Read below as suspended Botswana Movement for Democracy leader Ndaba Gaolathe fields questions from The Patriot on Sunday:
PATRIOT: What do you consider to have been your biggest achievement as leader of the BMD?
NDABA: I wouldn’t call it my own achievement, but that of our leadership collective: (a) We are proud to have helped inspire hope in our country (b) We have assisted in shifting the focus of politics from the politics of “slash and burn” (focusing only on criticizing the Government of the day) to the politics of policy and the narrative of what we can achieve as a people (c) Whereas there was a time when most of our people, especially our young were apathetic, it is a fact that many young people are now keen to be part of an ongoing socio-economic dialogue and part of the political process to shape their country’s destiny (d) More and more people now realise that true power does not rest in the hands of the selected few but in the hands of the people themselves, particularly when those masses learn to work together (e) It is not too long ago when the executive branch of government of the day did as they wished without reservation, like it was the case when there cases of extrajudicial killings – it is fair to say the ruling party has increasingly become more concerned more sensitive to public expression of discontent than was the case a few years ago (f) More and more people now believe change is possible, and that it is not beyond reach to achieve a new Government as early as in 2019 f) we have also helped unite stakeholders who ordinarily may not have been inclined to work together and we are on course to assisting not just parties but our nation unite behind one dream. It is fair to say, working with other stakeholders these might be our biggest achievements – helping change the consciousness and self-belief among our people.
PATRIOT: What led to factions in your party since it is a relatively new formation?
NDABA: Your question assumes that there are factions, which factions I am not aware of. The fact that I read about the purported factions in your and other newspapers does not mean the assumption is gospel. On the contrary, the BMD is an immensely united movement of passionate activists that yearn for change in our country. I have not seen a party more united than the BMD, united in spirit and inspired by a collective vision to bring change to Botswana. The BMD is the one formation whose members value each other; and by the fire of love that burns in them they guard their dream and protect each other like a mother does her newborn. That is why no one or any group of people can successfully stand on the way of their dream. I suspect what you are referring to as factions might be your view of what is actually a united formation of our ordinary members powered by a dream confronting the resistance mounted by a handful of some elected leaders. These leaders possess strong convictions about how they feel the party should be run, perhaps. They seem also to have convinced themselves that they have “lost confidence in the President of the party” (in their own words). The democratic process does, in fact, allow this posture by any member or group of members within our party. Sometimes it is a healthy type of debate to have. In this case though, this small group of leaders has gone on to act far beyond their mandate or powers. Their flawed understanding of the party’s Constitution or of their own powers has caused them to mount an indiscriminate assault on anyone or any idea that differs with their own. In so doing, and perhaps due to their strong convictions, they have been blinded to the blatant fact that their actions, whether well intentioned or not, have now come into a collision course with the vision of our members and I would say with the vision of all fair minded citizens that yearn for change. Such a collision of a united family against a blinded few is not the same thing as factionalism. It may look, or even smell like factionalism, but this is not. This is a clear case of a renewal within our party, a renewal that is flowing like a mighty river, flowing and washing away anything and everything that stands on its way.
PATRIOT: Some blame you for lack of astute leadership; that you failed to defuse tensions and unify the party. What is your response?
NDABA: I would not wish to be a judge of my own leadership qualities - that is not how I have been designed. I have seen, heard and read about great life journeys and I have not come across a single transformational one where tension does not exist or where some in that journey do not fade, abandon ship, or lose their lives. We have already lost people in these ways through our journey. The BMD is not a ‘business as usual’, play it safe or play to the gallery type of movement that views its mission in the context of ‘political games’. It is a movement determined to inspire change, through a new way of doing things, a new mindset and consciousness, new policy alternatives, and a new Government in the near future. The BMD is a transformative type of organisation. But this transformation has to start from within ourselves, and there is no way that we can be able to change this country without being that change ourselves. And indeed we began planting our early seeds of a new way of doing things as a movement as soon as we were founded in 2010. For instance, we realised that most people especially young people preferred to come to hall meetings than out-door rallies, and it was increasingly clear that outdoor rallies were largely for the activists, those who were already ‘converted’. So we started to push through this idea and indeed our first country tour with the late Motswaledi focused on hall meetings. We also realised that we needed to focus on pragmatic policy rather than ideological posturing and this allowed people from all works of life to participate in our policy-making process and in this way ordinary people took ownership of the party. We wanted to introduce modern management techniques in our party, and through a raft of strategy papers we tried to introduce a management framework. There were many other innovations we worked on. As we worked on these ideas, some in our mist thought that politics is not meant to be like this. In fact the BMD policy framework was never approved or accepted by the then NEC, the first NEC. The late Motswaledi and a few of us toured the country to secure the endorsement of our policies from our branches and were subsequently endorsed at the policy assembly. The point is, the BMD has always been about change, and throughout our journey there has always been pockets of resistance, but it is always the people, the true owners of the party that ensure that our collective vision keeps alight. So the idea that our party is not united is unfounded. The BMD grassroots are an immensely united movement. This united movement is up to the task of washing away anything and anyone that seeks to halt the achievement of our collective vision. This is the way of change and this is the character of renewal. You cannot halt change or renewal. I am proud to have led during this period of change and renewal. The pundits and the experts that have sold you a narrative of my or our ‘failure’ to unite our party will one day have to explain to you why our people are so united and why our nation is that united in that foreseeable future that awaits at the promise land. The same pundits laughed and rolled on the floor when the movement asked me to run for elections in 2014, but I suspect they have not returned to explain why the people spoke in one voice when the elections came at that constituency.
PATRIOT: The current crisis it will appear has long been coming since the elected executive never worked together since Ghanzi Congress. Please discuss.
NDABA: I have just explained that we a transformative movement, and we are about change and renewal. Those who resist this vigorous culture of change and renewal were bound to resist at some point, and the more they resist, the more powering the collective will of the ordinary members of our party.
PATRIOT: When looking back do you feel you could have done anything differently to avoid the current situation?
NDABA: The current situation was bound to happen and I would even venture to say it was necessary. It is fortuitous that our movement has an opportunity to realign its leadership, and pick its very finest to drive our people’s vision of a new Government and nation. Change is not meant to be always romantic. Change is painful, very painful even. We cannot be the best we can be without shedding some of our burdensome habits and worst traits. Renewal creates a magnificent foundation for something special to take root.
PATRIOT: Now that you and others are suspended and charged for violating the party Constitution, how do you intend to reclaim your position?
NDABA: I am not concerned about reclaiming my “position”. In fact I don’t have to be President of the BMD neither is my Vice President Mmolotsi or the other ‘suspended’ leaders. That is exactly why there is no need to go to court. What would the court do that the owners of the party cannot do? Congress is close enough (in July), and it is an opportunity for us as members to redefine our own destiny. The beauty of the democratic process is that you can be sure the people will do what is right for themselves and the country, and we all must embrace it. Sure, democracy can sometimes grind slowly but, nurtured well, democracy is always fair-minded in resolving the future.
PATRIOT: With the party congress set for Bobonong next month and the Central Committee saying that only official delegates will be allowed are you not worried that a split could be eminent?
NDABA: The BMD is united. The worst that can happen is if those who stand on the way of the vision of the people leave. It is a handful of individuals. This would not constitute a split at all.
PATRIOT: Since you do not trust that going to court could assist in resolving the party stand-off, what is your best way of restoring order?
NDABA: The party belongs to its members, the have everything it takes to determine their own destiny. There is no court that understands the people’s vision and aspirations more than the people themselves. It helps that you don’t need lawyers to go to the people.
PATRIOT: The re-admission of Sidney Pilane into BMD worsened the fall-out between you and some central committee members. Do you feel that particular matter could have been handled better or differently?
NDABA: I do not know of a better way to handle the re-admission of any individual than for the party to do it procedurally as it is always done. This matter is of no consequence to the larger scheme of how life of the party has unfolded. The fact is the BMD is a transformative party and there was always bound to be an encounter of resistance to our path of change whatever form it would have taken.
PATRIOT: What if ultimately Pilane or any other person emerges as new party leader in Bobonong; will you support them?
NDABA: I will gladly recognise whomever the members of the party elect as their leader. That needs to be respected, and indeed it is a fundamental cog of the democratic process. I would have no problem serving as an ordinary cadre of the movement. It would still be a privilege for me to be a soldier among many who have dedicated their lives to being agents of change. I will not always be President of the BMD; that day is bound to come, and I am as ready for it as a pastor is for a prayer.
PATRIOT: Having failed to attend the set disciplinary hearing, are you not worried that you would be expelled from the party?
NDABA: I am not worried about anything. My eyes are fixated on assisting our people achieve that change that they aspire to achieve for their country. This change does not depend on the look and feel of my political title.
PATRIOT: If expelled, what will be your next move?
NDABA: If expelled, I am travelling to Bobonong for our congress like all other members of our great movement to party of a beautiful symphony of crafting a future for the party and country.
PATRIOT: There is a worry that BMD has become the weakest link in the UDC due to its crisis. What is your view?
NDABA: That is not for me to say. The swaths of ordinary people that are coming forward on the ground to become part of this change (through the BMD) that is brewing and engulfing our nation does not suggest to me that the masses of this country share this view manufactured by pundits and skeptics.
PATRIOT: Under these circumstances, the BMD is also possibly losing out agitating for more constituencies since it is alleged, it was not happy with the 14 allocated to it. What is your take on this?
NDABA: Change in Botswana will not come about based on how many seats the BMD or any other party within the UDC has been allocated. Part of the UDC’s success will emanate on just how well all stakeholders harness the collective passion, will, talent and resources of our people to facilitate this change that so many yearn for.
PATRIOT: As Vice President for UDC, are you still executing your role as was the case before your suspension from the BMD?
NDABA: I never stopped. I am at it every day of my life.
PATRIOT: Your general and specific views about the UDC.
NDABA: The UDC is a force for good, with an immense collective of talent, vision and policy orientation. The UDC carries the hope of our people for a new Botswana.
PATRIOT: Do you see it assuming power in 2019?
NDABA: There is something special happening in Botswana right now. There is a wind of change blowing and this change will happen but it will not wait for UDC leaders. This change will happen in one form or another provided we all sweat for it as a collective force.
PATRIOT: We learn that you have since secured bodyguards for yourself – where do you see the source of security risks – your party’s opposing faction or general public?
NDABA: Every leader in politics or even in private business does face risk, especially when the stakes are high such as they are in 2019. The risk emanates from rogues, and every society has rogues. A rogue is rogue regardless of the institution they may be associated with. Our party is fortunate to have in it, accomplished former military generals, some of whom are responsible for managing my and our collective security circumstances. So my security is something that is being managed, not by me, but by a collective of stakeholders. No matter how much security I receive, there will always be lapses, and so my real security comes from above, from God.
PATRIOT: To some politics is not suited to you – you are too nice, decent and smart for it! Have you always desired to be part of this field when growing up and if not what prompted your decision to get so deeply involved?
NDABA: I am not entirely sure what you mean. And no, I had not intended to be in politics. I had found my conscience burdened by a sense of responsibility and a sense of justice, both of which fired me to step forward to serve the people and fight for justice. So I do not share the sentiment that one needs to project certain personality traits to fight for justice or to be a voice for a vision. It would be a travesty against generations to come if we told our young that they are not fit to lead because someone somewhere who is hiding from responsibility has decided that leadership belongs only to the rogues. It would be a sad day for the future of our country if we equated leadership to everything that is not decent or to everything that is perceived macho. In fact part of the reason we are experiencing a vicious cycle of irresponsible leadership is because the good men and good women have been told that to step forward and serve is not the trade of the good but is the work of the rogues.
PATRIOT: If you were to write a 100-word note to the Late Gomolemo Motswaledi about the current status of the party he founded and of Botswana in general what would you say?
NDABA: I would not need 100 words. I called him “cheremane”; it’s a name from a long time ago – the letter would read “Dear Cheremane: Greetings. Change is coming. Best, Herdboy”.
PATRIOT: What is the source of your motivation – and do you believe you have become the best you can ever be at least up to now in terms of personal growth and development?
NDABA: I believe that I have been immensely fortunate in many ways, privileged even. I can proudly say I have given my family, friends, this country and humanity at large the best of me, and that I would not be able to give more than I have even if I were to get a second go at life. For this reason I feel I have grown and become what I ought to have become and I could not have asked for more from my creator.
PATRIOT: Who do you look up to – your inspiration?
NDABA: My late father (Baledzi Gaolathe), Martin Luther King and the rest of my family (my mother and siblings).
PATRIOT: Which book would you recommend to budding youth entrepreneurs or someone who simply wants inspiration to rise to the very top?
NDABA: ‘The Outliers’ by Malcom Gladwell. Anyone and everyone who has read or reads this book is entitled to visit my office without an appointment, and I will serve them tea.