Below, the secretary general of parties, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang of BCP and the Umbrella for Democratic Change’s secretary for labour, Justin Hunyepa reveal the thrills and challenges of electioneering as they prepare for October 2014 elections.
The BCP camp
The 2014 campaign was different from the previous ones. This time we were guided by a robust strategic plan aimed at transforming the BCP to be the party of choice. We also introduced the position of National Campaign Manager and Presidential Spokesperson. Another new initiative was the introduction of a shadow cabinet. In some of these innovations the BCP led and others followed.
The campaign started with the launch of the party manifesto and the BCP presidential candidate who is also the parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central Dumelang Saleshando. This was followed by the launch of parliamentary candidates.
Both human and financial resources were the biggest challenges. The fact that both the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General were contesting for elections presented a serious vacuum in running a well-oiled election machinery. Another challenge was that current government succeeded in instilling fear among potential donors. On the other hand, the ruling BDP was awash with resources from undisclosed donors. As if that was not enough, the ruling party abused state resources including Botswana Defence Force transport planes and vehicles. It should be noted that there is no state funding of political parties in Botswana. The state media continues to favour the ruling party. For instance, the front page of the state controlled Botswana Daily News is virtually reserved for the ruling BDP.
The introduction of the ‘Re a Fenya’ Bus Tour was an important innovation. On this initiative BCP led and others followed. It added an exciting flavour to the BCP campaign. It allowed the party leader to interact with voters across the length and breadth of this beautiful country. In remote places the common response was "Lentse le le kae ka phathi ya rona." The most exciting aspect of the campaign was that for the first time we managed to not only raise bread and butter issues but we successfully forced our opponents to engage us on the issues we put on the campaign agenda. Top on the agenda were; bringing back our jobs through accelerated value addition and beneficiation, land audit and introducing mother tongue as a medium of instruction.
The BCP must be given the mandate to govern because we are more than ready to lead. We have done everything that is expected of an opposition party. The BCP is tried and tested. In addition we have run an issue based clean campaign. We expect our low cost high impact strategy to give the desired results.
The UDC camp
The Umbrella for Democratic Change has done its homework in preparation for the forthcoming elections. The campaigns were and are still attended in large numbers and this is a clear indication that Batswana are yearning for a change of government. During the UDC manifesto launch, there was a thunderous national acceptance and appreciation of it. The launch consolidated our campaign trail as the different constituencies were now working within a framework. In all the constituencies that we had fielded MPs, UDC had set up campaign teams and these are still at work until the election day.
One of the major blows we suffered during our intense campaigns was the loss of comrade Gomolemo Motswaledi in a freak accident. We, as the UDC, have since dedicated these national elections to our fallen hero and we will do our best to achieve that in his honour.
The campaigns are also characterised by fear and intimidation. This actually makes campaigns in some areas a bit of a challenge as people feel they are followed. There have been numerous house and car break-ins targeting politicians and their campaign teams. These attacks have complicated our campaigns at times.
The other challenges were those of resources for the campaigns. It is unfortunate that while UDC worked hard with its limited resources, the BDP on the other hand used tax payers’ money to fund their political campaigns. The ministers used tax payers’ money to campaign for the BDP under the guise of kgotla meetings and they traversed areas that were far and had bad terrains. The state President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, with BDP campaign teams also abuse the state helicopters and planes, as they are transported to political rallies while the opposition are left in the sun to fend for themselves.
Another challenge is that the state media, the Daily News, Btv and the two radio stations, continue to give the BDP a lot of coverage to the disadvantage of UDC campaigns. The news are never balanced as the BDP is given more space or airtime.
Despite the above challenges, UDC is confident of wrestling power from the ailing BDP. This is because the BDP does not have fresh ideas after 48 years. There have been numerous cases of corruption, mismanagement, poor education, increasing crime, intolerance, low morale within the public service, eminent collapse of economy and so on. UDC has proved to be a viable alternative especially that it is a national project and this has made Batswana to vote it.
Another key area that will make UDC win these elections is its simple manifesto that will deliver Batswana from poverty, unemployment, inhuman treatment, corruption, economic stagnation and diseases. To refresh voters’ memory, below is UDC manifesto summary.
Pillar 1. “The learning Beehive”: A learning, schooling and skill development system that nurtures well-rounded, creative and productive children, youth and adults empowered to create opportunities for themselves and their communities.
Pillar 2. “A clean and effective Government”: A Government and governance system that is decentralized and close to the people it serves - fair, clean, transparent, democratic, creative and effective in governing our country and its resources.
Pillar 3. “The Humming Economy for Prosperity ”: A growing, resilient and diversified economy that emanates from Batswana’s heritage of self-reliance and their inherent determination to succeed and create job opportunities for all our people; young and old, urban and rural.
Pillar 4. “No one is left out”: A system in which ALL citizens are entitled to protection under the constitution and are brought to the social and economic mainstream of our society by accessing appropriate services that are beneficial and well managed.
Pillar 5. “Secure and fulfilled families”: An environment in which individuals and families adhere to the cultural values of “Botho, Therisanyo and Kagisanyo” and live with dignity. These are the five pillars that UDC will use to improve Batswana livelihood.
The UDC has an abundance of skilled and experienced manpower in the social, economic and political sectors. The same is true with the parliamentary and council candidates. These human resources have given the nation a lot of confidence in the UDC as an alternative to the bad BDP rule.
Batswana and workers in general, will deliver UDC into government because this is their (Batswana) project (umbrella) as they did call for its formation. The public sector workers, under BOFEPUSU, who have suffered untold wrath under the BDP government, have thrown their full support to the UDC in these elections. Together with the full support of other employees from the private and informal sectors, UDC is confident of a historic win.
The arrival of UDC buses was a big thrill as the voters saw the seriousness in UDC. The buses have since traversed the country to visit as many constituencies as possible and usher in a new government.
The business community, workers, civil society organisations and Batswana in general, have come out to support UDC in large numbers, and we applaud this support as it is now very clear that UDC has the best programmes and policies to take Botswana into prosperity. This has been demonstrated by the massive attendance in UDC rallies.
UDC therefore calls upon all Batswana to come out on the 24 October 2014 and vote a new government that will deliver on human rights, economic prosperity and genuine employment creation through sustainable jobs.
*Despite having been given a week to send an article to be incorporated into this write-up, the BDP had by press time not submitted it.