The year 2019 marks another milestone in our five year electoral cycle and promises to go down as the most significant and historic in the history of our politics. It is in 2019 that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) experienced its second crushing split that culminated in the founding of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
This write-up seeks to interrogate and offer a synopsis of the impact that the BPF will have on the coming national general elections, as well as give reasons why potential voters should cast their votes in favour of the new kid on the block who has energised the young and old determined to get rid of a one party-dominant political system.
BPF the impact factor
The party hits the BDP right where it hurts, and they are feeling it. This explains why their senior women’s wing leader has been on an insulting spree. For over 53 years, the BDP was assured of winning all if not most of the Gammangwato constituencies because its founder Sir Seretse Khama was the Bangwato paramount chief. Of the 19 parliamentary constituencies in the Central District, the BDP currently holds 18. Now the BPF is revoking this sponsorship, for the same reasons that the BDP enjoyed it.
While many interpret this to mean that the BPF is tribal by nature, it is surprising that they didn’t put the same label on the BDP for over 50 years. It is just a terrible nightmare for the BDP and its sympathisers that one of the BPF founders and patron is also the Bangwato paramount chief, and Batswana historically support the political parties that their chiefs patronise. If indeed the BPF is a tribal party, then the BDP has been a tribal party since its inception. The BDP has also been strong in other rural constituencies around the country, but indications are that their support has been diminished, largely because former President SKI is popular and revered by many, particularly amongst the rural folk for his altruistic nature.
A revolutionary front
One can contend judging by the party’s posture that the BPF is a peasant revolutionary Front along the lines of the Chinese and Cuban revolution. Most of its supporters are ordinary rural villagers domiciled in far flung rural Botswana. Against the advice of his comrades, Super SKI just like Mao Zedong initiated the Chinese revolution by mobilising farmers and workers in rural China. Other leaders in the Communist Party had wanted to emulate the Soviet Revolution led by Lenin, which started in the cities by factory workers, and then spread to the villages. Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara and others also started the revolution in rural Cuba, fighting the bush wars until they captured Havana with the full support of villagers. The steps of the BPF are similar, the revolution began in Serowe, then Kanye, Letlhakane, Lerala, Lecheng, Borotsi and Mmatshumo, SKI’s revolutionary guerrilla warfare tactics will leave the BDP in spams of shock come October 2019 elections.
From inception, the BPF has made it clear that it seeks to join hands with other opposition parties available in order to oust the limping BDP. In this regard, the BPF from the outset is a unifier and game changer that accords the opposition bloc a chance at state power that has eluded them since the dawn of independent Botswana. This creates a golden opportunity for the country to leap ahead by harnessing the many brilliant minds that litter the opposition ranks and file. It is unfortunate that the Alliance for Progressives for very weird reasons didn’t warm up to the idea of all opposition parties going into the elections as a united front, for this they lost a lot of support, which means that the nation may be robbed of the brains and experience of the likes of Ndaba Gaolathe and General Pius Mokgware should they lose the 2019 elections.
A game changer
By callously eating away at traditional BDP strongholds in rural Botswana, the BPF tilts the scales in favour of the opposition parties, notably the UDC. If the UDC/BPF alliance wins the 2019 elections as it looks most likely, it will mark the first time ever that the ruling BDP is removed from government. This would be historic, and a display of a maturing democracy that would have graduated from a de facto one party state which is bad for our country and its democracy to a quintessential true democracy.
It is never easy to leave a ruling party, especially if it was founded by your father and you were also its president. But SKI did just that. These are marks of a very courageous and mentally strong captain who isn’t afraid to chart unknown seas. SKI’s political agility is one of the hallmarks of exceptional leadership. He is a lifelong learner able to relate with people from different political persuasions with ease, flexible and open-minded enough to embrace and learn new political ropes, unlike the BDP which is determined on doing it the slow and old way squandering an opportunity for our progress and to break new ground. The opposition stands to win the 2019 elections, the BPF and its entire leadership under the able hands of the charismatic pastor, Hon Butale are history makers and can be considered martyrs. For that, their names will be interred in the annuls of Botswana’s history for future generations when we are long gone to marvel at their role in enhancing our democratic pluralism not just in 2019, but to secure the blessings of our posterity.
*Justice Motlhabani is BPF Information & Publicity Secretary