Politics, like all human endeavours, has many pitfalls. All political parties have to deal with such pitfalls. The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) faced such pitfalls and because it failed to deal with them prudently it split, giving birth to the Alliance for Progressives (AP). The AP too shall face such pitfalls. In this two part series, I discuss the pitfalls which the AP shall face and for which it should beware if it is to thrive and avoid the well into which the BMD fell and perished, at least in part.   


I, however, ought to begin this article by commending the Ndaba Gaolathe faction of the BMD for the decision to defect from the BMD and form a new political party, the AP, as early as now, with about two years before the 2019 general elections. This is what I have been calling for for some time, my argument being that the earlier the BMD splits and a new party is formed the better because it will give the party enough time to regroup and reposition itself for the 2019 general elections.


Now that the new party, the AP, has been formed one can only implore it to beware of the pitfalls it faces or it may face if it is to be a real alternative to the BMD or if it is to win enough parliamentary seats in 2019 to contribute to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s victory. Firstly, it is failure to adhere to one of the basic tenets of democracy, consultation. For instance, one is curious to know the consultative process that preceded the naming of the party as well as the concept of ‘purple movement’ which suggests that the party’s colors would be purple.


A party’s name and colors are so integral that the members as a collective, not the leadership alone, should be at the centre of their determination. That the name and colors are interim pending approval by the members is not enough because at such a late stage members would be merely rubber stamping the decision of the leadership. This is especially true since the name ‘AP’ and the ‘purple movement’ concept have been so propagated among the masses that they appear final and even if the members preferred something else it would be difficult for them not to approve the leadership’s recommendation.


This departure from such an elementary tenet of democracy as consultation is worrying for it may set a wrong precedent for future conduct by the leadership, something which may see the AP embroiled in the very conflicts which led to its defection from the BMD. What the AP should have done is that it should have convened a general meeting during which the members would have deliberated on the name, motto, colors and constitutional frame work so that the membership owns them.


Granted, the leadership would guide the members during such a meeting, but if the members are involved at such an early stage they would have a sense of ownership of the name, motto, colors and constitutional frame work.  Secondly, it is propagation of personality cultism within the party. Needless to state that Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe is a good leader. But, it would be a mistake to elevate him to the level of a cult who is hero worshiped for that is often a recipe for dictatorship.


It is unlikely that Ndaba himself regards himself as a personality cult. In fact, he most likely hates the phenomena. But very few of the people who ended up as personality cults initially regarded themselves as such. They did so after their followers regarded them as such. It is common course how the Khama’s personality cultism has cost the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), and by extension the country. Among other things, it has denied the BDP and Botswana the chance to be led by capable leaders simply because they had to give way to a Khama or a Khama proxy.


Had it not been for the evil of personality cultism such BDP stalwarts as Ponatshego Kedikilwe, a person of exceptional abilities, especially before he sold his soul, would have been president of this, our beloved country. Others such as Englishmen Kgabo, David Magang and Daniel Kwelagobe would have at least been vice presidents. Recently, another of our jewels, Honourable Nonofo Molefi, would have been elected BDP chairperson, paving his way for the presidency, or at least the vice presidency.   


Thirdly, it is the talk that the AP may contest the 2019 general elections alone, not under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). This may be suicidal because many Batswana have bought into the concept of coalition politics and reneging on this may be seen as betrayal by the AP. One prays that the use of the word ‘Alliance’ in its name does not suggest that the AP wants to position itself as an umbrella in the same manner that the UDC is. Unfortunately, this cannot be discounted considering that the AP has admonished the UDC for its poor handling of BMD’s conflicts.


The current AP leadership, while leaders of the BMD, spent about three years preaching coalition politics. It also admonished the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) for contesting the 2014 general elections outside the UDC. It is common knowledge that Batswana punished the BCP for its decision to contest the elections outside the UDC in 2014. I have no doubt that Batswana would pour the same wrath on the AP if it made such a selfish decision which would inarguably reverse the Opposition’s 2014 electoral gains.


The BMD, on the other hand, seems to be aware that contesting elections outside the UDC would be a colossal mistake, hence reports that it has already written to the UDC seeking recognition of its National Executive Committee (NEC), and expressing its desire to start participating in the UDC’s meetings and activities. This alone, no matter how disingenuous it may be, if it is, puts the BMD in better stead than the AP. It gives the impression that it is the BMD which desires cooperation. This, more so that the BMD has moved swiftly to seek the UDC’s recognition of its NEC.


The AP needs to, immediately after finalizing its registration as a party, and getting the mandate from its membership, approach the UDC for affiliation. Thereafter, it should negotiate for constituency allocation with the other UDC affiliates. It should be only after the AP fails in its endeavor to affiliate with the UDC that it can, after consulting with Batswana to that effect, contest the elections as an individual party. This should come as a last resort, not a first resort.


Fourthly, it is the control of the party’s affairs by such third parties as trade unions. Though the AP, like all other political parties, needs the workers’ vote, it should not allow itself to be controlled by trade unions for if it did it would inevitably wander away from its members’ mandate. Not only that. It may occasionally get embroiled in trade union conflicts, something which would pit its members against each other since they belong to different trade unions, often irretrievably breaching their relationships as is the case between Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSO) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU).


Fifthly, the AP should, in drafting its constitution, avoid a situation where it, like the BMD did after defecting from the BDP, starve its president of sufficient constitutional powers to make decisions, especially in the event of an impasse in the NEC. Understandably, in an effort to avoid the BDP situation where the president is vested with so much power that he almost singularly runs the party, the BMD drafted the so called liberal constitution where the president, as an equal among equals, has no powers more than those of the NEC.


This, in my view, is one of the reasons the BMD ended up in the constitutional crisis that it did, resulting in the split giving rise to the AP. Therefore, though the AP’s constitution should in no way be modelled around that of the BDP it should give the president enough powers to effectively lead the party. 

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