In his article, which appeared in the Telegraph of 8th March, 2015, Dr Kaelo Molefhe attempted to provide factors that could have contributed to the BCP’s failure to perform to its expectation in the 2014 general elections. In his own words, the purpose of his article was to offer his “own insights on what went wrong for the BCP.” However, reading through the article, I found his analysis so flawed and biased against the BCP that I thought failure to respond would create a wrong impression that his perspective of the situation is a true reflection of what really happened. First, he questioned the BCP’s wisdom for having set itself a target of 29 constituencies, arguing that the party should have known or anticipated that the BDP would, among other things, abuse state resources in its desperate effort to retain power. This was clearly an unsubstantiated assumption and not an insight on the part of Dr Molefhe, in the sense that on the contrary, the party had reflected on all potential barriers to its campaign, including the BDP’s deceptions such as reliance on state intelligence and abuse of resources, to which he makes reference. However, even with all the possible transgressions of the BDP, the BCP still came to the conclusion that the party would at least get a minimum of 29 constituencies.
I must however, admit that the party did not anticipate the damage that would be caused by other factors other than the usual BDP elections manoeuvre. Dr Molefhe makes mention of his party’s (UDC) ingenuity in adopting unity as their rallying point in the 2014 elections, which in his view was a missed opportunity for the BCP, implying that the party ought to have also jumped onto the bandwagon. The fact of the matter is that the BCP did join the unity talks, and after weeks of negotiations, all the parties involved could not reach a consensus on the proposed umbrella model and amicably agreed to end the talks, and further consult their membership. The BCP did take the initiative to consult party members about the failure of the talks and solicit from them other possible alternative forms of cooperation. While the process of consultation was still in progress, to the BCP’s surprise, the other parties were back to the negotiation table to discuss the same model that had led to the collapse of the talks. The speed at which all these happened caught the BCP off-guard, and to further complicate matters for the party, this was also deceitfully used by its opponents to hoodwink the electorates into believing that it had pulled out of the umbrella talks, despite all the documented evidence signed by the participating parties that pointed to the end of talks. Those who peddled such blatant lies knew very well that they were being economic with the truth on this matter.
The BCP position on and commitment to cooperation with other opposition parties has always been unequivocal. However, the major point of divergence has always been in the nature of the model of cooperation to be pursued. For instance, cooperation cannot only be interpreted in terms of membership to some kind of an umbrella body. This is just one form of cooperation, and there are certainly other alternatives that can be explored without having to impose a particular model. My view is that in the event that there are further talks in future, those who feel very strongly about the umbrella model or any other option should be at liberty to table them in the spirit of democracy. Against this background, the BCP has no reason to regret not having been part of the umbrella because it was never its preferred model of cooperation, and for now it is still not, and no one should fault the party for advancing a divergent viewpoint.
A further major blow to preparations for elections was the intensity of the spread of misinformation by opponents of the BCP that the party President Cde Dumelang Saleshando was actively involved in business partnership or venture with some BDP high ranking officials. Our opponents, in cahoots with some influential members of the media chose to deliberately spread such misinformation with all the vigour as punitive measure against the BCP President on allegations that his party had withdrawn from the umbrella talks. Again, this was swear campaign and those who perpetrated such malicious damage to the character of Cde Saleshando did so knowing very well that this was untrue, but solely for political mileage, hence they could not even bother to avail any tangible evidence of his alleged misdemeanour. As things turned out to be, this story told many, many times, convinced the electorates to shy away from the BCP and its well thought-out policies. These untruths including some tragic and painful moments that occurred during the campaign period were exploited to win the hearts of the public. These, even more than the BDPs misdemeanours, had immense negative effect on the party’s set target of 29 constituencies.
Dr Molefhe again casts some aspersion for the BCP’s inability to realise that the 2014 elections were “much more complex than a mere mathematical formulation of 29 winnable constituencies” the party embarked upon. The complex nature of the elections was obvious for all to see, but for the BCP, it was not only for the reason(s) that he highlights. The complexity for the BCP, as I have already argued, was its failure to anticipate that fabrications, deceit and lies would ultimately win the hearts of the public in comparison to progressive policies. In other words, the BCP was quite naive in believing that superior policies and not trumped-up stories would win elections, hence the party’s focus on policy issues, with very minimal effort to counter such unfounded accusations. Therefore, as much as such unethical deeds as abuse of state resources by the BDP had an adverse effect on the BCP performance, the party’s inability to effectively counter fabrications labelled against it and its leader contributed immensely to its poor showing in the 2014 elections. These were taken lightly and consequently the BCP paid the prize, and for this, the party must take the blame and vow never to repeat such naivety.
The view that the BCP messaging lacked attraction is yet another attempt at misleading the public by Dr Molefhe. First, the fact that an impressive number of 140, 000 electorates voted for the BCP shows beyond reasonable doubt that these were thousands who got attracted to the message of the party and believed in it. This is not a small figure and cannot be ignore at all. Second, Dr Molefhe’s position that, “bring back our jobs” was “the” party famous selling point is not just misleading but also mischievous, in the sense that while it was indeed key in our campaign message, there were other equally important rallying points, which standout very clearly in the BCP manifesto, which he deliberately chose to ignore. The problem with Dr Molefhe is that his interpretation of an attractive message is from the standpoint of his own party. But surely this can never be the case as long as we pursue different programmes of action. I am not so sure about the other political parties, but what I know is that the BCP’s message, based on its manifesto, was loud and clear, in accordance with its Social Democratic Programme, a principle the party follows and will continue to follow almost religiously.
The suggestion by Dr Molefhe about the need for countries to adopt creative strategies such as investment in quality education is exactly what the BCP has been calling for. The party has always been solid in its call for investment on quality education in general and specifically on skill development, and for Dr Molefhe to be questioning the BCP on this issue which is evidently articulated in its manifesto defies any logic. Dr Molefhe’s conviction that once a country has invested in quality education, it would stand a better chance of attracting global dominant companies, and therefore be in a position to create jobs is in my view most fallacious given the African countries experience. The example he gave about Costa Rica was not only far-fetched, but rather simplistic. It must be noted that attracting foreign investment depends on a wide range of factors, not just skills development as Dr Molefhe would want us to believe.
In recent years Botswana has experienced a high rate of unemployed graduates with different skills acquired at local and international tertiary institutions. Based on Dr Molefhe’s logic, by now we should be seeing some indication of dominant international companies beginning to show interest in setting up businesses in Botswana, but clearly that has not the case. A couple of African countries well known for high levels of investment in skill development such as Ghana and Nigeria have also not necessarily attracted global dominant companies. Instead their highly qualified people migrated to different countries where their expertise was in high demand. One of the main reasons why such companies have not come to Botswana and other African countries is that, naturally countries will give priority to their own citizens before they can export their own jobs. That is the reality of international trade, hence the BCP’s demand for jobs that we have literally surrendered to other countries.
Evidence of what the BCP has been calling for has been practised with success in Mauritius, another African country without or with very minimal mineral resources in contrast to many other African countries, including Botswana. Mauritius is an exporter of sugar, and for many years just like other African countries, it exported this commodity raw mainly to the developed countries. With time they came to realise that they were getting a raw deal in terms of prices, job creation and generally unfair trade practice. Against this background, they took the bold and wise decision to process sugar locally before exporting it. The use of sugar has now been diversified to include among other things, electricity generation and processing it into ethanol, thereby creating jobs locally, and enhancing the country’s chances of an improved international business transaction, exactly what the BCP has been calling for.
In his criticism of the BCP’s campaign strategy, Dr Molefhe further makes a clearly distorted statement that “globalisation has brought down barriers that have kept developing countries, especially in Africa from participating meaningfully in global trade.” Contrary to this claim, trade barriers are still in existence even in this era, and for that reason, developing countries have been expressing discontentment regarding the exportation of mainly their raw materials to the developed countries at cheaper prices in comparison to the very expensive finished goods coming from the latter to Africa. Given such publicly known international trade imbalance which without doubt has been so unfavourable to African countries, and has continued for decades unabated, I fail to understand why Dr Molefhe chose to be this controversial by making such a clearly preposterous and incorrect assertion.
Finally, it is imperative that I should quash Dr Molefhe’s line of reasoning that the UDC found “themselves hitting exactly where the public mood was…” This is not only an exaggeration but also erroneous, in the sense that, it was not “the public” but rather a significant “section of the public” that voted for UDC, of course more than another section of voters (140,000) who cast their vote for the BCP. Secondly, the UDC did not hit exactly where the public mood was as claimed by Dr Molefhe, because had they managed to do exactly that, they would have won the elections and taken over state power from the BDP.
Dr Philip Bulawa
Botswana Congress Party (BCP)
Tati West Constituency