The onslaught by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) – raiding the opposition backyard to lure members to their side – is giving parties under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) sleepless nights. Recent defections that have seen a number of UDC councillors joining the ruling party, coupled with growing speculation that Gaborone Mayor Kagiso Thutlwe may follow suit, threatens to scuttle progress made in the secretive opposition talks between the UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The defections, together with the introduction Electronic Voting Machines in elections – which President Ian Khama signed into law last week – and the ongoing public fallout between members of the UDC under Botswana National Font (BNF) and Botswana People's Party (BPP) were expected to take centre stage when the central committee of the amalgamated body convened over the weekend.
Politicians for sale
Botswana National Front (BNF) Publicity Secretary, Justin Hunyepa, has come out with guns blazing, accusing the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of gross abuse of state power and national resources for recruitment purposes, in preparation for the 2019 General Elections. He said they have noted with great concern that the BDP is now out to stubbornly and publicly loot national resources under different programmes like BOT50; ESP; National Development Plans and other public financial institutions. "These programmes are used to recruit members of the opposition by promising them loans, tenders and a life of luxury. MPs, Councillors and other activists are recruited to the BDP by being promised financial assistance. Now they have gone public and are boasting about it," he said. Hunyepa cites public financial institutions like CEDA and selective public tenders, which he said are used for BDP recruitment purposes.
He, however, said although the opposition is saddened by such defections, they are motivated that majority of Batswana are fed up with corruption, misrule, mismanagement, abuse of office, massive theft through government tenders and schemes perpetrated by the BDP. "In 2019, the BDP will lose power and the opposition will correct all these injustices where the BDP has been enriching its activists. Those involved in corruption and helping the BDP to steal national resources, will have to face the wrath of the law when power changes hands," he warned. The BDP remains unperturbed by the accusations and has repeatedly brushed them aside as baseless gossip without any evidence to support them. The party has, through its leadership, repeatedly denied buying any politician to join them.
Hunyepa said many Batswana are languishing in poverty and battling rising unemployment while a few BDP activists are enriching themselves. He said the billions of Pulas lost through corruption could create surplus jobs for the small population. The depressing development, he said, is aggravated by failure of public institutions responsible for providing checks and balances as they have been deliberately weakened. He said the Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and other oversight institutions have been rendered useless while the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) has lost focus and is busy profiling political activists and helping the BDP to remain in power.
Abolish draconian, archaic laws
The BNF has also criticised the ruling party for embracing archaic pieces of legislature inherited from the British colonial masters and draconian laws promulgated by the BDP majority in Parliament to punish opposition sympathisers. Hunyepa likened the laws to a loaded gun left in the hands of a madman, who can shoot at anyone in their line of vision. He said BNF Youth League President Khumoekae Richard was dragged before a public service kangaroo disciplinary committee for purposes of dismissing him. "No matter how much Richard put up his defence, he was destined for dismissal. This, however, is not surprising as Richard has long been profiled by the government for annihilation due to his outspokenness against BDP misrule," said Hunyepa. As a student leader, Richard was suspended and at some point expelled from the University of Botswana (UB). He had a short stint as a lecturer at Francistown Technical and Vocational College of Education, before he was dismissed for reasons Hunyepa call frivolous, after he authored a book titled ‘The Scandalous Murdering of Democracy’ attacking the BDP government.
The BNF is in full support of Richard in his brave and tireless efforts to fight for the rights and freedoms of workers and Batswana in general, said Hunyepa. He said Richard's employment at the Gaborone Central Constituency office was always tied to politics and his job was political in nature. "The recent excuse that he should not be active in politics as a public officer is just an excuse. There are many well-known BDP activists who are constituency officers and no action has been taken against them. In fact, the BDP has publicly announced that it will weed out opposition activists from the public service," he said, adding that it was not surprising that seven Election Officers were removed from the Independent Electoral Commission after the BDP poor performance at the 2014 general elections. He said some Good Hope senior Secondary School teachers have been transferred suspected to have contributed to Eric Molale’s loss in the constituency. He said some Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals have been victimised and their contracts not renewed because of suspicion that they are associated with opposition parties; BDP retired Ministers and former Members of Parliament have been engaged recently to monitor the Nyeletso Lehuma programme as the BDP does not trust public officers.
Hunyepa said there are several other archaic laws that were inherited from the British colonial masters and are now being brutally used against innocent and unsuspecting citizens. He said the Public Safety Act (Cap. 22:03) of 1907 could be traced to the Proclamation No. 15 of 1907 and was adopted by Botswana Government through legal notice No. 84 of 1966 without any modification, except to insert the word Botswana. Similarly, what was Law and Order (Maintenance) Act during the colonial period became Public Order Act (Cap.22:02). The Public Order Act was adopted by Act No. 6 of 1967. He said although the 1967 Public Order Act was hardly used to deny citizens peaceful demonstrations, today it is used to shoot down every peaceful demonstration. "Provisions on sedition are also traceable to the colonial period. Interestingly, the same laws, including sedition, were there during Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae’s presidency. The same loaded gun has been there all along, and it has been hardly fired! The current Presidency is so trigger happy and is ruling by instilling fear. These are some of the blemishes that make Botswana 50 years celebrations uninspiring and lacking euphoria associated with independence. A review of the Botswana Constitution and other Botswana laws is long overdue," said Hunyepa.
BNF vs BPP
Beyond parrying BDP blows, the UDC leadership is facing escalating internal bickering with their members tearing at each over unsavoury utterances by fellow comrades. Some BNF youth threw a spanner in the works late Friday, calling on President Duma Boko and his deputy Ndaba Gaolathe to plead with the BPP President Motlatsi Molapisi to remove one Botho Seboko from the UDC/BCP Negotiation table. They said that Seboko needs political rehabilitation after attacking their party and likening them to baboons. A day earlier Gaolathe had tried in vain to put out the fires by calling on members to accept Seboko's public apology, but the BNF youth dismissed it as half-hearted. "A man of his impulsive character cannot be trusted to negotiate the impending revolution of 2019. It’s not the first time he led a mob to insult the BNF,” the BNF Youth league said.
The youth reminded their leaders that after the Francistown congress, Seboko and his friends wrote on social media that BNF members should not have voted Moeti Mohwasa and Elmon Tafa into the Central Committee. They said such an attack on their leadership was unprovoked. "For how long will the BNF be subjected to insults by this new comer? He is a liability to our revolution and the UDC project. It is time my leaders to be honest and assess the flat cap gang closely and more seriously. This new crop (flat caps gang) must be confronted, now, not later. What is their agenda?" wrote Kago Mokotedi, whose statement was reproduced by Arafat Khan. He called on Boko and Gaolathe to spring to action because failure to do so amounts to risking lives of thousands of their followers who have faith in the UDC. "I, together with other UDC-loving cadres cannot sit still while Seboko and his fellow flat cap gangsters mutilate the UDC from inside," warned Mokotedi, calling for Seboko to resign.