When the UDC was founded some of us were apparently fooled into thinking that we were pursuing the idea of a United Front which has always been a BNF strategy of bringing about genuine independence to this country by mobilizing all democratic and patriotic forces. I personally dismissed as a conspiracy theory what some BNF members told me that the leadership of the three parties, the BNF, BMD and BPP had a grand plan to eventually make the UDC a political party that would substitute for their disparate political organizations.
Only now is it becoming clear that indeed while the rank and file members of the BNF had in mind a United Front some of their leaders had a grand plan of ultimately disbanding the BNF and or merging it with the BMD and BPP. The proposal of a merger has caused something of a stir within the BNF membership who clearly understand that in the fight against imperialism, neo-colonialism and the remnants of feudalism disbanding the BNF has never been and will never be an option. Clearly, our leadership failed the test of accountability to their members on this score.
The main purpose of this article is not try and rekindle the debate per se but to draw the attention of the BNF members, particularly its leadership, to the time-test position of the party on the United Front. This position dates back to 1965 when the BNF was founded and therefore it is absolutely unacceptable for the BNF leadership to be either ignorant or oblivious of it. My views against a political merger were clearly articulated in an article in penned in response to a statement made by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi to the effect that in 2015 the congresses of the three UDC parties will meet and decide whether to merge into one political party (see Sunday Standard , 0109/2013). Let me add that further details on my objection to a merger will be carried by my forthcoming book titled, In Defense of the BNF: Volume One.
Subsequently, I wrote several newspaper articles designed to help the founders of the UDC to consummate the organization as a United Front. None of that advice was taken on board, and strictly speaking, the UDC is not structured or constituted as a United Front. Though BNF is numerically the biggest party in the UDC its leadership within the UDC is at best, far too weak, and at worst, non-existent, not least because the leadership is not focused on strengthening the BNF. The fact that UDC campaigned for the 2014 general election on the basis of a liberal manifesto which was completely silent on traditional BNF policies, including Social Democratic policies endorsed by all three cooperating parties, was clearly indicative of a grand plan to dismantle the BNF.
Regarding the so-called UDC manifesto I must take this opportunity to set the record straight, regarding my role or the lack of it. I deliberately ignored this matter during the campaign because I wanted us to stay focused on fighting the BDP. With elections gone I must clarify my position. The general impression BNF members were given was that I was part of the team that wrote the UDC manifesto. As a matter of fact, I was part of the team that negotiated and wrote UDC policies, not the so-called UDC election manifesto. The UDC policies were not even used to write the UDC manifesto.
The two documents are poles apart. Some comrades go to the extent of accusing me for the liberal so-called UDC manifesto because it is alleged that after being invited to join the manifesto team I walked out. Nothing could be further from the truth – I was not invited to join the UDC manifesto team, which, to all intents and purposes, was apparently single-handedly authored by the BMD. Those behind these maneuvers reckoned that it would be easier to persuade the BNF members to disband their party had UDC won the elections on a banner that was not even BNF.
How can the BNF leadership be focused on defending the BNF when their ultimate aim is to disband it? Consequently, it is ironical that while the United Front is a BNF concept as a political party we are losing ground to other parties within UDC. The BNF leadership lacks the basic understanding of the United Front and the fact that to strengthen UDC they must concentrate more on strengthening their party (the BNF), and not UDC. And as a matter of principle all BNF members must be BNF first and only UDC second. Some of them have confused loyalties.
When article 8.4 of the UDC constitution states that ‘the structures, authority and powers of group members of the Umbrella shall be subordinate to the power and authority of the Umbrella’ it effectively establishes the UDC not only as a political party, but a super political party whose authority cannot be challenged by the individual Central Committees of the BNF, BMD and BPP. This article runs counter to the principle of a United Front. Furthermore, Article 3.3 defines the Umbrella ‘a registered political party’ and yet none of the central committees of the three cooperating parties was mandated by their congresses to form a new ‘political party’.
On the contrary the BNF Mochudi Congress resolution of 2010 was loud and clear in mandating its Central Committee to go and negotiate some form of cooperation with other parties subject to one fundamental condition – never to compromise the ‘soul’ or political integrity of the BNF. The other anti-United Front clause is Article 7 on the Individual Member. A party is formed by individual members hence this article. To the best of my recollection BNF members at different fora rejected the idea of individual membership of the UDC. In Botswana everybody is free to form a party of their choice. What is unacceptable is for some people to mischievously try to form a new party at the expense of the BNF. Again why is the UDC constitution already operational before it is formally adopted and debated by party structures?
In its headline story titled ‘UDC partners may merge in 2015’ Mmegi, (June 11, 2013) reported that, ‘The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will hold a congress in 2015 to determine its destiny, president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Gomolemo Motswaledi has said. He told Mmegi that at the congress, the UDC partners, BMD, BNF and BPP will decide whether to merge and form one party or maintain the status quo. Motswaledi is UDC secretary general’. This statement by Motswaledi has now been fully restated by the UDC (see Sunday Standard 15/03/2015 ) which envisions the holding of the last congresses of the three parties before the 2019 general elections and their merger into a single party.
At the just ended BNF Leadership Forum the proposal to disband the BNF and merge it with the BMD and BPP was formally presented as an agenda item but without proper consultation of the general membership. The agenda item only vaguely stated ‘UDC- the Way Forward’ as an item to be motivated by the Central Committee. The BNF Constitution is silent on how much time the Central Committee must give members to mull over agenda items and no accompanying notes are provided for members to know exactly what the items are about The tendency to give members short notice is part of the strategy of stifling debate so that the ideas of the leadership should prevail.
Thankfully, although BNF members were ambushed they were vigilant enough – they actively deliberated on the matter in three groups and unanimously rejected it outright, including the proposal to have a shared office of the three cooperating parties. A shared office would have been one step towards merging the parties – exactly what BNF members do not want. There was not one dissenting voice from the floor. So far so good, but I suspect that this non-issue will again rear its ugly head at the July conference and it must again suffer tissue rejection.
What then is the position of the BNF on the United Front as expressed in the basic document of the party, Pamphlet Number 1? We quote lberally from Pamphlet Number 1 in order to illustrate this critically important point. After describing the modern petty bourgeoisie or ‘Elites by education’ Dr Koma provides this advice regarding the United Front; ‘From this characterization, it is clear that the section of the Botswana nation which forms the basic force in the United Front should maintain its autonomy within the Botswana National Front’ (page 26). Here Dr Koma had in mind the ultimate assumption of the working class leadership of the Botswana National Front that the founders of the BNF envisaged – maintaining their organizational and ideological independence both within the BNF and the broad United Front of democratic and patriotic forces. This was considered impossible by the founders of the BNF in 1965 because, as Dr Koma goes on to explain, ‘their class consciousness is as yet non-existent.
They are not politically organized and where there is some nucleus organization, they have fallen under the influence of the pro-colonialist International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. It is obvious that unless and until it can join the United Front as a force independent from the political parties, the working class in Botswana cannot and will not play the role of a basic force in the United Front. And it is obvious that without a working class ideology, the working class in Botswana will remain on the level of trade unionism – concerned with wages and conditions of service’ (page 26).
Getting to the crux of the matter Dr Koma states that; ‘They (the basic force in the United Front) should unite with their allies in the national democratic front (currently these are the BMD and BPP, to some extent BOFEPUSO), but they should not merge, except under very exceptional conditions favourable to the independence of their orientation. This means that while we are certainly for unity, we are not for a merger. We are not for a single party. Here we disagree with those protagonists of national unity who disseminate the thesis that it is in interests of the struggle that in all cases there should be only one party. We are for independence and autonomy within the United Front. We reject the one party system as a general panacea’ (page 23).
The quotation above is the central message of this article. The BNF leadership must be fighting for the independence and autonomy of the BNF within the UDC, not a merger. I have no doubt in my mind that had Dr Koma not met his untimely demise and managed to compete his book, The Vietnamese Experience of the United Front he would have driven this massage further home on the concept and application of the strategy of a United Front. It is however reassuring to learn that one comrade is working hard at trying to get this book completed and published. We look forward to reading it.
Since a proper United Front requires working class leadership Dr Koma then sounds this warning, mainly to the revolutionary intellectuals and the class consciousness working class, on the dangers of lack of a working class leadership of both the BNF and the national democratic front, ‘We submit that form the elements which constitute the basic force of the United Front not to have their own party or organization, not to maintain the purity of their orientation, is to condemn the whole movement to the pace of a snail and to obscure the fact that the national democratic front is an organizational weapon for specific tasks at a specific phase of the movement… for the basic force to join the United Front without their organization is like a general who shouts hysterical slogans about going to the battle when he has neither a gun nor an army’ (page 23).
The current BNF leadership is absolutely nothing about this second and admittedly difficult condition for a successful United Front. Surely any BNF leader who has read and internalized these words cannot make the suicidal mistake of trying to persuade his party to disband so that UDC becomes their party. But these are not just mere words because in its practice or attempt to forge a national democratic front with other democratic and patriotic the BNF (with the exception of the current leadership) consistently applied these principles. We do not seem to learn any lessons from our past.
An important historical point that merits our attention at this juncture is that from the Peoples Patriotic Front (PPF) of 1991, to the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) of 1999, through to the much looser Electoral Pact of 2003 (with the exception of the UDC of 2012 within which the BNF leadership is inclined towards a merger) the BNF has consistently opted for a United Front which guarantees and protects its organizational independence and autonomy as a party within the national united front of other democratic and patriotic forces.
In all attempts at forging a united front with other parties the BNF has steered clear of a merger because ideological differences between these parties cannot be wished away. When other parties started calling for a political merger the PPF and BAM collapsed because as far as the BNF leadership of that time was concerned they had crossed the red line. Today it is the rank file who are to the left of their leadership as demonstrated by their historic resolution at the Leadership Forum.
This is exactly what the BNF congress resolution of 2010 sanctioning talks that led to UDC meant when it mandated negotiations with other political parties subject to one condition – ‘not to sell the soul of the BNF’. Tragically, it is not only the ‘ soul’ of the BNF that is threatened but the party’s very existence is under threat, and most ironically, from the very people entrusted with the role of leading and defending it! Given this state of affairs it is important to emphasize that it is the bounden duty of every BNF member to stand up and be counted and do everything in their power to defend their party so that the sacrifices of so many comrades, dead and living, were not in vain.
British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”
The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.
As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.
We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.
Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.
Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values. This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.
Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.
Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.
Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.
We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.
These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.
Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.
The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.
Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.
One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.
When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.
The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.
The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.
As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.
When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.
“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.
Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.
This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.
So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.
Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana
This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world. By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy. But the people of Ukraine are resilient.
They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world. The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country. By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.
When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.
United in Our Response
This will not end well for Vladimir Putin. Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable. As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.
President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology. After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.
Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.
By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime. In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.
We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military. We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy. And we are prepared to do more.
In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.
We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies. President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.
He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense. There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world: NATO is more united than ever.
The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies. We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.
Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War
This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time. He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border. He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.
He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.
Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do. We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas. We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine. We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.
Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there. We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.
And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law. Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine. Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.
We have been transparent with the world. We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up. Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.
Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever
Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed. In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity. We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.
Putin has failed to divide us. Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies. And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.
The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine. Putin has unleashed great suffering on them. But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.
The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.
Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically. The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.
Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail.