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Birth of Alliance for Progressives

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 September 2017   |   By Ndaba Gaolathe 
Birth of Alliance for Progressives

We must be like the mustard seed. Let us be like that grain of a mustard seed, “which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds upon the earth; Yet after it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all garden herbs, and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air are able to make nests and dwell in its shade." On Tuesday our leadership committee honoured an invitation by the UDC to attend a meeting at which they had also called another group, the Matshekge group if we may call them that for ease of reference. It was at this meeting that the leader of the UDC made a pronouncement or recommendations on the impasse at our beloved party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy. We gather today not so much to respond to the UDC’s verdict, but to consider the political circumstances of our country over recent months and to reveal the only option that remains available for all progressives within and without the BMD. Yesterday’s verdict by the UDC forms only one part and indeed the last of a series of events, consultations and realities that should inform the political direction of all progressives that still believe change is possible, that our nation can do much better, and in particular a change of Government is still possible in the near future.

UDC verdict, we accept what is beyond our hands

The verdict is a clear recognition of the Matshekge group as the legitimate leadership structure of the BMD, subject to a negotiated power-sharing settlement, with the progressives of the BMD. In an effort to take some sort of middle-ground, the verdict recommends concessions by both sides on decisions relating to expulsions, suspensions (that they be lifted) and the Ramotswa youth congress (that it be set aside). The verdict appeals to us to put aside what it terms a hatred for one another, and asks both sides to forgive one another and rise to the occasion of working towards a united coalition for a larger good. We have no reason to stop the UDC from recognizing the Matshekge congress. We acknowledge that in making these decisions or recommendations the UDC has the right to recognize and appoint whomever they wish. And expect all progressives to accept that the Matshekge group is by extension the recognized leadership of the BMD. By recommending a power-sharing agreement, however, we do not interpret the UDC to mean that there is any obligation on us, the progressives, to seek a role in the BMD. We therefore will not exercise the option granted to us to take up any position on offer at the BMD. All the current members of the Matshekge NEC are free to keep all their roles in the now legitimized BMD NEC. There will be no dispute on who is the BMD and therefore no dispute on the leadership roles within the BMD or any other leadership roles. What is in our hands, we go with the will of the people and our value system. We had long hoped for a congress-rerun, but increasingly the prospects for it grew dim, even from a time perspective. We are democrats, and believe that the people, the will of the people, should always be the final arbiter and the guiding posts for our path and destiny. We have never thought the destiny of a nation should be negotiated by a select few in a boardroom. It is obvious the UDC did not grant us our wish, and this we must accept without blame shifting. Our difficulty should never be that the UDC did not make a judgment in our favour. We must never have to point fingers at the UDC for their verdict. We have to accept that it is in the nature of a process like this that the verdict will not always go according to our view of the world. This should not mean, however, if a judgment goes against our core convictions, our core beliefs and goes to the core of who we are – true democrats – we must not exercise our right to seek ways to preserve who we are, as progressives. The big picture is this – that our generation needs to secure a new Botswana, a place where each one of us can become anything they dream to become, if they worked for it – and the consensus is that part of marching towards this ideal we need a new Government as soon as it is practicable. Our generation agrees that we need to do all we can to unite all progressive voices, and all our people to achieve this.

In uniting all progressive voices and our people, we need to ensure that even as we may differ ideologically, we do all we can to cultivate, nourish and guarantee that there are certain fundamental values that should weave across all our political formations and stakeholders in any unified journey towards a new Botswana. And these values include but are not limited to, our commitment to justice, truth, honesty, the sanctity of the human life, freedom, the pursuit of happiness and the idea that all human beings were born equal. We must guard these values jealously and fiercely live by them. If anyone of us, as individuals or as stakeholders should contaminate or undermine this magnificent core value system, then we should understand it threatens our entire foundation; it uproots the very foundation on which the viability of a new Botswana rests. Anything or anyone that touches or threatens this core of our value system, shakes the very foundation of who we are. And so, the idea by the UDC that we can or should work from the same base with the Matshekge group is a classic example of something that touches the very core of who we are. It touches the core of who we are. We have seen and experienced over the last few months lives that were nearly lost and in our case irretrievably damaged, by organized bandits carrying slashers and other weapons, not just at Bobonong but in Lobatse. This for us and all progressives around this country, does not constitute the alleged case of political differences, it is a clear cut case of criminal activity for which there can be no place in the new Botswana. This daylight disregard for the sanctity of the human life, along with a consistent disregard for basic principles of truth, honesty, decency and integrity, goes against our core values. To say we should negotiate a sitting arrangement with those who do not share these core values is the same thing as saying we must abandon the very values that we have promised the people of Botswana we will abide by, the same values we say we will jealously guard and fiercely live by, the same values which we have said are so lacking in our nation’s current governance system the outcome of which has been the Botswana that is failing to realize her true potential. We cannot abandon these values. We will not abandon these values - a commitment to justice, truth, honesty, the sanctity of the human life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. This is what defines us, and they are the cornerstones on which a new Botswana is dependent. Does this mean we are failing to forgive or compromise? Does it mean we are planting and watering a seed of hatred? No, this is not a generation of hate, progressives don’t know how to hate. On the contrary, we are filled with love, the love that has been the driving force of the activism of so many young people around this country, young people who breathe and live for this new Botswana. Our firmness on the matter of values should not be interpreted as hate. Our refusal to compromise with those we believe do not share the same values is not the same thing as hate. We long for a Botswana where there is a place for honesty, justice, integrity and decency. There has to be a place for tough love. And we have chosen if must start with us.

And yes we had asked and hoped for re-run of congress. We asked for it because we are democrats, we asked for it because we believe that the voice of the people is supreme, we asked for it because the party or the journey belongs to the people and not to any committee of leaders. We asked for a re-run of congress because the events leading to the Bobonong congress has left ordinary members feeling disenfranchised, feeling violated and feeling homeless. The people long for a home, they yearn to have their voice restored and they need to regain the confidence that it is indeed it is them, the people, that hold the keys to the new Botswana, not a constellation of leaders. Ordinary members of our party have made it clear that they will not accept anything short of the opportunity to vent their hopes through the ballot box. For months since Bobonong, our people have continued to drink from the cup of anxiety and frustration. Our people endure being the subject of endless disparaging radio and public chat shows. Our people are the skunk of this country. We are blamed for everything that is wrong in our politics, within and without the UDC. We are associated with violence, and bickering. Our people are fatigued and worn out by these circumstances. They are fatigued because this a misrepresentation of who we are – we are men and women of peace, we are children of truth and honesty, we are the purveyors of decency and excellence – but none of these qualities will shine through for our people to experience if we continue to live in a toxic environment of bickering. The longer we fail to come to the bottom of our circumstances, the dimmer the prospects of a new Botswana. A few weeks ago, I accepted full responsibility for where we are, for the buck ends with the leader, it always does.

Announcement

Taking responsibility for our circumstances also means taking the responsibility for what lies ahead, as long as the people wish to retain me as one of their leaders, not necessarily with an official position. I have listened to the leadership collective – our NEC, I have listened to our members, I have listened to ordinary people from across this country. I have also considered what is at stake and what I have discussed today especially the life and death meaning of our value system as a movement and a people, I have knelt in prayer, I have agonized and I have endured the full wrath of the responsibility upon us. Collectively, in concert with our leadership collective, we have decided to go with the will of the people – where we were left naked, we now will wear purple; where we were homeless and without paper-work, we will have a new name, the Alliance for Progressives, AP. Allow me therefore to announce, on behalf of progressives across this nation that: We will congregate at a convention at the end of October, in Gaborone, to adopt and launch a new progressive formation that will be all inclusive; We will host a series of events in the lead up to the Convention, including, weekly press conferences to update the public on progress including decisions by key stakeholders to endorse, support or join the formation; We will open a new office; We will launch of the movement brand, including party colours, primary colours and secondary colours subject to input by progressives across the country; We will coordinate a series of behind the scenes work to finalize the constitution, policies and other key documents;  We will receive interest from men and women of integrity, and decency to make themselves available for public and non-public roles in the advancement of the vision of the party.

We need decency and our unity must rest on a firm foundation

Our decision to change colours and name, we are aware, raises questions, many of them legitimate and appropriate. Many will ask, is it wise to form a new party in a political environment where we are working on consolidating the opposition parties into one solid opposition block, known as the UDC of which we have been a part since inception in 2012? Others will ask, why not stick it out within the BMD by way of a compromise arrangement for the same of opposition unity idea? Naturally everyone will also wish to know if we intend to re-apply to the UDC as the newly constituted purple movement. We cannot claim to have all the answers, but we do have the clarity of conscience, that all our decisions are made in good faith, and are based on our commitment to truth, justice, honesty, integrity, decency – the values that form our DNA. There are those who say unity first, and then honesty, justice and sincerity come later. We say honesty, justice and sincerity must be the foundation on which unity will be built; once we have these, they will attract like-minded citizens under a natural unifying force of a value system that stands the test of time. And one of the greatest fruits of our work under the UDC over the last five years is indeed that that our political parties are actually superficial walls, we know that and we understand that. This has been the spirit of the UDC, and as long as the UDC remains committed to a genuine spirit of unity, the Alliance for Progressive will be keen to work, align and/or apply for some form of arrangement with the UDC. This will obviously need the input and guidance of our members at the appropriate time and forum. The people of Botswana must rest assured that the Alliance for Progressives wants more than the unity of the opposition, we also want to play a large role in uniting all our people, our entire nation. True unity is not forced or imposed, it is inspired by an attraction to a vision and a value system that promises to build a great new Botswana. We have promised our people change, part of which entails offering to the nation, an assortment of choice grade leaders of integrity and ability. We are not prepared to certify, or give guarantees about a group of leaders about whose values we are not certain. We are serious about bringing integrity and decency the governance of our country. We need to start as early as now to be firm on values, and to exercise some tough love. To certify the now legitimised BMD, without any conviction, would amount to an act of insincerity on our part. We must never pretend to believe what we don’t believe; neither should we say what we don’t mean. It is amazing what this country could achieve if the only thing we did was to displace our current crop of leaders in our Government system with honest and sincere leaders. This alone would be transformative, and the progressives that are here tonight bring that – we bring honesty and sincerity. If we fail on anything else, on this value system we stand fast, and that is if we give you our word, we give you our life. To sacrifice basic principles of honesty, justice, truth, integrity and sincerity to achieve a superficial sense of unity is not the right thing to do. I may not know how politics works, but I know how justice works. I know when we are on the side of justice, we can never be defeated.

What we will do for our nation

There is something deeply ingrained in the make-up of all of God’s children, it is also deeply entrenched in the constitutions of all progressive nations, and that is we are all are born equal, born to be free, born to be happy and all deserve the opportunity to live and achieve our dreams if we applied themselves. Someone at church, someone at home, someone in the fields and someone at my workplace talked about a Government that is just, a Government that is fair, a Government that is decent and not corrupt, a Government that is effective, a Government that is competent. They talked about how long they have been waiting for this kind of Government. The talked about how they need this kind of Government to help guide the progress of this nation. But then they said to me they don’t think this is possible because politics is run by rogues, it is run by power-mongers, warmongers. And I wish to tell you tonight, it is possible to have a clean Government, it is possible to have a decent Government when we cultivate an environment, a home for men and women of integrity to step forward, grow and thrive. This is what this is about: let every young man and woman that believes in decency come here, let them come here to express their talent and their desire to serve, let them come here, this is a home for progressives. I still believe we are a generation of hope. We are a generation of progressives that understands that we need more than just a clean Government; we also need a way of life, a system, a way of doing things differently towards our larger dream. We need to move beyond, far beyond ideas of incrementalism of the current BDP government – that unemployment is 20% this year and we need to work to reduce it to 15% or some other percentage in five years. Forget what the statisticians say, we all know most of our graduates have been struggling to find jobs for years, many of our people are underemployed or unemployed. We need to be that generation that realizes the mighty rivers of possibility that creativity, innovation, technology and great training are– that generation that can and will create whole new economic sectors that will not only keep most of our people employed, but will need to import swaths of skilled people from around the world to service our steamrolling economic locomotive. We have what it takes to significantly lift the material conditions of most if not all our people. And this is what the Alliance for Progressives will work for.

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Our generation shouldn’t just be about the economy, we need to recognize that our success and happiness is inextricably tied to how we treat our own – those we may call the forgotten people – people living with disabilities like all of us deserve a fully-blown education and scholarship system that brings out the best in them so they too can lift their own lives and country. For many years our workers have kept telling us, they demand fair treatment and consideration in the decision-making processes that concern them, their working conditions, their prospects to keep growing and up-skilling in what they do – they are waiting for a breakthrough, a moment where they do will sit at the table where hard decisions about them are made. This is what the Alliance of Progressives will fight for. Many of you may not know, but we have communities of our kindred living in the most remote areas of country – they have no access to opportunities to empower themselves and their families, and sometimes they are forcibly removed from their preferred dwelling areas, and access to borehole water to them is sometimes cut-off just to force them to migrate. These communities are depending on our generation to recognize them as gemstones from which this country will reap great social and economic dividends in years ahead. And this is what our movement will ensure happens. We need to curb the excesses of Government – we cannot be so generous with billions of Pulas towards fighter jets and so miserly on building a sound education system that could churn thousands of engineers, artisans, and practical innovators that can transform our economy. We cannot afford to give the Directorate of Intelligence a blank financial and legal cheque to instil fear among our people for their Government.

Conclusion

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I have told you before, that we must always do our work, our part, patiently, and at the right time take action, make decisions, decisively, collectively, no matter how painful. Every-time we meet, every time we come together like this, the skeptics are not happy, our detractors are not happy, those who refuse to allow change are not happy. They are not happy because they are afraid of your power when you come together. They are not happy because they realize what we can become, and what we can become and will become is what we must protect. I will keep on saying the same things, that we need to learn to do things together more, it doesn’t have to be a political rally, we need to learn to act together for the things we believe in. And today, you have once more shown why our faith is in you the young people of Botswana. I plead with you as I always do, please let’s tame our tongues, no matter how deeply we differ with those who do not agree with us. We need to understand that our words and our behaviour, if wayward, will repulse the very citizens for whom we say we are seeking a new Botswana. None of us should insult others no matter how violated we may feel. One of the things that give me great hope about the new Botswana is that we have assembled and continue to assemble a great team of men and women of integrity, honesty, justice and ability: I am in the company of great men and women – thank you to the Rre Mmolotsi, General Mokgware, Dr Butale, Rre Moalosi, Rre Tshenyego, Mma Mothudi, Mma Nasha, Jakes Kelebeng, thank you to my parents in the movement, my branch chairman Segopolo , thank you to my political Secretary Mma Sibisibi, to the men that offer themselves to travel vast distances with me. I have left our so many names I know. Thank you to Phodiso who even though he has endured two operations after Bobonong, he remains to positive, him and our other colleagues who were injured. This movement has the finest constellation of young, dedicated, truthful, honest, decent and able activists this country has ever seen in one roof. Thank you for fighting for the vision of the people of Botswana. Thank you for so many men and women across party lines, especially those with whom I have worked closely, including Rev Dibeela and Rre Molapisi.

Thank you to BOFEPUSO for understanding what standing on the side of justice means, thank you to you President Tshukudu, SG Rari and your deputy Motshegwe. Thank you to our MPs, Rre Kgoroba, Rre Nkaigwa, our councillors, the branch and regional chairs. Thank you to the media that keeps us accountable, and that communicate our message whether we agree with them or not. Thank you to our lawyers Rantao and Chilisa, thank you to the passionate activists and loyalists of our movement and thank you to the men and women out there who are patient with us and encourage us to reach that new Botswana. Let us be like that grain of a mustard seed, “which when sown upon the ground is the smallest of all the seeds upon the earth; Yet after it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of all garden herbs, and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air are able to make nests and dwell in its shade."