The above is a question posed by The Patriot on Sunday newspaper reporter Rre Philimon Mmeso in the said newspaper’s edition dated May 20, 2018. This was against the recent development where the Botswana Democratic Party Secretary (BDP) General Rre Mpho Balopi has been part of the Presidential delegation to a number of countries in the recent past. The newspaper observed this development with a question: “….In what capacity is the BDP chief scribe appearing on state visits accompanying President Masisi because he is neither a civil servant nor a Government official. Some within the BDP have confessed being surprised at the turn of events because it has never been the culture inside the party.”
“Defending the development Balopi said contrary to tradition within the BDP where the Secretary General was isolated from Government, it is of cardinal importance that the ruling party leadership is involved in the day to day running of the country.”
By engaging in this conversation, I will go beyond whether Rre Balopi is a civil servant or a government official entitled to accompany Rre Masisi on his external travels. I must state from the outset that politicians conveniently eliminate the line between party and government for narrow political goal-scoring agenda and by so doing, expecting that everybody will accept it the way ‘batho ba diphaphatha’ would or should to their delight. Undisputed facts are that the BDP is a party that has formed government after winning the 2014 General election; that its sole party members have formed such government (at the executive level); that such government is expected to implement party manifesto policies and programmes; that the party is entitled to establish fraternal relationships with other ruling parties elsewhere and so on. These being some of the undisputed facts; the BDP remains a political party in its own right by running itself from Tsholetsa House and not from the Office of the President or any other government facility. It is registered with the Registrar of Societies like any other political party in this country. It has its own letterhead with its properties like motor vehicles branded in its own logo.
With these undisputed facts, it goes without saying that while the BDP is the party in government, it has however delegated lawfully and justifiably so, the ‘day to day running of the country’ authority to those it has deployed in government. There is no basis therefore, for any additional party member to accompany the President under the pretext that ‘….it is of cardinal importance that the ruling party leadership is involved in the day to day running of the country.’ If the BDP were to take advantage of the Presidential trip to further fraternal relationships at party level, the Deputy Secretarial General Rre Shaw Kgathi who is also a cabinet minister, would be appropriate under the camouflage of government office and not Rre Balopi. If the argument of the day to day running of the country as raised by Rre Balopi is sustainable which I am afraid is not, it would mean that he will have to for example, sit in cabinet meetings where decisions on running the country are taken. He will also have to miraculously sit and vote in Parliament because this is also where decisions on running the country are taken.
The BDP has its own structures and activities to further its relationships with its fraternal friends like the African National Congress (ANC) and others. Sometimes last year and if my memory serves me well, it hosted a huge event in Serowe where these fraternal friends were invited. At these events, party resources and not government were used. Or so it is suggested or expected. The party cannot, notwithstanding that it is the ruling party, use government resources to further its own internal processes. In the same vein, Rre Balopi cannot suggest or expect to use State resources pursuant to his political party agenda. The President’s trips are purely for the benefit of all Batswana regardless of their political affiliations. If opposition leaders, who are Members of Parliament, are invited by the President to accompany him, it is presumably on the basis of those official positions. Whether they are being enticed to join the BDP is another debate for another day.
But these turn of events neither come as a shock nor a surprise however sanitised Rre Balopi may want to portray them. This is true African-style politics. He is on record for having said ‘it’s our turn to eat’ as reported by Transparency International in its corruption report on Botswana in the recent past. The Patriot on Sunday further reported Rre Balopi to have “….attributed BDP’s poor performance in 2014 General Elections to their isolation from the central government as they were not in charge but had left everything to the technocrats…” This is with respect absurd and laughable. Like I have stated above, the BDP has deployed their members in the form of cabinet members and Members of Parliament to run the country. In this regard therefore, it is a given that their members in these structures would be expected to pursue and implement the BDP’s programmes and policies to the electorate as promised in their manifesto and campaign rallies. The BDP performed very poorly in 2014 because it largely deviated from its manifesto and the country’s Constitution respectively. It did not, to the electorate expectations, deliver hence the poor performance.
The Rule of Law was significantly compromised and so were issues to do with good corporate governance, accountability and transparency. Institutionalised corruption has become a way of life with very little if any to combat it. Lack of sustainable strategies to create jobs and in the process address poverty levels; growing numbers of disgruntled youth in terms of job opportunities to cater for them has soared. The BDP therefore lost ground in the 2014 election because of its self-created incapacity to implement its own manifesto promises coupled with the rule of man instead of the Rule of Law. The BDP has always been in charge of governing Botswana since independence and any excuse peddled to suggest that it has been isolated from the central government is disingenuous and should be rejected with the highest degree of contempt. Who isolated it from the central government since it is the same government?