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Unmoved Saleshando speaks

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando

The leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has blasted the ruling party for coming up ‘last ditch efforts’ aimed at keeping it in power. He however warned that potential joint effort between his party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change remains the only hope for this country.

Opposition Unity

The BCP leader said his party has always committed itself to cooperation with other opposition parties.  He said they have in the past cooperated with formations such as the New Democratic Front, Botswana Alliance Movement and MELS, and some of the efforts culminated in a total merger.  

He stated that when the Umbrella 1 talks collapsed, they restated their commitment to engage the other parties post 2014 elections.  “Our membership recently mandated the leadership to engage the UDC.  

“It must be understood that the mandate is for the BCP to negotiate a mutually acceptable cooperation arrangement between the two formations.  Such cooperation may be of any form.  It is wrong to conclude that the BCP is just on a mission to secure UDC membership.  We need to allow those who will be mandated to lead the talks the space they need to broadly reflect on the possible options and persuade each other on the best steps to take in order for us to deliver a new viable and stable government in 2019.”

Saleshando said what is clear, is that only a joint effort between BCP and UDC will deliver a new government.  He said once an agreement that is acceptable to the two parties is reached, the BDP would not be able to face the might of our combined efforts.

“I am however alive to the fact that there will be doubting Thomases within our ranks on the viability of opposition cooperation.  It is in the nature of lively human beings that differences of opinion will always accompany new ideas.  Only an organization domiciled in a graveyard can hope for total convergence of views on topical issues.  We are an organization composed of divergent skills and viewpoints.  It is this diversity that if well managed, will propel the BCP to greater heights,” said Saleshando.
Parliament

Saleshando said losing his seat in the 2014 general elections was a setback for the BCP.  He said it is always desirable that the party leader should be in Parliament to lead in articulating the views of the party.  

“As they say, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  My period outside Parliament accords me more time to focus on party specific issues.  For the four years (2010 – 2014) that I served as both MP and party leader, the BCP was not as active as it used to be on extra parliamentary activities.  Such activities are essential in a democracy as they reach out to the larger populace.  The Democracy Alerts that used to be regular were informative and also brought international attention to issues that matter.”

Saleshando said he chooses not to comment on suggestions that his performance in Parliament was superior to the current crop of opposition MPs.  He said there is need to allow more time for the new opposition MPs to prove themselves.  

“They have been given a 5-year term and it is unfair that some people wrote them off in their first year.  We all adapt differently to new assignments.  There is no training school for one to pass as a good MP.  A majority of the opposition MPs are in their first term and there are clear indications that some of them are already performing exceptionally well,” he observed.
Emerging Issues

Saleshando observed that of late, the BDP structures have been haphazardly making a number of proposals that they have vehemently opposed in the past.  He said they refused suggestions that Parliament seats be increased in the run up to the 2014 elections but they now want 40 additional seats.  

“They argued in the past that the Proportional Representation gives rise to unstable governments but they now want the system introduced.  They opposed public funding of political parties on the grounds that there were other national priorities but now support it when the economy has slowed down.  They branded opposition party members lunatics for proposing that part of the reserves be invested in the economy but today they call the same idea a game changer,” he indicated.

According to the BCP leader, “What is clear is that the BDP is dead worried by 2019.  For the first time since formation they represent the minority and have been rejected by the majority of the voters.  They know that their days are numbered and their actions should be seen as desperate actions of a party that knows that it will have to face the political hang man in 2019.”

He said the ESP is the most dramatic of the BDP panic mode performances.  Up to today, they have failed to deliver a clear detailed plan of how they will stimulate the economy, he stated.  

“People are just being told to incorporate businesses as there will be mega bucks floating around for all to deposit to their business accounts. ESP may in the end prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the BDP as it is in essence being used to heighten expectations when there is no capacity to meet the expectations.  I have no doubt in my mind that once the BDP has blown up the reserves that have been built over decades, unemployment will still be over the twenty percent mark, inequality will have worsened, poverty will not have been eradicated and the economy will still be dominated by foreigners.  Batswana will then be told that their opportunity will come in 2036 when the new vision matures.  Hopefully, a new government in 2019 will be ready to unveil a new beginning.”      
 

Year 2015 for BCP

As far as his party is concerned, Saleshando said this was a year that followed a general election whose outcome was way below the standards they had set for themselves.  
He said the party was able to come out of the dark period and convene the biggest elective conference in recent history.  He observed that the high turnout at the conference demonstrated that their members are optimistic about the future of the party.

He further stated it was during 2015 that they came back to capture a ward that they had never won in Mochudi (Bokone Ward) to demonstrate that they have what it takes to bounce back to winning ways.

“It was also in 2015 that we conducted regional meetings that allowed the leadership to touch base with all the administrative structures of the party country wide.  Though some people who are not accustomed to the culture of the BCP label us as an overly consultative organization, we will continue to cherish the practice of internal debates and shun proposals for a more top down leadership style.  Once the party membership has decided on the path that the party is to follow, the leadership is compelled to administer the organization in line with the wishes and aspirations of the majority,” explained Saleshando.

Commenting on the BCP new leadership that was elected in Kanye, Saleshando said it is a well-balanced team that comprises experience and youthful hands that have never served at the highest structure.  

“Having been returned as the party leader unopposed is a source of great inspiration for me to do more for the BCP.  In the coming year, the leadership will be busy galvanising the structures of the BCP countrywide.  As in the past, we will once more invest more in training our cadres to make sure that we can boast a membership that is enlightened and able to articulate the alternative vision of the BCP,” he said.

Saleshando said more than any political party in Botswana, they have entrusted a high number of young people with leadership positions in the party.  He observed that in the 2014 general elections the BCP fielded the highest number of young people as Parliamentary and Local Government candidates.  

“Our constitution provides for affirmative action for youth and women.  This bold decision comes with its own risks.  Owing to the high unemployment rate in the country and the desperate economic situation that the youth are confronted with, our young leaders have become the target of the BDP recruitment machinery.  They are promised a better life if they take up the BDP membership card.  I remain convinced that the small number of our youthful members who are attracted by the BDP resources should not discourage us from investing further in the youth who make up a significant section of our membership.”

Saleshando indicated that they recently had some former BDP high profile members including a sitting councillor defecting to the BCP.  He said as they approach 2019, they should expect more BDP members to see the light and ditch the party regardless of the prospects for personal enrichment that the party accords those who associate with it.  

“The BCP will have to continue to demonstrate that it is a welcoming party and allow the new members to serve in the structures of the party.  The party will have to once more invest in training the new and old members on the core values of the BCP,” he said.

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A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

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