The Botswana National Front (BNF) gathered at Kagiso Secondary School in Ramotswa over the Presidents Day weekend where it discussed topics ranging from disciplinary measures against wayward members to the bona fides of Ian Khama as President, reports BAME PIET
Moupo vows to crack the whip, labels BDP arrogant
Botswana National Front (BNF) president Otsweletse Moupo told his fellow comrades that the party leadership will continue to instil discipline and suspend or expel wayward members who attack the party in public. He said that since the Molepolole Congress in 2007, members who lost primary elections have never appreciated the new leadership and have instead done everything in their power to discredit it. He said such members even refused to attend disciplinary hearings. "The members of the faction which styled itself the Temporary Platform did not only manifest utter contempt for all party procedures and processes, but (also) deliberately contrived to undermine the party and render it ungovernable," Moupo said. "They persistently attacked the party leadership through the public media, notwithstanding the well known BNF Code which proscribes such conduct." He said that when Otlaadisa Koosaletse and Tebogo Sebego challenged Nehemiah Modubule and Akanyang Magama in Lobatse and Gaborone South respectively, some members accused his leadership of trying to oust the two from their positions as Members of Parliament (MPs). But when they were still members of the Central Committee, the two MPs set up structures such as National Elections Appeals Committee to deal with disputes arising from primary elections.
"Today, when these comrades no longer occupy leadership positions within the party, they denounce the National Elections Appeals Committee, accusing it of being used by the Central Committee to deny those who have won the primary elections (and who were not preferred by the Central Committee) the right to represent the party in the coming general elections," Moupo said.
Modubule and Magama are among a swelling number of disgruntled BNF members, some of whom have formed the Temporary Platform referred to. Modubule was expelled last year for allegedly undermining the leadership and has since indicated that he will contest the elections as an independent. Gaborone West South MP Robert Molefhabangwe was also expelled from the party recently for allegedly undermining the party leadership by refusing to cooperate with it and for failure to attend disciplinary hearings repeatedly.
Visibly upset, Moupo said the Temporary Platform was behaving in such a way that it will difficult for the BNF to go to elections with it. Instead of attacking the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the Temporary Platform has turned its guns on the BNF leadership, he charged. "It would have been politically incorrect and unprincipled to tolerate such open defiance, chaos and disorder," he said. "The only option was to purge the party of such disruptive elements. Far from weakening it, such measures strengthen the party and renders it more effective as a fighting force and improves its prospects for successfully contesting the elections."
However, not all members ululated or clapped their hands after the leader's speech. Some actually had a morose expression.
Meanwhile, Moupo accused President Ian Khama of being a hypocrite in posing as a champion of human rights and democracy to the international community by breaking ranks with SADC and the AU on Zimbabwe and Sudan. He said Khama had openly criticized Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe for human rights violations and recently supported the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC). "On the other hand, Botswana's internal approach has been entirely at odds with its external policy," Moupo said.
"The introduction of the Directrorate of Intelligence and Security Directorate (DIS) is a case in point." When the establishment of DIS came before Parliament, he said, the BNF questioned the need for such an institution at a time of peace in the SADC region.
"We even expressed apprehension that the institution may pose a threat to the civil liberties of citizens by intensifying spying and surveillance against them," he added.
"Today there are countless allegations of blatant abuse and violation of human rights by DIS agents - ranging from tapping of telephones of trade unions to extra-judicial executions of civilians."Moupo also accused the BDP government of introducing a draconian media law without even allowing a full debate in Parliament. "In terms of this new legislation, the Minister responsible for the media is empowered to elect some important committees responsible for running the affairs of media practitioners," he pointed out. "This violates media freedom and undermines the democratic right of media practitioners to practice their profession without undue state interference."
Moupo attacked automatic succession and the increase of Specially Elected MPs (SEMPs) from four to eight. "We believe the system of nomination undermines the right of the people to elect their own representatives," he said. "In particular, this change is meant to enable the President (in the event that the BDP wins the elections) to nominate people of his choice to Parliament in order to correct whatever factional imbalance he may consider undesirable among ruling party members in Parliament." Moupo said the BNF rejects the increase
Solly Mapaila of the South African Communist Party (SACP)
One of the guests at the BNF conference was Solly Mapaila of the South African Communits Party. Mapaila called on Batswana to fight for democracy by seeking the invalidation of the Media Practitioners Act of 2008. "We should fight against suppression of media rights and any such (laws)," he said. "You should defeat the retrogressive Media Practitioners Act as it takes this country backwards and entrenches the powers that be to control the instruments of information and marginalizes its adversaries. You must defy this law (because) it takes away your freedom of expression. Once you accept it, the government will take away more rights from you." Mapaila said he was shocked to hear that President Ian Khama had said he did not recognise Robert Mugabe as the President of Zimbabwe. He had spent sleepless nights wondering how Khama had become president and whether Khama's presidency was legitimate. "I asked myself who he was and whether he was legitimate as the President of Botswana," he said to a round of applause.Mapaila accused developed countries of being the cause of the global economic crisis that has resulted in many job losses and increased poverty in developing countries, especially in Africa. He said capitalism had failed because it serves only profit driven individuals and organisations at the expense of the masses. He said when the market economy seemed to be doing well, the world praised capitalism and denounced communism, but when financial institutions collapsed recently, the same capitalists rushed to governments looking for bailouts.
Skhumbuzo Tonko of the Solidarity Network of Swaziland
Another guest was young Skhumbuzo Tonko of the Solidarity Network of Swaziland. Tonko began his address by immediately appealing for international intervention in his country. He said Swaziland has been under a state of emergency since 1973 in which Political parties are not allowed and the rulers do as they please with state resources.
Japhta Radibe of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions
In a loud voice, the popular President of the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions declared that the BFTU is totally against the privatisation of state enterprises because it will lead to massive job losses. "Re e gana ka matlho a mashibidu le masetlha," Radibe said to enthusiastic applause. "Privatisation e nkga sebodu mo go rona."The BFTU wants the government to domesticate ILO conventions it has ratified and their monitoring and evaluation by social partners, he said. The BFTU wants the establishment of an independent institution for capacity building on collective bargaining, mediation and arbitration and an exclusive ministry for labour issues.Dismissing Namolo Leuba, now renamed Ipelegeng, as a joke, Radibe characterised the Early Exit Policy for civil servants as "stinking" and called on the government to allow people to work and feed their families instead chasing them out of their jobs. Radibe revealed that they have taken the case of the Debswana 461 (dismissed employees following a strike in 2004) to the International Labour Organisation because they are not happy with the manner in which the Industrial Court handled the matter. The Court of Appeal also dismissed the case brought before it by the Botswana Mine Workers Union last year. Radibe also told the gathering that SADC should not allow King Mswati of Swaziland to chair its Organ on Politics, Justice and Security because he is a dictator who has banned political parties in his country. "Mswati is abusing state resources to please his many girlfriends," he said. There were also speakers from the Western Sahara who also called for the intervention of the international community to stop what they called the colonization of their country by Morocco. Diplomats attending the opening ceremony included those from the Chinese and Russian embassies.
.The BNF resolved to continue with disciplinary measures against wayward members in-keeping with the party's constitution and code of conduct;
.The suspension of the Economic Partnership Agreements signed with the EU because the EPAs are distorted in favour of the industrialised West at the expense of developing countries;
.The creation of an environment of multi-party democracy in Swaziland by the AU and SADC and the immediate release from detention of Mario Masuku of the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) and his lawyer;
.The condemnation of extra-judicial killings by Botswana's security organs and the demand for due process of the law for all suspects;
.The immediate disbanding of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) because it is being used to terrorise citizens; and
. Condemnation of the closure of the Lobatse College of Education (LCE) as unwarranted and the demand for its re-opening.