It is the end of a politically illustrious year for all political formations, all of whom deserve credit and commendation for their role in our nation’s political process.
Today we wish to convey gratitude to the people of Botswana who participated in vote, for exercising their right to vote without which we cannot build any nation. We are especially proud of those who voted for the Alliance for Progressives. We are inspired by citizens, unsung heroes who sacrificed their time and opportunities to fight for what they believe in, this new Botswana, this paragon of nation building and prosperity on the African continent. They fought a good fight, in a quest to lift our nation above the daunting challenges of our time.
We are failing as a nation to build an economy that will employ, utilise and reward the majority of our citizens with a quality life. Our government as a system is superficially democratic, without checks and balances against the abuse of power. The Executive branch of Government makes the laws, implements the laws and decides without any inhibitions who can sit in the judiciary.
We have a government whose very nature is a magnet, a breeding ground, for corruption and all forms of unfair economic and political domination of the elite at the expense of the majority. And so today, we pay tribute to all of you who share in a dream for a New Botswana, whose vision is to be a paragon of nation building and prosperity on the African continent. We may not have reached our destination yet, we may appear that we have lost, but no we are on course. The great visionary says “it will always seem impossible until it is done”, and we will achieve the new Botswana, we will make it happen, and that day is coming.
We have much to be proud of as a new movement despite election to only one MP seat, we have a popular vote of more than 50 thousand, we have amassed the goodwill of a competent leadership and committed following, we have injected a voice of hope, hope that a new Botswana is possible, and we have given our nation an authentic alternative. We are the voice of justice, honesty, fairness, integrity and the respect of the sanctity of human life.
We are the path-breakers to a Botswana that can double its economy in six years, make land available for ordinary citizens, craft a life-long education system for all that gives us citizens with digital, technical and entrepreneurial skills. We are the movement that believes this nation can also build more billion Pula multi-nationals per head than anywhere in Africa, and that realises we need to do so to compete globally. We will spell out our policy agenda at our January policy statement at the end of January/beginning of February. We will also take direction from our congresses and policy assemblies during the course of 2020.
On so we march on as the AP, in pursuit of this new Botswana. Our focus is on building this great movement, building it in every part of Botswana. We want the people of Botswana to realise it is their movement, and that this vision is possible only if we collectively worked at it, empowering each other, with knowledge and teachings on our doctrine, on leadership, on fundraising and on organisation.
The Vice President and I will invest the first four months of 2020 travelling to every part of Botswana, planting the seeds for an immense building process, of our great movement. Our assessment is that there is a thirst, a yearning by citizens, young and old, to connect with the AP. We acknowledge that we have failed to reach out to them meaningfully, we have failed to get them involved, we have failed to give them the platform to express their talents in pursuit of our common vision. We have picked enough lessons during this election cycle, all of which we will put to bear to excellently build this great movement.
We are increasingly becoming the Movement of the people who yearn for authentic social and economic transformation, the movement for people from all walks of life, and beautifully a movement of women and of citizens who had lost the hope that a new Botswana is possible. These people are attracted by our values, and we must jealously guard these values and sustain who we are, even as we seek to unite our people and all other formations who may seek to work with us in the pursuit of a new Botswana. We have been much aligned in the past for allegedly snubbing the UDC, and we have no regrets for standing true to values that this nation so desperately needs.
We are proud that we have been pioneers of an honest collaboration of political formations in the past, and now that the dust has settled, we will continue to build our movement with an open heart. It is an exciting time for our generation, but it is a sad period as well. We need to find our own voice. The new Government in Finland where young women are taking the lead reminds us what is possible and the AP is the movement that opens up those possibilities for young women more than any other movement in Botswana. There are many such women emerging within the AP and they are the main reason we will make it in 2024. We need to find a voice for an authentically new Botswana and we will find it.
We as a nation have committed ourselves to a democracy, and even though the democratic process can be slow and grinding, our hope is that it gives us the best prospects for inclusion, regular elections, fairness including of elections, justice and the socio-economic advancement of our people. Despite our constitutional commitment to democracy we know our electoral process is far from perfect - in fact it is unfair. There is no political party funding, the state enjoys an excessive grip over state media, the IEC is not entirely independent from the Executive branch of Government and ballot counting process is vulnerable to abuse (counting is votes mostly at different venue from the voting venue). Still, for the sake of peace, competing political formations have, throughout our history, participated in the electoral process, in good faith, believing that those who are involved will exercise fair play. We at the AP have done the same, we participated in and accepted the outcome of a flawed process in the 2019 elections.
This mature posture does not mean that those who feel the elections were specifically rigged - and evidence collected for judgement before the courts - should not be listened to. This nation, both the Government of the day and citizens, have a moral obligation to listen to those who feel violated by the elections process. Our constitution means we have all signed to this obligation, to listen to all those who feel the elections were not fair. It is our obligation to leave it to the courts to decide if the elections were rigged or not.
So, the petitions by UDC on the elections, or the petition by our own council candidate are rights enshrined in our constitution, which rights we all have to respect and allow the courts to deliberate on. Our failure to respect and honour the exercise of these rights by others is a form of injustice.
It is simply unjust. These rights cannot be taken away from individuals or political formations based on our opinions of them.
There is an idea doing the rounds that the UDC is conniving with foreigners to create instability, and so the petitions cannot be legitimate. The fairness of our democracy cannot be dependent on our suspicions or beliefs about the type of candidates that participated in the elections. If indeed UDC is plotting to cause instability, that is a different matter for which our country deserves appropriate legislation and action, to deal with the matter if legitimate. The AP is a movement that believes in justice, and we will always be at the venue of injustice, as Martin Luther King says, “We are here because injustice is here. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
We need to err on the side of caution, and that means we must ensure that if at all there was ever any rigging, it must, at the least, never happen again and never become a part of our culture. Martin Luther King talks about “normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of non-violent direct action”. Our stand that everyone needs to be listened to is the right thing to do.
We are concerned that there is an ensuing storyline, that our destiny as a nation should depend on whether you are sympathetic to the current President or to the former President, and that these are the only paths our country can take. The seeds are being sown on, of hatred, among those who regard themselves followers of these two.
It is a toxic engagement which if left unchecked will consume our citizens, and before we know it, we will lose an immense opportunity for an entire generation. This engagement is descending into a culture of intolerance, a repeat of the years lost and opportunities lost in the previous regime. We see this in the matter of petitions to court: the matter has become less an issue of nourishing our democracy than it is a matter of whether you are sympathetic to the incumbent or the former President. This is a tragedy. This is a bad sign, a bad omen which we must all reject. The unending conflict between the current and former president, the adversarial rubric of our constitutional and electoral design and the stagnating progress of our circumstances - regardless of the outcome of the courts - will need a form of national conciliation process.
We should be a generation of hope, a generation concerned with building a new, inclusive, job generating, diverse and sustainable economy for all, a generation that should be agitating for an excellent inclusive governance system, a generation that is focused on bringing out the best in each one of us. We have to find our voice as a generation, we need to carve a path, our own path that seeks to build a new Botswana. That is what the AP stands for, and that is what we will fight for. This is what makes us the alternative, we are driven by conscience and commitment to justice.
16 December 2019
A Statement by Ndaba Gaolathe Of Alliance for Progressives.