A letter to Rampholo Molefhe

SHARE   |   Monday, 26 September 2016   |   By Motelebane Shepherd Motelebane

Dear Chumza,

You left us in 2013, a day before Christmas. Since then many things have happened in all scopes of our lives as Batswana including in your beloved media and music. There has been an emergence of fantastic singers particularly the ladies; Amantle Brown and Samantha Mogwe come instantly to mind. Juju Boy o bua dilo; not your kind of music I know but still a development. Your dream of a Workers’ Newspaper although not in the exact manner you would have wanted it, was also founded. It was called The Nation. It recruited your old buddy Douglas Tsiako and reputable journalist Abraham Motsokono but sadly it had a short life. The malls have also grown in number and beauty. The Central Business District (CBD) is being developed even as I write yet its splendour is already breathtaking. I wish you could see it. It is transforming Gaborone into a city at last; at least in terms of cosmopolitan buildings. I hear that a certain real-estate developer who owns half of the city wanted to build a bridge that would connect the CBD with Government Enclave; a bridge rising into the sky and then falling into the wonder of the CBD but Government would have none of that.

Today as I write this letter to you, we stand on the verge of our Independence Day; as you may recall it is our 50th. Government position is that we stand Proud and United after fifty years of success. It is a position not shared by all as you may have guessed. There are those who spit on it for various reasons. As for me, I remain a loyal Motswana who deeply loves his country and village; particularly my village because therein lies buried the umbilical cord that ties my father to his forebears; my ancestors.  It is upon this land that I have laid my heart. On the hillock at Phokela kgotla stands my house where my family and I call home. We love it there. It is where we belong. So as we walk into Independence Day I do not want to draw you my dear friend into the squabbles surrounding this important day. To me Independence Day is sacred. It is a day given to all of us by our forefathers. I treat it like ha go dirwa phekolo mo lapeng. It is a time for family members to get together and become one as they seek the healing embrace of the Gods; as they seek the warmth of their love and the benevolence of their nobility. That there are those who enjoy the riches of our land more than others is a matter of common discourse; an unfortunate matter indeed. Still Independence Day is a time to celebrate the gift from those who came before us. After that we can cross swords as much as we want and cut off each other’s heads.

Chumza, Botswana is still Botswana. Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is still the ruling party. Prior to the 2014 General Elections the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), I bet you remember them the orange folks who used to be red; well they got together with Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and formed Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). They did well at the polls pocketing 17 seats; an opposition party feat that surpassed the 1994 performance by BNF which saw it winning 13 parliamentary seats. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won three seats. They lost Gaborone Central to UDC. You will find it hard to believe when I tell you that the seasoned and effective Dumelang Saleshando lost to a rookie called Phenyo Butale who got himself thrown out of Parliament for supposedly misbehaving by Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi. Ijo ba bogale bo speaker these days! I have no doubt that you will remember Honourable Molatlhegi, the man who snatched Gaborone South from the old clutches of BNF dating back to the days of Dr Kenneth Koma. He deputises Gladys Kokorwe now and had actually called Parliament security to literally carry Butale and throw him out of Parliament. He appears to be a disciplinarian who is prepared to stop at nothing to ensure that he enforces the Standing Orders to the same extent he understands them. Back at home in Serowe at Phokela Kgotla he is respected for his hard work during funerals and weddings. He is well versed with traditional chores at these ceremonies and is trusted to provide thorough supervision to young men preparing Mokoto. The outcome is usually a Mokoto with unparalleled palatability. I am sure you still remember Mokoto, the Bamangwato Delicatessen.

The newspaper headlines day in and day out scream of the problems we face as a nation; problems that we have to find solutions to. I give you the headlines without contents of the stories, as a sound journalist, I have no doubt you will be able to figure them out. NDB NEEDS P 1 BILLION. OPPOSITION WILL NOT SUPPORT IEC ON ELECTORAL REFORMS. POLITICIAN APPEARS IN COURT FOR DEFILEMENT. JOB LOSSES AS GOVERNMENT CHOPS PRIVATE TERTIARY CAKE. SPEDU’S WEB OF FAILED LEADERSHIP. SECRET DOCUMENTS RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT BOTSWANA’S INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY. GUMA THREATENS TO JAIL PROFESSOR FAKO. There are many more on issues of corruption and malpractice. On a positive note, the nation is doing fairly well on athletics and arts. There are also some commendable efforts to restore culture and tradition. The Presidential Housing Appeal is thriving as an impressive number of citizens are being housed while the Ipelegeng programme is keeping a sizable number of urban and rural poor off the streets against the backdrop of high unemployment rate particularly among tertiary graduates. Anyway, opposition is still opposition. It uses the same names, acronyms and slogans. Still faces the same internal bickering and make the same mistakes. As I write to you, BCP which was not part of the UDC was willing to come on board but conspiracies and suspicions seem poised to impact negatively on the move. Compounding the situation is that BMD is entangled in internal quarrels. Now we ask can anything change without causality. Can anything change if we keep holding to old words, old ways, stale and tasteless propaganda that has destroyed many a good leader in this country; if we keep thinking small and through our bellies. Can anything change without deconstruction and reconstruction? Can it change if we ourselves refuse to become new?

The working class remains scattered and powerless in the backdrop of Trade Unions who allow thousands of workers to remain unorganised; where the essence of collectivism is diminished by a divided Labour Movement. This is to say that things are as you left them save to say that rich trade unionists have become a little richer. Another worrying matter is that the definition of the working class seems to be understood to mean members of our trade unions. It does not apply itself to the broader political economy, hence the failure of the unions to understand that they are the only formal organisations for the working class or for a worker wherever she or he may be whether in employment or looking for it or whether in the formal or informal sector. Political parties are where the ruling class seeks political and economic power but they can be vehicles for working class emancipation if the unions are ideologically grounded, have an agenda and are strong in their unity. Contrary to the worker controlled unions able to win workplace victories for members that we used to talk about endlessly when you were still around, the movement is now invaded by money crazed union executives who are looking to get rich very quickly. They make veiled nocturnal business deals with corporates in order to milk the worker of his or her last Thebe and make real their dreams of instant riches. It is with sadness that I tell you that it was for basically this reason that many comrades and I decided that BLLAHWU should be deconstructed and be reconstructed as Botswana Progressive Workers Union.

Although it may seem to some at the moment that our move was a split of the union, yet as events unfold, as the untenable rot within the dying union is revealed it will become clear that ours was a revolution to free workers from the chains of capital conniving with opportunists masquerading as unionists. I will not be surprised when you find it hard to believe that I who worked so hard and tirelessly to ensure that BULGSA became strong and was converted to BLLAHWU should be among those who are now seeing to its end. Chumza it was a hard but necessary decision. Our intention is to give power to the workers by improving their working conditions and living standards. We believe that trade union members themselves should decide their destiny in all forums, not some craze bureaucrats who suffers from a gargantuan appetite of getting rich through union members.  We also want their voice to be heard and respected by those who decide who gets what from the National Cake. Re batla babereki batswa ka fa mosing! It is a mission that I know you would have supported with everything you had. Otherwise, I am still soldiering in this bitter-sweet life that you left us in. We still think of you and talk about you. Chumza if you see Gomolemo Motswaledi tell him that his organisation is in trouble and ask him to ask the Almighty to help it find peace and move forward. May your souls remain resting in eternal peace!
Your Friend, 
Motelebane Shepherd Motelebane