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The writer(s) of the BDP manifesto deserve the boot!

THABO MASALILA
Elections to the European Parliament were held between 23rd and 26th May 2019. Members of the European Parliament (MEP) would have dropped from 751 to 705 had the United Kingdom withdrawn from the European Union by end of March 2019.

Extension of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which sets out how a member country may leave the EU – to 31st October 2019 saw the UK participate alongside other EU member states.

Environmentalists, pro EU liberals, and Eurosceptic parties gained significantly. Ex United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage outperformed rivals with his breakaway party established for the single objective of seeing through the UK’s exit from the EU. Farage’s Brexit Party repeatedly refused to issue a manifesto, or any citation of policies which were not about Brexit.

The fledgling Eurosceptic party saw the public rallying behind its European candidates. Farage dominated the main political parties split between calls for a second referendum, an immediate withdrawal or changes to the former Prime Minster Theresa May’s existing exit deal. In outlining its main priorities, Farage opposed any deal agreed by the Conservatives and Labour and pledged to ‘push for Brexit of World Trade Organisations (WTO) terms of the ‘no deal scenario’. Farage says the higher tariff WTO Brexit offers an opportunity and should not be feared.

The party also vowed not to pay the £39 billion divorce payment to settle EU debts, calling it a ‘ransom’ and wants elected MEPs to have a ‘major role’ in Brexit negotiations. Farage is opposed to a second referendum choosing instead to honour the wishes of the 17.4 million people who voted leave in the 2016 vote. Farage’s Brexit has not issued a detailed list of other policies, but writes on the back of the pledge card that achieving Brexit would see the UK ‘take control of its laws, borders and trade, invest in the future of the UK’s regions, take full control of fishing and cut the cost of living’.

Brexit Party got 29 of 73 MEPs and the largest party in nine of 12 regions. The 32% leading vote is followed by the Liberal Democrats with Labour in third and the Conservatives a distant fifth losing 10 and 15 MEPs respectively.

Party manifestos play a critical role in elections. The contents of a manifesto form a central element of the political debate at the subsequent election. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s staggering fall from grace has birthed a cheap shot at a reactionary pledge card totally removed from the wording in its photo album. Unlike the abridged version of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) manifesto, BDP does not seem to summarise the key elements of its manifesto.

The UDC beats all parties as the most talked to and talked about manifesto. The UDC’s abridged manifesto is a summation of concrete deliverables derived from a chapters where articulation of possible and desirable progress is also evident.

In its full version manifesto, the UDC re-groups the deliverables into concrete list of tasks, each assigned a measure of accountability in the easiest of forms. What should policymakers do? The UDC promises a 100, 000 jobs in 12 months; Alliacne for Progressives (AP) pledges to shrink unemployment from 20% to under 10% in six years; and the BDP promises employment creation and definitive with career counselling. The UDC manifesto comes with a specific built-in monitoring service which AP tends to lose through its long winded nature of speaking to issues. It is in this regard that the AP failed.

When in court, leader of the UDC Hon Duma Boko said that Dumelang Saleshando was the convener of Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) think tanks tasked with drafting the UDC manifesto. The goat of the road has suggested Drs Micus Chimbombi and Patrick Mmolotsi and Obakeng Matlou from

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the BNF axis and Dr Mpho Pheko and Sennye Obuseng from the BCP as some of the contributors. Dr Nobantu Rasebotsa and her project team comprising of experts and field specialists toiled to deliver the AP masterpiece. The BDP however does not want to disclose those who wrote its manifesto.

Manifestos or pledge cards must be living documents – ones where improvement is actively sought and shortcomings openly discussed. In every election it is generally expected that a party will gain popularity owing to its manifesto or its pledge card. Farage and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of South Africa are clear beneficiaries of such. EFF voters know that their party stands for economic freedom, expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of mineral wealth, and free education.

In the case of the BDP, manifestos have become extremely controversial and somewhat traumatic to produce. In 2014, all candidates shelved the manifesto and free-styled through campaigns. A five point pledge card produced in haste did not gain traction even though the party emerged victorious. The BDP’s troubles around the 2019 manifesto are caused by the virginity of invisible authors.  The final version exposed a state of naivety, sheer inexperience and ineptitude in the political context and landscape. But one questions lingers: who wrote the BDP manifesto?

In 2014, the BCP advanced the best crafted message and was presumed even by the Israelis hired by the BDP to be the party cruising to victory. However, circumstance beyond the control of the BCP saw the party sink to a crushing defeat. The simplicity of message and the traction of 2014 is visible in the UDC 2019 manifesto.

AP unveiled five building blocks which should be attractive to every voter should they be read. The purple brigade promises transparency and accountability; job creation and lifting the economy; skills and education for global competitiveness; quality of life and services; and land and natural management. Whilst there are similarities with the UDC manifesto, the AP manifesto has not gained traction as that of its erstwhile colleagues in opposition. AP and UDC both pledge to re-open BCL and will pay a P1500 tandabala. Will the AP also suffer the fate of the BCP and lose heavily?

It is likely that some will point to the popularity of individual policies that will see a surge of support and so take power in October 2019. History of local politics shows that build up rallies and campaigns are characterised by side stepping manifestos. When the BDP went to launch Slumber Tsogwane in Rakops, there was no mention of the manifesto.

 Members of the BDP are left to a finger pointing game and all manner of speculation. The secretary general has absolved himself from the gaffe instead. A faceless sect of drafters in the BDP got away with putting the party in disrepute when they plagiarised Barack Obama’s speech and in the process embarrass President Mokgweetsi Masisi in an act of unparalleled clumsiness. Their crime, far worse than the misdemeanour of Honourable Prince Maele went unpunished in this silly season of long knives.

It will appear that yet another set of faceless drafters will get away with murder in an environment where there isn’t accountability. Brexit, the EFF, UDC and the AP have shown immense possibilities when it mattered most. Whether the BDP manifesto is a good document as the BDP claims, or utter rubbish that will be re-drafted as the opposition alleges, one thing remains.

Who were the brilliant men and women behind the BDP manifesto, can’t the document have facial recognition? Anyway, they deserve the boot!



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