That the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) emerged from this year’s elections bruised is an understatement. Having obtained only a mere three of the fifty-seven elective Parliamentary seats, the BCP was indeed obliterated. If only attaining about five percent representation in Parliament is not an annihilation nothing is. Even by using the target of twenty-nine parliamentary seats that it had set for itself, the BCP was decimated considering that it managed only ten percent of its target.
Indeed, this is a party at a crossroad. The irony of this is that one of the themes of the BCP’s election manifesto was that Botswana is at crossroads. Having, through its manifesto’s theme “Ready to Lead”, presented itself as a party that is ready to lead, it set itself as the party that will solve Batswana’s dilemma by, with Dumelang Saleshando at its helm, leading them in the right direction. Yet, its dismal performance at the polls has left such an aspiration as an enigma.
In this article, I argue that it is the BCP itself which is at a crossroad. I opine that though BCP’s dismal performance cannot be blamed on its president, Dumelang Saleshando, alone, one of the ways the BCP can emerge from the crossroad is for Saleshando to take personal responsibility and resign. In view of the high regard I have for Saleshando this is a position I take painfully and reluctantly. It is a position I could have expressed immediately after the elections, but I delayed for fear that I may be wrong and acting out of impulse. Today, I am convinced that I owe it to my conscience to make the position known.
Though Saleshando is inarguably an intelligent and visionary leader, BCP’s dismal performance at this year’s elections rests squarely on his shoulders. It is my humble opinion that during the Opposition coalition talks he failed to take leadership. Considering that the talks failed not because of ideological differences, but because of constituency allocation disagreements, a true leader would have, in the interest of the party or nation, taken a political risk and led the party into a coalition. Such a decision would have not been undemocratic, but visionary and strategic.
Though leadership is about respecting the majority decision, there are times when a leader ought to stand against the majority if the cause he or she champions is in the majority’s interest. If the leader, with the benefit of retrospect, turns to have been wrong he or she falls on the sword and resigns. If he or she turns out to have been right, the majority succeeds. This is exactly what the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president and now leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko, did when he risked his political career by standing against the Botswana National Front (BNF) members and stalwarts who were opposed to the Opposition coalition. Boko, because he stood by his vision, risked impeachment from members of the Temporary Platform and faced several court battles which he thankfully won.
Though Saleshando takes the ultimate responsibility for the BCP’s humiliating defeat, other party leaders equally failed the party and the nation. That party Vice President, Ephraim Lepetu Setshwaelo, who, through his Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) and the tripartite alliance once formed between BAM, BNF and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP), once advocated for Opposition unity, but failed to do so this time is unforgivable. The same applies to Akanyang Magama who, as then BNF Secretary General, stood by the then BNF president, Otsweletse Moupo, in the face of opposition against Opposition unity, but failed to do so this time.
It defies logic why such intellectuals and seasoned Politians as Secretary General, Dr. Kesetegile Gobotswang, Publicity Secretary, Taolo Lucas, Chairperson, Motsei-Madisa Rapelana, Attorneys Annah Motlhagodi and Morgan Moseki and party veterans Vain Mamela and former party president, Gilson Saleshando, cannot have realized that a disagreement on constituency allocation was trivial compared to the bigger goal of liberating Batswana from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s tyrannical rule. Considering that they no doubt know the value of a political coalition since the BCP itself has BAM, Dick Bayford’s New Democratic Front (NDF) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) under its ambit, the only reason why they can have allowed such a petty issue to deny Batswana an historic opportunity of liberation is self-interest.
It is difficult to fathom why Saleshando and the BCP leadership, aware that the Opposition coalition had the support of Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and a good number of civil society organizations and media houses, failed to realize that it is in its own interest to be part of the UDC. It is equally inconceivable that even after the 2011 public sector strike, which alienated a significant number of workers from the BDP, the BCP leadership found it worthless to join the UDC considering that BOFEPUSU had thrown its support behind the Opposition coalition and by implication the UDC.
Besides the Opposition coalition issue, from about a year before the general elections, Saleshando showed a lack of leadership in a number of respects. Rightly or wrongly, he was widely regarded as becoming increasingly arrogant and detached from the ordinary people. This was not helped by the way he handled allegations that his wife, Dineo, was involved in business relations with some BDP capitalists, something which was feared can compromise him as a leader. At the time, he thoughtlessly dismissed that arguing his wife is free to associate with anyone she wants. I say thoughtlessly because while that is true in the ideal world it unfortunately is not true in the real world, especially in the world of politics.
Allegations that Dumelang Saleshando’s father, Gilson, had business relations with President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama did not help the situation. Consequently, the Saleshandos and unfortunately Dumelang too lost the trust of the people who had hitherto believed that the Saleshandos stood against all that President Khama and the BDP stood for. They felt betrayed and regarded the Saleshandos and Dumelang himself as a capitalist in a social democrat’s skin. Unfortunately, just like the allegations relating to his wife he did not robustly oppose such allegations. As a result, in his supporters’ eyes Saleshando had sold out. He was no longer the liberator that he was when he first entered Parliament and fought as a lone voice when he was the only BCP Member of Parliament (MP). According to them he had thrown water on the inspiring message he used to propagate as BCP’s Publicity Secretary.
It is obviously because of the aforesaid perceptions, wrong or right, that Saleshando lost the Gaborone Central parliamentary seat. He had lost the support of a key constituency, the University of Botswana, which, following ‘abandonment’ by Saleshando, aligned itself with the late UDC Secretary General and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Gomolemo Motswaledi. The loss of support was so bad that even after Motswaledi’s death he lost against Phenyo Butale who joined the race about two months before the general elections and hardly campaigned. Butale’s only ‘campaign’ was leaving Motswaledi’s posters on the poles. His only other ‘campaign’ was that unlike in previous elections when Saleshando had campaign slogans starting with ‘roma nna’ followed by ‘ke a romega’, in these elections he had none. Is it because he had begun taking the voters for granted?
For some voters, Saleshando had to be punished for the way he reacted after Motswaledi’s death, especially when he walked out at Motswaledi’s funeral for alleged intolerance by UDC and BMD members. This, they say, was worsened by the fact that Saleshando later wrote and published an article in the newspapers explaining why he left the funeral. This, according to them, was insensitive and a lack of respect for their late leader and his family which was still mourning.
In the result, and considering that he has lost the confidence of the masses, I conclude that the BCP and Batswana will be better served if Saleshando resigns forthwith as party president. Waiting for the next elective party congress or one year as has been intimated will keep the party at the crossroad. I know that this call will be regarded with disdain, especially by some in the BCP leadership and some BCP adherents. Yet, it is the BCP itself which has canvassed for the position that if an institution fails the leader should take responsibility and resign. The BCP’s own ally, the British Labour Party (BLP), lives up to such a principle. Despite winning the elections in 2010 and only failing to form a government because of an unprecedented coalition between David Cameron’s Conservative Party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, the then BLP leader and Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, resigned.
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.