In our context this means that revolutionary BNF MPs must deliberately combine parliamentary and extra-parliamentary methods of struggle i.e. they must synchronize their parliamentary debates and motions with mass struggles outside parliament through, what some comrades call ‘the peoples parliament’ i.e. rallies and mass actions outside parliament geared towards supporting and complementing parliamentary struggles. In the past some of the rallies held, particularly at the Gaborone Bus rank, were called the ‘people’s parliament’ because they addressed the same issues raised by our MPs in parliament. In my view, the individual motions and questions in parliament must build up to a motion of no confidence in the BDP regime coordinated with extra-parliamentary methods of struggle. In other words, the same issues raised by the motion of no confidence must be the subject of rolling mass actions.
Before a motion on behalf of the oppressed is tabled in parliament it must first of all be debated outside parliament with the people concerned before it is presented in the national assembly. On the day that the motion is tabled in parliament the workers or potential beneficiaries of the motion must be mobilized to march on parliament with placards and posters, toy-toying, singing revolutionary songs and chanting BNF slogans in support of the motion. This would be a revolutionary way of lobbying and exerting maximum pressure on the regime to back the motion. Even if the motion is defeated it serves a useful political role of exposing the regime. Former BPP leader Phillip Matante virtually alone in parliament used to move a motion of no confidence in the BDP regime, not so much to win it, but to expose the political bankruptcy of the regime in front of the people as the motion was reported in the media. On a small scale, I gather that in the past when the BDF budget was presented in the national assembly senior BDF officers in full military gear would descend on parliament in large numbers to lobby parliamentarians to allocate them more money. We are however talking about lobbying through mass actions because mass actions are more effective than political rallies addressed by a handful of elites and motions presented by individual MPs in parliament. The recent illegal deployment of the police inside parliament who had the nerve and temerity to rough-up Gaborone Central member of Parliament, Comrade Phenyo Butale must serve as a wake-up call to all revolutionaries that the time to take the fight to the BDP regime is long overdue. Freedom square politics and presentations of motions by our MPs in isolation from the struggles of the masses outside parliament are ineffective.
Some of the issues that may be the focus of rolling mass actions are as follows;
Growing state terrorism perpetrated by the DIS which led to the unprecedented dastardly assassination of our beloved BMD leader Gomolemo Motswaledi.
The diminishing civil rights and freedoms. For the first time in the history of this country in 2014 we had an election that was neither free nor fair. Since 1966 our elections have been free but not fair because the BDP has always had a well-oiled election campaign machine and it abused the state media for its propaganda campaign. But people were free because there was no DIS intimidating them. Not anymore. This time there was systematic intimidation of political activists, human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, authors of books, artists etc.
The growing land crisis – a handful of land barons continue to grab all the land thereby sowing the seeds of a revolution.
The housing crisis exacerbated by the fact that land under this capitalist regime is a commodity bought and sold on the market. The number of people on the waiting list for residential plots now exceeds the population of Botswana! Botswana and France are of the same geographic size. France has over 80 million people and Botswana only 2.1 million and yet we are supposed to have shortage of land! People wait on the housing list for over 20 years.
The endemic power crisis caused by corruption, mismanagement and under investment in renewable sources of energy. BHC under siege must be the only company in the world that I know of which after producing a product literally begs people not to use it! Their adverts in newspapers read; ‘dirisa monwana wagago, tobetsa tima di dirisiwa tsotlhe tsa motlakase’ - meaning; ‘use your finger, switch off all electrical appliances’. The question is how are they going to make a profit when they beg consumers of their product not to use it? Ironically the country is sitting on 200 billion tonnes of coal. It has plenty of sunshine and wind – more than enough to generate power for the country and even for export to other countries. The DRC is a member of SADC with huge perennial rivers that can power the whole of SADC.
The escalating water crisis attributable to under investment, mismanagement and corruption dating back to the Mogae regime. A country with perennial rivers has an artificial shortage of drinking water! For decades the BNF has been calling for the dredging of the waters of the Okavango.
Primary and secondary levels of education have been going downhill for the past five years and there are no bold plans to arrest the deepening crisis.
Kleptocracy or runaway white collar theft, insatiable capitalist greed and corruption. Mass actions must focus on these problems – one at a time.
The BNF’s struggle must not be over-localized, instead it must always be part and parcel of the global struggle against international capital. For purposes of illustration we argue that in our fight for land we must take a leaf out of EFF’s book in South Africa, the Namibian youth’s book as well as Robert Mugabe’s book in Zimbabwe .
In neighboring South Africa the ANC had to step up the struggle about four or five times to be able to gain state power in 1994. First, when it was founded in 1912 the ANC naively regarded apartheid as a moral abomination and thought the regime could be persuaded to abandon apartheid through moral suasion. Several cap-in-hand delegations planned to meet the architects of apartheid were snubbed. Secondly, in the 1950s the ANC decided to step-up the struggle by embarking on Defiance Campaigns - a campaign of civil disobedience where they publicly burned the infamous passes in front of the authorities. The regime reacted ruthlessly by killing scores of people at Sharpeville and subsequently banned the ANC, PAC and the Communist Party. Activists like Nelson Mandela were arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Thirdly, the ANC was forced to once again step up the struggle by opting for armed struggle waged from neighbouring countries. Fourthly, since guerrilla warfare alone in an industrial society was not enough to overthrow the apartheid regime it had to be combined with mass insurrections inside South Africa in the 1980s geared towards rendering South Africa ungovernable. The twin strategies of guerrilla warfare coupled with mass insurrections inside the country forced the regime to the negotiating table in the 1990s where a political settlement was reached.
However, the second phase of the South African revolution seems to have fallen on the shoulders of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The EFF has put enormous pressure on the ANC government to honour its commitment to the 1955 Freedom Charter and redistribute land and other means of production to the people of South Africa in order to deal with gross inequalities, structural poverty and unemployment. EFF pressure has forced Zuma’s government to shift to the left, at least at a rhetorical level.
In Namibia the Affirmative Repositioning strategy pursued by the youth under the stewardship of Job Amupanda has given the government July 31st 2015 deadline to deliver residential plots to the thousands of people who have been waiting to be allocated land for years. Namibia is the 5th most unequal country in the world. If this deadline is not met the youth are threatening a campaign of land occupation called Affirmative Repositioning. The BNF must organize and lead the thousands of people as they submit their applications for residential plots in various parts of this country. It is not acceptable for the people to be tear-gassed by the police in Ramotswa, Tlokweng and other places as they try to submit their applications while BNF stands idly by. If the authorities fail to allocate land the BNF must lead the people in a campaign to occupy land because this is their inalienable democratic right.
Despite its birth pangs the Zimbabwean land resettlement programme tore to pieces the neo-colonial Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 rendering that country the only one in Southern Africa that has solved the land crisis by resettling more than 300 000 black families over 7.6 million hectares of prime agricultural land hitherto expropriated by some 4, 000 white farmers. Today Zimbabwe is on the verge of a successful agricultural revolution as it launches the largest mechanization programme to boost productivity of smallholder farmers. Significantly, the land resettlement programme was a response to the pressure of the masses. In 2000 some 11 villagers from Svosve in Mashonaland East Province under the leadership of chief, Enock Zenda decided to occupy some white owned farms thereby forcing the regime to embark on a revolutionary land resettlement programme.
Although BNF has always committed itself to mass actions, it has been inconsistent in its pursuit of this strategy. One recalls the BNF May Day marches that sensitized the workers to the importance of that day and forced the BDP regime to declare it a public holiday. As a party we have tended to use strategies and tactics developed a long time ago without asking ourselves if they are appropriate for the problems we seek to address today and whether they are in sync with the nature and character of the BNF. A revolutionary organization is a party of action, not a talking-shop. As a revolutionary organization the BNF must rely on revolutionary methods of struggle – mass actions in the form of demonstrations, strikes, petitions, exposés, lobbying, boycotts, distribution of leaflets, civil disobedience etc. building up to mass insurrections which enable the masses, not individual leaders, to enter the arena of politics and inflict some telling blows on the beleaguered regime.
The power of mass actions was demonstrated recently as unarmed masses defeated dictatorial regimes in the Arab world. In Tunisia the self-immolation of street vendor Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi on December 17, 2010 was the spark that triggered off only 27 days of unarmed mass insurrection leading to the collapse of the 23 year old dictatorial regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Municipal authorities had confiscated Mohamed Bouazizi ‘s wares, slapped and humiliated him for alleged illegal trading. In protest he doused himself with petrol and set himself alight setting off the so-called Arab Spring. Ben Ali first fled to France but was denied sanctuary before he was allowed to hide in Saudi Arabia. That political conflagration swept across Arab countries and beyond like a bush fire forcing tin-pot dictators to bite the dust – clearly demonstrating the power of the masses. The BNF is a sleeping giant that must galvanize its membership into a fighting force, instead of reducing them to spectators at political rallies addressed by the party elite.
The uncoordinated freedom square politics that have come to dominate our political campaigns must be subordinated to proletarian or extra-parliamentary methods of struggle in the form of mass actions culminating in mass insurrections. We must deliberately shift our movement towards the use of more extra-parliamentary methods of struggle, not only to fight on issues of immediate interest and concern to our people, but also to counter the dictatorial tendencies of the Khama regime. Political rallies relegated to a secondary role can be made more productive by the revival of structures like the Speakers Committees which must plan and evaluate all political rallies to ensure that they are better coordinated and deliver carefully thought-out propaganda and agitation. What we are suggesting is that mass actions can also add value to current 50th anniversary activities of the BNF so that they do not degenerate into ordinary BNF campaigns, but serve as a learning tool for the movement.