Bouyed by a peaceful congress in Francistown over the President's holidays, Botswana National Front (BNF) paraded the newly elected central committee before the media on Friday with Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa waxing lyrical about their new found peace. Mohwasa said Botswana is a place of antagonism and contradiction, as demonstrated in many different forms; the current standoff between government and trade unions; the ideological clarity within the trade unions; the UDC vs BNF issue; the UDC vs BCP issue; the women issue; the national question; the dropping education standard; poverty and unemployment; slavery wages; the gap increasing between the rich and the poor. Dr Kenneth Koma adequately addresses practical and theoretical points in his position paper titled, "The dialectics of the multi-organisational united front and the need for the application of multi-form pressures in the democratic revolution”. He posits that the concept of a united front is complicated and complex; it demands action from all sectors; for all to be key players and understand the dynamics of this approach.
Mohwasa said the congress did not discuss challenges at Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) –their umbrella partner, where two factions have been tearing at each other. He said the BNF, which also suffered deep seated divisions at the beginning of negotiations for the UDC project, is confident that the leadership of BMD will soon resolve their differences and focus on the more important issues. He declined to discuss the implications of such a protracted standoff on the much anticipated UDC/ Botswana Congress Party (BCP) unity talks, which are scheduled to start in the near future. "The UDC is seized with that matter and is better placed to provide an update. It would be unfair of us to usurp their powers," he said. Mohwasa said the multi-organisation united front is only a minimum programme of all cooperating partners. He said: "On their own, the entities have their maximum programs not adequately addressed within the model. Underlying this concept of a minimum program is the realization that in contemporary class societies there is no homogeneity, the society is both heterogeneous and pluralistic, consisting of different classes and interest groups. However there are areas where the cooperating entities will agree, even though there are areas they cannot reach a consensus. Then they will agree to defer addressing areas they are not in total agreement.
They will concentrate on more pressing issues of national interest. What however remains the main feature in the model is the existence of a number of contradictions, meaning that opposition and unity are key features in this endeavor. This is so because this is an effort to coordinate the struggle among classes, groups, communities and political parties for one common objective. So with historical teaching, this quest for political change cannot happen only through our legislative frame alone. It demands for an active citizenry because this approach is and will always be work in progress". Among others, the BNF has set itself to mobilise all patriotic and democratic forces into a dynamic political force; to promote and strengthen mass democratic organisations such as trade unions, women’s and student organisations and to struggle for genuine democracy, economic independence and social justice, human rights and peace. As a party that believes in the principle of a multi-organisational front, Mohwasa called for respect to other like-minded progressive formations as they work with other opposition parties to realize this goal. This, he said, should be done through reviving robust political debates; a way to empower the masses through structured debates, presentations and walls of political journey of the opposition.
Mohwasa also paid homage to the past central committee members for a sterling performance in bringing stability and peace within the once chaotic movement, characterised by anarchy and lawlessness of cadres. He said the former leaders deserve to be praised for the sacrifices they made. The opposition parties of Botswana deserve to have a national museum where the people will celebrate the history of their motherland, he said, adding that archiving of material is good for historical lessons to tell the genuine journey and struggle traversed in the Botswana. He said past leaders, including the recent past leadership fought for the achievement of the party's ideals. "We pay our deep respect to them. We thank the past central committee for its sterling performance. They will continue to give support to the new leadership. Their experience and wisdom will be needed in taking the party to new levels. We are confident that the new leadership led by Cde Duma Boko assisted by Cde Prince Dibeela will ensure that the party stays focused and does not veer off the rails," he said.
Mohwasa came down hard on the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). He accused the BDP, through its monopoly of state resources, of strategically occupying 'state' space. He said the party abuses state media, the kgotla, school systems and every avenue available to them to propel their political messages and maintain the status quo. He said such abuse intensified following the break-up of BDP, which resulted in the formation of BMD forcing the former to device means to stay in power knowing that incumbency alone is no longer enough to sustain them as a ruling party. "The BDP has managed, manipulated and controlled public opinion. They want to maintain the status quo. They want to re-define patriotism; they do not allow peaceful demonstrations; they intimidate their own MPs to tow the line; they mislead the public during election campaigns; they will change the 'Standing Orders'," he said.
Using excerpts from Samora Machel and Martin Luther King Jr speeches, Mohwasa said the BNF as a progressive formation embraces international solidarity. He said his party holds an unrelenting solidarity with the struggles of people in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Palestine in their quest for freedom. "We will continue to speak out against injustice. Ours is a pro-poor and pro-workers party. We speak for the downtrodden. Our party will continue to be in solidarity with the struggle against injustices wherever they exist," he said. The Francistown congress adopted a number of resolutions. Mohwasa said the national elective congress which comes every three years, was an opportunity to re-adjust and re-position itself. The congress allows the party to interrogate the state of the organisation and chart the way forward, done consistent with the party principle of Democratic Centralism, he said. He called on members to avoid redefining the BNF from its original ideological, political and organizational nature and character as set out. The first resolution was the deployment of a new leadership; The Social Democratic Programme (SDP) should remain the party’s driving programme (ideology); Policies and programmes should be subjected to a constitutional congress; and that the BNF UB Mass should be included in the Constitution and its role clarified.
Meanwhile the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) has condemned recent attacks on some members of the newly elected central committee, by activists belonging to partners in UDC on social media. The attacks targeted Mohwasa and Dr Elmon Tafa- the candidate who received the highest votes at the congress. BNFYL Publicity Secretary Nakoentle Farouq Katisi warned that comrades must know that in the future they will invite the wrath and venom from the league, should such undesirable conduct repeat itself. Katisi said it is important that where comrades have differing or unpopular opinions they should be responsible enough to voice them in a constructive manner.