THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE UMBRELLA FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE HELD AT THE BA ISAGO CONVENTION CENTRE
14 JULY 2019
Let me begin, as always I should, on a note of piety, which the philosopher Plato tells us involves a reverent attachment to the sources of good in your life and the people who have given so much to allow you to be who you are. I would like on that note, to acknowledge the leadership of the Umbrella for Democratic Change in their various duties and stations in the organization. I acknowledge you one and all and express my profound elation at having you around me as my guides and bright lines.
Let me also recognize and salute our members, the foot soldiers of the Umbrella for Democratic Change who work long and hard for this organization. You, the members are the heart beat of the UDC. You give it life and vitality. You have understood that ours is a nation in deep distress. You have stepped up and placed your bodies and your lives on the line. You have taken to heart the seminal counsel by Benjamin Cardoso, that the cry of distress is a call to rescue. You have stood up to be counted in this rescue mission for our country. You humble and inspire me with your commitment, your resilience and your fortitude. I can only bounce back to all of you, the love you so generously give to me and to all of us. I bounce it back to you a million fold. Viva UDC VIVA!
Allow me to also gratefully recognize all our guests who have taken time off their busy schedules to be here with us today. We sincerely appreciate your presence in our midst and assure you that we are encouraged by your support. We appreciate your concern for and about us. We agree with that scholarMichael Dawson who advises all of us “the greatest mark of our humanity and character shows when we are concerned about others beyond our circle.”
Let me acknowledge in a very special way, my friends, who have now become friends of the UDC, some of whom are here today. They have worked with and supported me in my endeavors and have stood by me, trusting in the vision I have and knowing fully that I am committed to a cause that is bigger and better than me. I am most grateful for your support and the love you have given me over the years.
Today, together, we will take our campaign to win the October 2019 election to the next level. We are here because we understand the importance of this election, because our democracy depends upon it. We can no longer sit around and wait for something to happen, to leave it to others to do something, we have to lead this movement for ourselves. We need to get involved, knock on doors and talk to our constituencies, our families, our friends. To argue with them, to convince them that with change, something powerful can happen. It’s time for the second republic! It’s not just possible but it is imperative!
Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different. The stakes really are higher. The country has reached an all-time low. The economy is crashing, inequality is at its highest. Citizens of Botswana are finally motivated to kick out a regime that has failed them. The reign of the current regime is over, this is our time! The people are crying for change. They have laboured under this oppressive feudal system of entitled masters ruling over them, who have stolen from them and their children - they have robbed the Batswana of their future. They have amassed the wealth for themselves and have destroyed our economy. Botswana has crashed, leaving us with an uncertain future We have to take back our country and turn back the tide. We can reclaim our country with strong government and leadership that is focused on serving the people.
In a government of, by and for the people, there should be no permanent ruling class. There are only citizens, who through their elected and temporary representatives, determine their own course.The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful fear, a government that divides, is a government by the organized, energized, inclusive many. That's what this moment's about. That has to be the answer. What we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable - and who have Botswana's best interests at heart. That is what we have in this room. We are proud to walk this road with you. We will battle alongside you every step of the way.
One election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed, but it will be a start. And we have to start it here and now. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. To all the people who are here today, you have the power to change things. If you actually care about it, you have the power to make sure we seize a brighter future. I know you are here, because you care. But to exercise that clout, to exercise that power, you have to show up, you have to mobilise your constituencies and take the elections! Hope happens. Change happens. We, as a coalition came together to answer the call of the people of Botswana in recognising that the country was in dire straits. We were created in response to the will of the people. While we were once different parties, we now share one objective to unite for the good of the country and the growth of the country. And to create stability, glory, unification around the needs of all Batswana.
Leadership isn’t perfect. We made mistakes. At times we lost sight of certain responsibilities. The need to communicate better, for instance. But we believe strongly and have spread our commitment to certain values and principles, like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. We, the leadership of the UDC have one shared objective – to create decent lives for all Batswana, as defined by our manifesto. We have come under attack - sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it's manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because that helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. They fear our strength. They know their time has come. They know this election will be our victory. We will stay steadfast and united. This is a time of much inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country: regional, tribal, religious. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, that's an old playbook. It's as old as time. This has made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. However, we have bridged this divide. Which has instilled even more fear in our opponents. Making democracy work means holding on to our principles, having clarity about our principles, and ensuring that they serve the common good.
We, the UDC, have adapted to a new economy, a 21st century economy -We have worked hard to develop a clear and concise plan and we are committed to rebuild our economy to create a better life for all - decent lives and decent jobs are our promises. We are committed to protect health and safety and fair competition, empowering workers and ensuring a living wage; investing in a stronger, diverse economy encouraging 100 000 new jobs and a more supported local SMME industry, developing new and maintaining existing infrastructure; strengthening our system of primary, secondary and tertiary education which ensures our young people have a sustainable future, and stitching together a social safety net particularly supporting our pensioners. We will ensure that our people will not be forced to seek work elsewhere. We will create the ability to be a hub of services for the entire SADC region. And all of this leads to unrivaled prosperity. Good, efficient Government is Possible! The wealth of country will be redirected to the needs of the people as opposed to the pockets of the elite. We will reduce corruption and create a space for FDI to return and hence create new jobs and improve the economy. We are the future, our outlook is to create a modern society, built on progressive principles, thriving industries and a fully representative social democratic state
The time is now! We are the future! This election is ours!!