Home » Columns » Alliance for Progressives, beware of pitfalls (Part II)

Alliance for Progressives, beware of pitfalls (Part II)

Publishing Date : 10 October, 2017

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

In part 1 of this series I discussed some of the pitfalls that the Alliance for Progressives (AP) needs to beware of. These, inter alia, included failure to adhere to one of the basic tenets of democracy, consultation.

They also included propagation of personality cultism within the party; the talk of contesting the 2019 general elections outside the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC); control of the party’s affairs by such third parties as trade unions; and a constitution that disempowers the party president. In this, the last part of the series, I discuss other pitfalls that the AP should beware of if it is to assist the Opposition attain power in 2019. I say ‘assist the Opposition attain power in 2019’ because in my view the AP cannot, alone, contest and win the 2019 general elections.

Needless to say that one of the greatest pitfalls that the AP should beware of is factionalism. Inevitably, like all political parties, especially at such a nascent stage, the AP will have contestations of ideas, but this should not necessarily translate into factionalism. It is factionalism which caused the split in the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), the split which gave birth to the AP. What is even more worrying is that this factionalism was not based on ideology. It was simply based on personal conflicts, most of which were motivated by greed and personal aggrandizement.

The other pitfall that the AP should beware of is a weak and a factional Youth League. A Youth League, as the party’s young lions, should be the vanguard of the party’s traditions; it should be the whip that brings the various party structures in line.  This, a Youth League should do without fear or favour. In the pre BMD split era, it was abundantly clear that the Youth League had been captured by one faction of the leadership. No wonder the Youth League’s disintegration led to the party’s degeneration.

The other pitfall that the AP should beware of is a weak and a factional Women’s Wing. A Women’s Wing should be the conscience of the party. Therefore, a party whose Women’s Wing is tainted by factionalism invariably loses its conscience and degenerates as did the BMD. If there is anything that led to the demise of the BMD as we knew it, it was the reliance on individual members for financing of the party’s activities. Very few parties have the maturity to treat such a member like all other members.

Such a member often becomes above the law, and controls not only the party leadership, but the party membership, or at least a significant portion of it. Alternatively, such a member is victimized by those who fear the member may gain undue control of the party. In the pre BMD split era, Advocate Sidney Pilane’s matter was a case in point. While the refusal by some for him to be readmitted into the party was based on principle, others’ refusal was motivated by the derision for his actual or perceived control of the party leadership flowing from his financing of the party’s operations. It is common course that it is the Advocate Sidney Pilane’s matter which divided the party, resulting in the split which gave birth to the AP.

Therefore, though it is difficult for Opposition parties to mobilize resources, and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has, for selfish reasons, refused to introduce political party funding, the AP should not resort to reliance on individual members’ funding. It should, against the odds we know face Opposition parties, strive to diversify its funding. The AP should beware of control by certain families. These may not have developed to the level of a cult, but may have attained such monopoly over the party’s leadership that their names have become synonymous with the party.

In the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), for instance, the Saleshando and Dingake names are synonymous with the party to the extent that when Gilson Saleshando left the party’s presidency he, albeit throw a democratic process, passed the button to his son, Dumelang Saleshando. Michael Dingake was president of the BCP. Later, his nephew, Martin Dingake, albeit, in part, because of his own hard work in the party, became the presidential spokesperson to the party leader, Dumelang Saleshando.

This semi personality cultism does not go well with some Batswana. It reminds them of the personality cult that the Khama name has become. In some people’s view, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama did not become president because of merit. These people also believe that president Khama’s brother, Honourable Tshekedi Khama II, was not appointed minister because of merit. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that these people got their positions simply because their father, the late Sir Seretse Khama, was the founding president of Botswana.

So, as much as their contribution in the party will forever be appreciated by the party’s adherents, the AP should not allow such names as Gaolathe, Mmolotsi and Butale to be synonymous with the party. The other pitfall, often the downfall for liberal, progressive and leftist parties, which the AP should beware of, is governance by the Intelligentsia. These Cognoscenti often become ideologues who become detached from reality and become detainees of an utopian world.

This is what made such men as Themba Joina and the late Dr. Elmond Tafa fail to be popularly elected until they dwindled into political oblivion despite the fact that they, by all standards, were intelligent men. To many Batswana, their ideals of Marxism, Angeles, Leninism and Stalinism were detached from reality. They represented a fictitious world which exists only in imagination and cannot be attained in their lifetime.  

So, while the intelligence of such AP leaders as Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe is admired, he should not degenerate to the level of an Intelligentsia. While his eloquence is esteemed, he should not, like Advocate Duma Boko, have his wonderful ideas and thoughts lost in verbiage simply because the English he speaks or writes cannot be understood by an ordinary Motswana without referring to a dictionary. These, as well as the other pitfalls discussed in part 1 of this series, are obviously not the only pitfalls that the AP should beware of. Many more exist. After all, politics is, by its nature, unpredictable. It is the art of the possible.

But, the AP should try to avoid them. A Setswana adage says ‘E re gobona bodiba jo bo jeleng ngwana wa mmaago o bo kakologe.’ Literally translated, this means that when one sees a well into which his fellow human being fell and perished he or she should avoid it.



Do you think the closure of BCL will compel SPEDU to double their efforts in creating job opportunities in the Selibe Phikwe?