Former Presidents must speak out

SHARE   |   Sunday, 20 July 2014   |   By Mpho Balopi

The BDP is always interested to hear the views of its members on various issues. This includes the views of our former leaders. As such, we listened to the words of Rre Masire at the funeral of Gomolemo Motswaledi and former President Mogae in Tanzania with interest. President Masire’s overriding message was correct while Rre Mogae has his own opinion-an opinion we do not share. It is well known that a democracy needs a vibrant opposition, and as Rre Masire notes, it is important that there be an alternative in a democracy, a viable alternative. Perhaps the worry should be over the viability of the political opposition to take this country forward- not through slogans, but through actions that demonstrate maturity and tolerance.

As it is, Botswana’s opposition remains focused on triviality and innuendo as opposed to the bigger picture of taking Botswana forward. As Rre Masire pointed out, running a country takes maturity and commitment to the collective interests of all our people. It should never be-as is the case with our opposition- about narrow self-interests, more concerned with who gets what position in the event of winning an election, than in the wellbeing of Batswana. Rre Mogae’s opinions regrettably deviate from our usual channels of internal communication in the BDP. I have no interest in engaging a former leader of our party through the media.

This is also democracy at work. In a proper functioning democracy, citizens regardless of rank and political association are encouraged to share their views, and we are keen to hear the opinions of all citizens, especially of our youth, the future of this republic. Indeed internal democracy exists in the BDP for our members and former leaders to speak, and even critique us at times, without any sanction. We hold freedom of expression sacrosanct and this has led to the growth and development of a free and robust media that at times interpret statements their own way as they are doing now.

The BDP leadership is keen on deepening democracy. It is for this very reason that President Khama has declared Election Day a national holiday. This bears testimony to our desire for participatory democracy to be more entrenched. We look forward to more initiatives of this nature in future if Batswana once more entrust us with the privilege of governing this country. As we will do with the economy, we intend to take Botswana's democracy forward.

Over the past five years, despite a difficult global economy which forced us to take tough decisions for the wellbeing of our nation, we have initiated a number of significant projects that have improved the lives of the people of Botswana. We have delivered a power station that at full capacity will see Botswana self-sufficient in power generation. We have also seen subsistence food production more than double, through initiatives such as ISPAAD and LIMID. Similarly, today, a smaller proportion of our people than at any given point in time of the history of our great republic lives in poverty. We are well on the way to eliminating abject poverty and are working at averting a lot of social ills that had taken root within society.

The biggest challenge facing us today is unemployment, particularly of our talented youth. President Khama is impatient that we have not been able to do more for our citizens who cannot find work and he is pained by the plight of those who are unable to provide for their families. We must do more for these people. When re-elected, President Khama will personally take responsibility for this issue, by making job creation priority number one of his second government. Aggressive action is needed, and that is what we will do.

Job creation is one component of moving Botswana into the second phase of its growth and human development trajectory. A lot of transformation is necessary to move our nation forward. Our people now demand not the bare necessities and mere availability of infrastructure and services. That is why the core question of the upcoming election is a simple one; which party can lead us into the next stage of our shared journey. Which party can move us forward?

In answering this question, the voters will face a choice. A choice between a party that has led us along our road to growth, with a strong and compassionate president who has a clear vision for the future of Botswana and a plan of how to lead us there, and a confused and divided opposition, who cannot even agree on a shared program or Presidential candidate, let alone on what direction to take Botswana.

This is the choice the Botswana voters will face when they stand in front of the ballot box on October 24th. And when faced by this choice, we are confident that the voters will choose to move Botswana forward.

*Balopi is the Secretary General of the BDP.