How appropriate that we meet here today, in Gantsi, on the land that best defines our heritage as a people. This is the home of farmers, both barons and communal farmers, white farmers and brown farmers. It is the place where farming knowledge, the breeding of studs, the conservation of the grasses of the veldt and the management of the land is to be found. It is the land that is dry on the surface, but sits on water-tables from which people and the animals drink. It is also a place of many poor households, entire communities that are still searching for an economic way of life that can feed them.
The narrative of the people here does not center as much on where they are now as a community as it does on whether they can hue from their circumstances a community that can generate wealth, feed itself, feed others and bring out the best out of its own. They have ideas, they make effort to be creative and to work hard, but they feel they are always knocking themselves against an unyielding wall, an uncaring system and system that does not believe in the power of their talents, ideas and efforts. They feel if they do not know someone high up, then their dreams are shattered no matter the strength of their talent, or the flow of their sweat or the colour of their creativity. They feel and they have heard there is a monster, some powerful hand or organ, they haven’t met the monster, but they feel it makes all the decisions for this country but they do not understand how it arrives at these decisions. This is not only the story of Gantsi, it is the story of our country. And it need not be this way.
That is why today we come together, young men and young women, old men and old women – citizens from every walk of life, to unite in one voice and one dream. Our dream is for a nation that is able to bring out the belief in each one of its people, that if they applied themselves diligently and creatively, they can become anything they wish to become, and make a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of their families, community and in the life of their nation. This is our dream.
This is the dream and ideal that our late Leader Gomolemo Motswaledi lived for, lived by and met his fate while pursuing it for his people. This is what brings us here today, and this is the same dream around which we are tasked to unite our people and nation. Our responsibility is to make them see that all of us are endowed with talent, and that if we collectively nurtured it with character, knowledge, skill and team-spirit, we can transform ourselves into a great nation of great communities and individuals. This should be our path. This is our path.
And here is what we kept repeating to ourselves and what we agreed we will live by. We promised each other that every gathering we will repeat our values, so all of us may know them like the back of their palms, and live by them: We respect colleagues; We learn from colleagues, exploit their strength and give due credit; We compensate for each other’s weaknesses; When one fails, the whole team fails; The success of one is the glory of the whole team; We will be punctual; We will be fair, honest and truthful; We will admire and keep discipline; We will keep a strong work ethic; We do things with a sense of speed and prudence; We will win; All our work will be described as beautiful, by others; We will serve and not expect to be kings; We will keep our eyes fixed on the ball; We will work as one, and have fun at it
He believed we owed it to our nation to form government (as part of the Umbrella) and lead this nation; He believed that it was our duty to plant this seed of this vision and these values; His conviction was that we must remember these values and dream, in everything we do; Victory is certain in 2019, he often said in laughter, “ha re ka hosa ka 2014, nyaa ka 2019 gone, ke go kopa dinotlele re ye go simolola tiro”.
His words were always prophetic, and it shows. It shows in the way we have surprised many in the 2014 election. Yes, we have made mistakes but we must not forget how long we have come. We must never beat ourselves over our mistakes, and let go of the opportunities our strides have opened up for our people.
Today, we have come to reflect on these experiences, learn from them and sharpen ourselves, and by extension sharpen the Umbrella, for Government in 2019
Some sources of concern
We must vent, this is our party this is our movement. And yes, mistakes we have made some manifesting in: a) Lapses in our communication thrust, internally and with the nation b. organizational and operational bottlenecks (no proper database system, stalled membership-card production, stalled training programmes for new recruits and leaders, scanty financial management) c) unsatisfactory injection of life into branches especially in rural areas d) deteriorating discipline among our ranks especially within but not restricted to the youth wing and e) a rusty fund-raising machinery.
Our successes and plans by far overpower our mistakes
We need to proud that our party gave Botswana one of its finest leaders, Gomolemo Motswaledi, whose life remains a beacon of hope about what is possible for our people and an exemplar or standard for what we must demand of our leaders. Our party is an oasis of some of the finest leaders in our country, and an attraction to many of the most talented young persons in our country
We need to be proud that at time when our country was increasingly becoming polarised, our party is one of the formations that inspired and guided the uniting of our people through the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic, and continues to search for ways to unite the people of Botswana even more
We need to be proud that the UDC of which we are a part, performed glowingly in the 2014 and has given our people belief, that it is possible to change Government in the near future
Our party has given our nation capable members of Parliament who are a voice for the voice-less and agents for an accountable system. It has also given our councils capable councillors
Our party continues to bring swaths of young people who were previously indifferent about politics or their country, but now see the need to shape the destiny of their nation.
Our party, through the Umbrella Manifesto and policies, have given our country a prism view and insight into the future – a five-pillared approach to realising our vision through interventions in Governance, education system, economic management, social interventions and an emphasis on freedoms and quality of life.
We have given this country hope, we have given them belief, we have helped unite our people and we have made people realise their potential to shape their destiny. These are great achievements for which we must be proud.
Never mind the sceptics and the cynics, we are on course.
Even better we have bold and ambitious plans: We have already prepared a draft strategy that will take us to the 2019 elections, quite aligned to a draft strategy that will fuel the UDC to the 2019. The strategies are the same, we are part of the UDC family. The five strategic objectives entail a) a target of at least 40 constituencies in the 2019 election b) establish a robust and sustainable organisational machinery c) cultivating a depth and breadth of leaders at all levels d) forging a policy and conduct culture that demonstrates that we a genuine Government in waiting and e) become magnificently communicative, to ensure that we are all always on the same wavelength.
These plans will be further discussed, refined and implemented through various consultative processes within UDC member parties and at a scheduled UDC leadership forum this year, that will also pave way for decisions towards a UDC congress.
Assignments for the incoming leaders
These are not just plans, but they are accompanied by standing assignment for each of incoming NEC members, and performance measures for clusters in which they would be concentrating on. Clusters are related to the five strategic objectives. These plans we designed to address the lapses we have been experiencing so we can realise our vision and our mission to win the elections in 2019
Our decision to be part of the UDC has been one of our most inspired decisions we have been since inception, a decision without which many of our achievements, as already outlined, may not have been possible. Our relationship with the BNF and the BPP continues to be a rewarding and symbiotic one.
Many had thought the UDC would disintegrate after the elections, as it was viewed in some quarters as a marriage of convenience purely crafted for purposes of an election. Some has asked when we will make a decision on dissolving the individual parties inorder to forge what some refer to as a total merger. In fact, this was one of the first questions the Executive Committee of the UDC looked into after the elections, along with the general question of how we move forward as the UDC.
UDC is one party, a single party
First, we who are in the UDC need to understand what the UDC is, and appreciate what it is about. The UDC is NOT a loose coalition as it is made out to be. In fact the UDC is a party, it is one party, a single party, an Umbrella party with a constitution, with a set of policies and a single manifesto. It is a super-party whose members are groups which groups do not necessarily have to be political parties, such groups can also be churches, labour unions, clubs, associations and individuals who share interests. It is party that was intended to unite the people of Botswana towards this vision that has brought us here today.
The United States federal model
The UDC can be likened to a country such as the United States, a single country, a super-power, the most powerful country on earth. Even though it is a single country, it is formed of fifty states each with legislatures and governors. The United States does not have to dissolve each of the fifty states to prove that indeed it is one country or to prove that it is cohesive or to show that it can be successful. All the United States needs to do is to organise itself well, ensure that every state lives to give life to the United States. This is what the Umbrella has been doing, and that is what we will be working on over the next few years, to align the lives of each group member the Umbrella so that the Umbrella emerges as one super-party that unites all our people. Some of the things we are in the process of doing include the operationalisation of a UDC office we have recently moved into and common or overriding guidelines in the following areas:
o Communications guidelines
o Primary elections guidelines
o Branding guidelines
o Parliamentary and council elections at national level guidelines
o Office bearer’s nomination and/or election process
o Policy formulation guidelines
o Membership registration, mobilization and database-management guidelines
o Fundraising manual
o Finance manual
o Constitutional amendmends
Going forward, we must decide on the character of our party
There has been an ensuing debate within our party about how to treat members who left the party in the past and now wish to return. The question is whether we should readily accept all of them or not, and if we do should we place momentary conditions or probations on them. This is a healthy debate for any organisation.
Here is how we should think about such questions. We know that institutions are shaped or their character defined by who they recruit and welcome in their midst, but they are also defined by how they train those recruits or how they guide them once they join in. Militaries, universities, companies and other institutions do not welcome every single person that applies for membership, and there is a reason for it. Otherwise there would be no point having an application process.
Each institution must bring into their fold individuals that share the vision, the mission and the values of that formation. These individuals must enhance these values, they must enhance their realisation and not reverse them. If there are any pervasive doubts, or suspicions about whether such individuals seek to join for purposes of pursuing these common vision and goals, then there must be exceptional cases where the admission of such individuals is denied. Any institution that receives every single individual, a 100%, that seeks to join it sets itself up for failure. It opens itself for the sabotage of its ideals. We must not become such an institution. And if such a sentiment makes me sound like a hardliner, then I would rather be one. We need to shape our character in line with our vision and values, but we cannot do so by agreeing with every request that comes to our table. But this must not mean we must deny admission to those who have made genuine mistakes in the past, and who yearn to take our movement to a higher level, and there are such people in our midst today.
We must be cemented and unite in diversity by our vision
You are a generation whose work and deeds will shape the future of this country – please comprehend this enormous responsibility. And during this congress you will be mediators in a spirited competition for positions of responsibility. Please do hand to our party, and indeed to the people of Botswana a team that reflects our promise to value excellence and sound character. There should be no exceptions – and if need be, start right at the top, with your President – if he does not possess these attributes, or he does not represent the ideals for which the late President Gomolemo Motswaledi lived and departed by, the ideals which we now must jealously guard – then find a leader who does and who will inspire us to attain freedom for our people. Nourish your sense of maturity, so that you learn to embrace that people can differ in perspective and style, so that if they run for the same role against each other, it does not mean they do not love each other. The supporters of one candidate can still love the supporters of another candidate and yet exercise their right to vote differently. We are fortunate to have so many leaders of quality in one roof, it is a sign of growth and of the seriousness of our mission.