As the new-kid-on-the-political-block, the Alliance for Progressives (AP) is set for a ‚Äėmassive‚Äô launch in Gaborone on October 28, where its leaders anticipate about 10,000 people to be in attendance, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE and Correspondent SIKI MOTSHWARI JOHANNESS ask what kind of an animal, really, is the AP
The most pressing goal of seeking a new political home was to safeguard and secure Gaolathe Ndaba’s presidential powers and isolate Advocate Sidney Pilane’s Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) faction for good.
Amidst riots and turbulence, Pilane had successfully ‘usurped’ Ndaba’s powers at the BMD elective congress held in July at the Matshekge Hill School. The formation of the AP has now settled the leadership question. Having accomplished the objective of securing Ndaba’s presidency, frantic work has begun behind the scenes to give the AP more meaning beyond this narrow goal surrounding Ndaba’s leadership. The biggest question in the minds of many is what animal the AP is, and what does it intend to offer to Batswana.
Ndaba and his lieutenants have a mammoth task at hand to justify the place and relevance of the new party in Botswana’s political landscape. For a country hungry for change, the birth of a new party immediately raises expectations and more questions. The AP, popularly known, as the Purple Movement, has become the cynosure of all eyes.
Circumstances therefore, oblige the AP to raise the bar and not to offer anything less. If it is to be relevant, the AP must as a matter of necessity, chart an alternative political programme and avoid duplicating programmes of existing political formations.
What considerations will possibly influence the crafting of the AP’s constitution, its political programme and policies? Self-preservation cannot be ruled out. Since Ndaba’s downfall in the BMD was linked to the constitution, every effort will be made when designing the new constitution to avert a possible future threat to Ndaba’s presidency. Loopholes identified in the BMD constitution will be closed. The BMD constitution, anchored on the system of checks and balances, seriously curtails the powers of the president. Ndaba will never again want to be trapped in this kind of constitutional quagmire.
After a lesson well learnt, the AP is more likely to design a constitution predicated upon a desire to preserve and protect the integrity of the office of the president. Such a constitution runs the risk of conferring sweeping powers on the president with serious implications trampling upon democracy and collective decision-making. And they say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The framers of the AP constitution should be warned to exercise great care when going about their work. The almost godly status that Ndaba is presently enjoying should not cloud their judgement, and if not careful the AP might inadvertently rear and nurture a dictator and create unncessary personality cults.
One is reminded of the 1933 enabling law passed which granted Adolf Hitler sweeping powers to manage the affairs of Germany almost single-handedly. The law was passed out of respect for Hitler and the result was the rise of totalitarianism and dictatorship. It therefore, remains to be seen how the progressives are going to strike a balance between the need to widen presidential powers and the necessity to promote democracy and accountability. It will be remembered that Ndaba and his comrades left the BDP in 2010 because they could no longer stomach President Ian Khama’s extensive presidential powers. There was fear that Khama had become the party and the party was Khama and this to the affected parties justified the exit from the Khama-led BDP to pioneer the BMD.
The most challenging task is that of developing a new political agenda. To justify their place in the Botswana’s political environment, the AP will ideally desire a unique political programme giving it an edge and comparative advantage over their competitors. But this is easier said than done. It is common knowledge that Ndaba was involved in the drafting of the BMD’s political agenda and policies. This means what the BMD represents, to a large extent represents Ndaba’s ideals and aspirations. On that score, Ndaba and BMD are inseparable. The situation that Ndba finds himself in is akin to that of a bishop who has been excommunicated from his own church. It is therefore, going to be pretty hard for Ndaba to try and depart drastically from the ideals that he cherished only a while ago with the BMD family.
In so far as the political programme is concerned, the AP can only afford to effect cosmetic changes from its erstwhile parent, BMD. In fact, there is a high likelihood that the AP could become another BMD albeit existing in a different form or simply put, an old wine in a new bottle. If this will be the case, then the motivation for establishing a different party will not be anything beyond satisfying Ndaba’s presidential ambitions. This, unfortunately will clearly answer what is specifically there for the electorate. Unless it is clarified that the intent to change government can only be advanced under Ndaba’s leadership, otherwise it will be difficult to figure out what animal the AP is.
AP vice president, Wynter Mmolotsi seems to have provided a clear answer that defines the position of the AP as a new political player in a seemingly crowded political landscape given the country’s small population at over two million people. Mmolotsi and his political allies hold a strong view that Pilane, who has since assumed the BMD presidency, “has a mission of bringing down opposition parties because he does not want regime change.”
It can also be simply deduced from Mmolotsi’s recent address at the Montsamaisa Junior Secondary School in Francistown that the AP is a party that wants to provide an alternative government, not just existing incessanrtly as the opposition for the narrow notion of opposing the ruling party.
Mmolotsi also explained the bigger picture of the AP, and giving members of a new party direction that they needed to work very hard for the party whose vision is not to simply stay in opposition, but to oust the BDP from its over half a century stay in power.
In other words, the AP will not leave anything to chance and complacency, which according to Mmolotsi is not part of their political menu as they hit the ground running.
After a bloody Bobonong conference in July that pitted two factions of the BMD, the AP leadership is on a mission to prove their innocence from the untidy fracas that left some activists in need of medical attention with serious head injuries.
Mmolotsi, a known political rabble-rouser who hardly minces his words, has taken a stance to ensure that indeed the AP hits the ground running.
In one of a series of meetings that the party head honchos addressed across the length and breadth of the country, Mmolotsi explained the decision to form a new party: “We formed a new party because we did not want to end up going the legal route where we could have possibly taken a lengthy time to resolve our differences with the other BMD faction.”
The honours now lies with the AP leadership to prove to all and sundry what kind of a political animal the AP is.