This is part of my writings of 2008 while I was a member of the BDP. I discovered this piece in my archive of writings and I thought I should share an excerpt from it. Mmegi published the full script at the time.
An element of what makes the BDP strong is that democrats (meaning members of the BDP) have consistently coalesced in deference to the decisions of the BDP Central Committee or those of other party structures. Generations of democrats have honoured the party’s structures even on occasions where they disagreed with decisions being taken. It is this party discipline and unity that has carried the BDP to stand the test of time. In rare instances where individual members publicly expressed views that were contrary to those promoted by party structures, they have done so in a way that respected and protected the integrity of the party but also in a manner that was conscious to the national interest. It is in this spirit, that I add my voice to those who differ with the decision taken by our President and our central committee to recall Pono Moatlhodi from contesting the Tonota North Constituency on the BDP ticket.
I am not in possession of the minute detail of the reasoning behind the decision to disqualify the MP from running as a BDP candidate next year. My deep impression is that Moatlhodi is being punished for a litany of acts of indiscipline and defiance against which he has consistently being warned. It is also possible that the BDP leadership genuinely feels the need to send strong signals to the effect that ill-discipline is an absolute “no, no”.
I am not acquainted with Moatlhodi personally, so I am not in a position to discuss his personality and persuasions. Still, in his parliamentary debates, he comes across as forthright and committed to the causes of his Tonota electorate. He is passionate about his mandate as emissary of his people and as a bencher of his party. Sure, it is no secret that his manner may at times seem to proceed tangentially, and that it is difficult to silence him when he is “on tune”. This should be no bad omen, it is in fact what makes the BDP exquisite, a broad church of introverts and extroverts; a haven of intellectuals and of pragmatists, a party of the employed and the unemployed, Christians and Muslims, old women and young models; it is a party of old men and young sportsmen, a congregation of soldiers and of repented law-breakers, a party of ordinary people. It is a party that is a microcosm of Botswana. It reflects our nation and our nation’s pulse.
If Moatlhodi has committed fraud, he should be handed to the law enforcement institutions. Fraud and corruption is what the BDP should not tolerate, at all costs. If Moatlhodi is an instigator of some deep-rooted plot to destroy the party, then the central community is well within its rights to table Moatlhodi’s hand before his constituents for their input and action. Moatlhodi is no fraudster; neither he is a sly and destructive conspirator. A good MP is a good MP until demonstrably proven otherwise - this is how our nation operates, whether BDP or not BDP.
If the desire is to send strong signals to the broad membership about the virtues of discipline and the wages of ill-discipline, then the message has been interpreted differently by many democrats. The interpretation is that a thick layer of dark hail-thunder-storm clouds are accumulating over the party’s skyline. Many citizens are anxious about tomorrow.
The after-church hugs, the white-city football chats, and the combi and bus rides are no longer platforms of confident hope. This is not the atmosphere our founders had sought to cultivate among the people of Botswana.
This is not the way citizens of Botswana should live. No, no this is not who we are, as a party and as a nation. We are not a nation of fear, we are a nation of courage; we are not a nation of despair, we are a nation of hope; we are not a nation of “nothing before us”, we have “everything before us”, we are not a nation of fools, we are a nation of wise herders. This is the promise of our party; it is the promise of our nation.
I am certain that some of our leaders are driven by a genuine sense of urgency to arrest the many challenges that the nation faces.
The consensus is alive that ill-discipline is a pervasive malady in this era, and is acting, in a multitude of avenues, to reverse many of our economic and social gains of the past. Others will go as far as to say, ill-discipline is shaking the very foundations we require to make economic and social leaps. It is therefore not surprising when our leaders take notice in the way they do, and act with the strictness and resolve they have acted with.
The reality is that the solutions to our many problems are not in the documents and resolutions passed on the conference tables in offices that overlook the Government enclave. The solutions are dissolved, as water in blood, in the minds of ordinary citizens. Until the people discover themselves, unless we believe in ourselves and until we understand that we have it within ourselves to be the best in the world, no big stick lifted behind our backs will turn us into Spartan citizens.
When our young continue to worship all that is western, when we begrudge our own for their high achievements, when our system rewards everything but competence and integrity, when adults fail to serve as genuine role models and when our cynicism triumphs over what is positive, when we are afraid to dream beyond the height of our skyline, we know our journey remains distant. Therein lay our challenges.
The BDP has always replenished itself with remarkable individuals at every generational turn. The cohort of wet-eared members referred to earlier in the note consists of young committed, principled, disciplined, selfless, visionary and capable individuals. Some of them may be educationally certified, some are not, some are quiet, others are chatterboxes, but they carry within them the spirit to take the BDP and nation’s burner higher.
Contrary to what may be believed in some instances, many of these individuals seek no personal gain nor do they aspire for political office or plumb government titles.
However, some of them, such as I, realise that our duty is to push forward others from among us to step forward for political office because we understand that any party or nation that truly seeks to find its best footing must embrace, encourage, groom and even entice its best. In this light I have persistently pleaded with Gomolemo Motswaledi and Botsalo Ntuane to name two of them, to step forward, and offered my encouragement to them.
I mention this matter publicly to demonstrate that my support for these two individuals and others whoever they may be is no undercover operation, intended to disrupt the order of affairs in our party. On the contrary it is a position inspired by a belief that our young ought to encourage one other from among themselves if in so doing we build on what is a superior future for all. This is a cohort that understands that Botswana as a nation has within itself the ability to generate pockets of competence, as well, in the BNF, NDF, BCP, BPP, MELS and others. It is correct to appreciate what members of these parties can bring to the lives of Batswana.
A generation that is not able to walk across the political isle to encourage one another, for the sake of the nation, stifles the height of our nation’s flight. I have read and re-read Moatlhodi’s contribution in parliament whereupon he expressed fear of what he considers to be a militarisation of the civil service. I am not certain if his characterisation of appointments is accurate or not. On the other hand, I am certain that the quantum of appointments of former military personnel to key government positions is unprecedented in the history of Botswana.
Military officers are of course citizens, with the capacity to excel or not to excel like all other civilians, so perhaps this matter should be understood in this way. But if Moatlhodi should express surprise in the way that he did - he should be allowed - or perhaps be inaccurate in his descriptions - it would not be fair to expect anyone not to miss precision language as he may have.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong with appointing former military officers to government positions especially if some of them are competent. Ours is country in which every citizen regardless of their walk of life, deserves an opportunity to serve as they may be called upon by their nation or its leaders.
Their service deserves to be cherished and rewarded in the same way as it is for civilians. Yet, even those who hold to this basic tenet of fairness, as I do, will likely have been astonished by the quantum of such appointments in recent times. We should leave it at that, because our democratic tradition is premised on our capacity to be expressive without condemning or be in disagreement but still be fond of each other.
The central committee of BDP can dismiss calls to re-instate Moatlhodi, for reasons the committee may be genuinely committed to or for whatever reasons they may harbour, including those that may not be genuine.
This is well within the central committee’s mandate and rights. We can then brace for members of the party and ordinary citizens speaking about the matter over evening meals in low voices. No sooner, party elders will be hauling some more people before another disciplinary hearing.
Soon thereafter another group within the party will arouse suspicion for being defiant and another group will be suspected of some other new motive.
All the while the nation will watch and move from one emotion to another. Children will be born and they will grow and find no promise in the skyline. This is an option we have.
I would not be participating in this matter if I thought this recall, of a genuine representative of his people, does not matter or if I did not genuinely believe our leaders will not be moved by a spirit of right, the spirit that keeps our party and our nation fixated on the promise.
*Ndaba Gaolathe is the UDC’s candidate for Bonnington South parliamentary constituency.