It is my singular honour and great privilege to grace the South African Communist Party’s Congress (SACP).
I bring to you the warmest greetings to this Congress of the Botswana National Front (BNF) president, Comrade Duma Boko, his Central Committee and indeed the entire membership of the BNF. In our midst we have comrade Noah Salakae, Treasure General of the BNF and Member of Parliament for Ghanzi North Constituency, Nakontle Katisi, BNFYL Publicity Secretary, and Tebogo Phalaagae, Honour councillor for Kgatleng District.
We hope to utilise this noble gesture to reflect issues that we share commonality on and some specific concerns relating to Botswana and final wishing the SACP a successful Congress.
The BNF like all progressive political formations the world over is worried by constant attack on the Venezuela communist government, the violation of International law with impunity by Israel, the incarceration of Opposition Leader in Zambia and the declaration of emergency by President Lungu, and the banning of political parties in Swaziland, just to name a few.
In July 1997 in Gaborone, the SACP National Treasurer, comrade Kay Moonsamy, when officially opening the BNF Congress opined thus;
“In the coming months and years, we, progressive forces in Southern Africa will, more than ever, need to connect dynamically. The building of a southern African economic community cannot be left to government protocols or to the market forces alone. Ties of solidarity, exchanges of strategic perspective, joint policy development between parties like the BNF and the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance have become more imperative than ever”.
The words echoed by comrade Moonsamy in 1997 are still relevant today, that ties of solidarity between the BNF and the ANC/SACP/COSATU needs to be nurtured, harnessed and protected from infiltration by neo-colonial forces. We need to stand side by side in fighting poverty, landlessness, diseases and slavery wages. We need to assist each other in policy development, particularly the BNF which is on course toassume State power in 2019 in Botswana together with its alliance partners in the Umbrella for Democratic Change.
We need as progressives in the Southern Africa to step up to the plate and persuade the feudal leadership of Swaziland to unban political parties in the country and do whatever necessary to assist our comrades in PUDEMO. We need to tell the Swaziland feudal leadership that traditional authority be separated from party politics.
We cannot rest on our laurels and glorify southern Africa when our comrades in Swaziland are prohibited to exercise political, academic, participatory and deliberative democracy.
The BNF fully supports the recent call by ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance on the unbanning of political parties in Swaziland. And this clarion call should be backed up by material and political support to PUDEMO to attain self-determination.
Whilst in Swaziland comrades are struggling to attain political freedom, Botswana and South Africa and indeed the rest of the continent the struggle is about economic freedom. The struggle is about ensuring that the policy developments that are crafted benefit the masses of our people.
The BNF is glad that the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance is currently grappling with the question of Radical Economic Transformation, I hope not as catchphrase, but a vehicle that will cure the societal malaise.
From its inception the BNF in 1965 which was found by gallant revolutionaries and stalwarts such as Dr Kenneth Koma, the paramount chief of Bakgatla, Kgosikgolo Linchwe, Pretty Molefe, Fish Keitseng, Michael Dingake, KlassMotshidisi, O.K. Menyatso, and many otherheroes and heroines, crafted waged a class struggle against neo-colonialism.
In 1995, the BNF President authored and book entitled “The Second Phase of the African Revolution has now began”, as agenda to distinguish the BNF struggle from the first phase of the struggle against minority and imperialist rule. In that treatise, comrade Koma says this;
“The post-colonial African societies in the different African nation Statesare in need of the second phase of the African Revolution. This Revolution means radical changes in the economic power structures and relations”. It means a fairer deal for the working class and peasants”.
Currently, the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance is engaged in a meaningful political conversation to craft an economic animal that will carry the hopes of many people in this country. This engagement is posing questions relating to who are the beneficiaries of radical economic transformation (RET). Who are the captains and co-pilot of this second phase of radical changes in the economic power structures and relations? How will the masses benefit from RET? What is the role of the communist in providing ideological guidance to attain real radical changes in the economic power structures of this country? Do the communist through SACP and COSATU provide the ideological guidance and the defence to avoid somersault in future against the envisaged programme?
The BNF once again declare that our ties with the SACP, ANC and COSATU are not coincidentally. The BNF was formed by Batswana who worked in the South African mines, who were members of the ANC and SACP. When members of the SACP and ANC criss-crossed the world in the quest to overthrow the apartheid regime, BNF members gave the freedom fighters shelter and all necessary support. When comrade Nelson Mandela passed through Botswana, he was housed by comrade Fish Keitseng, a founding member of the BNF.
In 1967, comrade Chris Hani and many freedom fighters were arrested by the neo-colonial government of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and imprisoned him for three years. In the same year, when BNF was two (2) years old, its leadership was arrested and charged with sedition charges and accused of spreading communism and terrorist deeds. The type writer and printer of the BNF was confiscated by the BDP government. In 1976, passport for BNF youths were confiscated under the guise that Cuba was to train them to unlawful oust the BDP government.
Delegates the above synopsis indicate that the relationship between the BNF and ANC/SACP/COSATU is not only historical but ideological as well. Our ties will endure for many years to come.
The President of the BNF, comrade Duma Boko and his Central Committee and the entire leadership of the UDC, call upon the SACP and the South African government to advise the ruling party in Botswana to desist from unilaterally imposing the Electronic Voting Machine in the forthcoming 2019 general elections in Botswana.
The Bill was passed under certificate of urgency in the National Assembly in July 2016. No consultation was conducted for the people of Botswana to make their input. After the Bill was passed in the wee hours of the night, the IEC addressed Kgotla meetings around the country and Batswana rejected ex post facto consultation. Batswana also rejected the use of Electronic Voting Machines in 2019 general elections.
In the BNF we reject, the use of the electronic voting machines because it distorts the choice of the voter. Research has shown in European and Dutch countries that the EVM is not temper- proof. The software is manipulated by the designer to give fraudulent results. We in the BNF do not want a system that will not only rig the elections but fail to honestly take the will of the voter into account. Many serious and democratic governments engaged commissions headed by computer experts found that the EVM is hackable. The Hopkins Report found out EVM is prone to fraud. The report says;
“A compromised machine could be programmed to record votes incorrectly, but provide a correct paper ballot to the voter. Only in the event of a total recount would this be discovered.”
The BNF applauds the ANC led government for putting in place strong institutions that support democracy. Oversight institutions of the South African government hold politicians, all and sundry to account. In Botswana, Parliament is a department under the office of the President. The President does not account to Parliament. Oversight institutions in Botswana account to the President whilst the opposite is true in South Africa.
In Botswana there is no political party funding since 1966 to date whilst in South Africa all parties are funded to protect democracy. In Botswana the business community is threatened and commanded not to fund opposition parties. The same threat has been extended to members of the ruling BDP who do not belong to the faction of the President.The BNF is highlighting all these pimples of democracy in Botswana to demonstrate that South Africa has the best democratic system not only in Africa but the world over. We wish you great success with your congress. We hope delegates will pay attention and come out of this congress as torch bearers of the Radical Economic Transformation in a true sense.
Yours in Struggle
BNF Secretary for International Affairs