Opposition parties should stop being in denial

SHARE   |   Monday, 07 November 2016   |   By Simon Gabathuse
Opposition parties supporters Opposition parties supporters

People divorce for varying reasons. Some have sighted financial mismanagement of the other partner as reason why they leave. For some it is physical abuse - in most cases females blame males for domestic violence. But we still have cases of males being physically abused by females. Many keep it to themselves. Some leave because the other partner is unable to produce children. Yet some have blamed others unsatisfactory sexual intercourse. Membership to a political party is like marriage. When you find yourselves being severally divorced, then you are surely the problem. You have a choice of continuing to blame those divorcing you that they are the problem. And in that way you will never appreciate your problem and solve it. You are incapacitated to change your ways to be within the confines of societal expectations. You also have a choice of accepting that you are the problem. In this way you introspect, find solutions, adjust and have a better life that hopefully will lead to you finding a partner who will not leave you. But if you get into the habit of singing the same song whenever a partner leaves you, you are convincing yourself.

The reaction of local opposition parties to the election of Reggie Mephato Reatile as Specially Elected Member of Parliament is worrisome. It is more like seeing everything bad with Bagalatia Arone simply because he has defected from your party. Equally we have listened to opposition party leaders telling us that those leaving their party are good riddance as the party is cleansing itself. The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in particular has described Reatile as a failure who has been rejected by the voters in the past National General Elections. The BCP conveniently forgets that it was also rejected by the voters, not in a single constituency but nationally. The BCP only managed to get three out of 57 constituencies. The deputy leader of the BCP; Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, who particularly labelled Reatile a failure, has never won at any national General Election yet has the audacity to label Reatile; a failure who was rejected by the voters in the past general elections. As they will say: ‘Sies, Look who is talking!’

Gobotswang in the process conveniently forgets that Reatile has been elected into the National Assembly before. When Reatile entered Parliament in 2004, he was defeating not only an ordinary member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) but a Cabinet Member; Michael Tshipinare. He brought to an end a long political career of an experienced politician. Tshipinare was never able to recover from these fatal political blows. If a comparison was to be made between Reatile and Gobotswang, then surely the failure in our house is Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang who has been trying to get a vote to Parliament most of his adult life to this day. Just like the rest of us, the only inside of the National Assembly that Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang knows is the public gallery. This is the same behaviour that opposition parties display when they lose members to other parties. Instead of the BCP introspecting, it went out weeping in public. The BCP has only two Members of Parliament left to its name. And it is equally fair to say it has only one MP to its name being; the youthful Dithapelo Keorapetse. His voice is audible and loud. I must confess I don’t even know the name of their other Member of Parliament. I have never heard him speak.

This must be a worry to the BCP. It must be worried as to why it was painfully rejected by the people. It must also introspect and ask itself why it is continuing to lose its high profiled politicians such as Annah Motlhagodi– Mokgethi, Lotty Manyapetsa, Thato Osupile, Ditiro Majadibodu and many others. It has become a norm for the BCP, which has been losing its prominent people in high volumes, to react with this kind of tired tact that those people were failures. Surely this can’t be true. The problem is inside. When Mephato Reatile was with the Botswana National Front (BNF), which he struggled with and for; he was seen as a messiah, a ground soldier, a politician of repute who understood the plight of the masses. Now that he has crossed over, he is seen as knowing nothing about politics. Opposition fanatics are conveniently forgetting that it was Mephato Reatile who after losing the 1999 national General Elections, during the time when he was with Debswana Jwaneng Mine, left his job to concentrate on campaigning. For five years he did nothing else but campaigned for his then party; the Botswana National Front. Without source of income or financial support, he traversed the dusty villages surrounding Jwaneng where the party was doing badly.

Mephato Reatile gave the BNF a constituency that they never had. He gave them a hope. It is this hope that helped the BNF win the Jwaneng–Mabutsane in 2014 through Shawn Ntlhaile who had tried in the past to contest only in vain. It is a given that had it not been for Reggie Reatile, the opposition will still be trying to wrestle the Jwaneng–Mabutsane from the ruling party. As usual when Reggie Reatile traversed the hot temperatures of Jwaneng–Mabutsane constituency for five solid years, learning the problems of the constituency, our armchair politicians were in their offices under the comfort of air conditioners and bottled water. He was out there with the people. He understands them. He understands what they need. Poverty is not unique to Jwaneng–Mabutsane constituency. And though a blanket approach might not work to address national poverty, lessons learnt in one constituency can help solve poverty challenges in other areas. From where I am standing, taking five full years to traverse the country so hit by poverty is equal to spending five years at school studying effects and courses of poverty. The opposition parties must get out their denial mode and face the fact that their members are not happy. It is of great value to identify what members are not happy about than to simply sing an old tired song that defectors are failures. People will continue to defect until the opposition parties identify and handle their problems which are pushing people away in such high volumes. It is not funny anymore. It is painful.

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