Opposition parties have laughed off the announcement that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has joined Socialist International (SI) as one of the consultative parties.
BDP secretary general Mpho Balopi had told a press conference that the admission was in recognition of the BDP’s sterling performance in people development, health, education, eradicating poverty and social programmes.
Firstly, the Botswana National Front (BNF) publicity secretary Moeti Mohwasa disputed allegations made by Balopi that the BNF was expelled from the SI because of its association with Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
“Look who is talking, a secretary general of a party that has led to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) because it abhors internal party democracy.
“Even now people continue to leave because of the same reason. The BMD is much more progressive than the collapsing BDP. Its membership of SI will not even resuscitate it,” said Mohwasa. He said Balopi was either ignorant or liked flirting with untruths. “We however understand his infantile excitement as the secretary general of a right wing organisation that has just been accepted as a member by an organisation that is supposedly on the left.
“Balopi knows that his party does not subscribe to socialist ideals and that his party is a member of SI by default. “He should leave the BNF alone and let those who know about the status of our membership of the SI talk. Balopi is not competent to talk about this issue.”
He also explained why they decided not to renew their membership of SI. He said as a party they had to choose between paying high annual membership fees or taking care of their other financial obligations.
“This is an issue we raised with the SI secretariat, long before Balopi even thought of joining politics. “It might be not unfair to say that our decision to commit our financial resources to local activities rather than pay huge yearly subscription to Socialist International is vindicated.
“It is inconceivable for us to be in the same organisation as the BDP, a party that has no respect for civic rights, workers, youth and so on. In short a party that oppresses its people. No ways!”
For his part, Botswana Congress Party BCP) secretary general Kesitegile Gobotswang said reports that BDP is a member of SI is like an early April Fool’s Day joke. “For a party that espouses unmitigated free market economic system to be accepted into SI says a lot about the extent to which socialism and social democracy have been adulterated beyond recognition. “If BDP can be accepted into the family of socialists and social democrats, then the devil can be a respected member of the Church of Jesus Christ,” said Gobotswang.
He explained that for many years the BDP said that ideology had no place in their discourse.
“Pragmatism was their motto. Now they claim that they are social democratic in the same league as the BNF and BCP.
“I don’t even think they know what they are talking about. It is not difficult to locate the BDP in the continuum of ideological trends in terms of the left, centre left, centre right, and right.
“One has to look at what the BDP leadership says and the company they keep. Certainly the BDP occupies the extreme right and they are shamelessly proud of it,” said Gobotswang.
He said during the height of the apartheid struggle the BDP was part of the anti-communist block of countries and political organisations under the leadership of US former late President Ronald Reagan of the Republican Party and Margaret Thatcher of the Conservative Party in Britain.
Among their (BDP) sister parties at the time were the racist Nationalist Party of South Africa, RENAMO, UNITA, and some Bantustan leaders like Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana that were the creation of the Nationalist Party of PW Botha.
He said the BDP government recognised the puppet government of Abel Muzorewa of Rhodesia that was the creation of the racist minority government of Ian Smith. Gobotswang said in its policy pronouncements the BDP shows its true colours. This was clearly reflected in the 1994 BDP election manifesto. He said: “While still in a celebratory mood following the collapse of the Soviet Union it says, ‘Unlike other parties, we are not slavishly enamoured to revolutionary dogmas and nihilist philosophies, and nor have we functionaries who are errand boys of political demagogues in foreign capitals’.
“This was a clear reference to former liberation parties in the region that were experimenting with socialism.”
In conclusion he said the BDP membership to SI is a serious misfit.
“They don’t belong to the centre right Liberal International. Clearly they belong to the rightist Christian Democratic camp.”