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UDC’s individual membership: the need for a constitutional review

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH


Last week I wrote an article on the implications of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s individual membership card issue. Though it was not my intention to have a sequel to the article, events have since unfolded which compel me to have such a sequel.

On Monday this week, Duma FM’s Goaba Mojakgomo, through his Emergency Room programme, hosted a discussion on the topic in which I participated. It was clear from the callers that the Opposition is divided on the matter.  

According to Weekend Post’s edition of 17th September 2016, following a visit by the party Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa, about two weeks ago, Botswana National Front (BNF)’s Kweneng and Southern regions rejected the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s individual membership card project.

This, despite the fact that according to the BNF Youth League (BNFYL) president, Khumoekae Richard, the BNF, at its 2013 Congress, resolved to adopt the UDC constitution which, at articles 6.1.1 and 7.1.1, allows for direct membership by individuals.

This, also despite the fact that the BNFYL, which has significant representation in regions, recently, through a press conference, announced its support for the UDC individual membership card project. One wonders whether this position is truly mandated by the BNFYL’s constituency, the BNF youth.

While not all the BNF’s regions have expressed their views on the individual membership card project, it is worrying that the UDC coalition leader, the BNF, has two of its most influential regions rejecting the project.

Equally worrying are reports that the BNF leadership is divided on the matter. Though it is not a representative sample, the fact that Weekend Post reports that two BNF Members of Parliament (MPs), six Councillors and two Central Committee members are opposed to the project are troubling.

Reportedly, though the BNFYL recently publicly endorsed the project, it is divided, but the divisions are concealed by its unwavering support for the party president, Honourable Duma Boko, especially by its president, Richard, who is Boko’s protégé.  The question is: how long will this last?

The BNF Women’s Wing (BNFWW) has been conspicuously silent on the matter. Can this silence be read as an endorsement for the project or as a rejection for the project? One may never know. Perhaps it is a continuation of the indifference the BNFWW has exhibited on all other party and national issues.

It is not only the BNF which is divided over the individual membership card project. The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) too is divided. Reportedly, the National Executive Committee (NEC) is divided, with party President Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe’s faction in support of the UDC’s individual membership, while the Secretary General, Honourable Gilbert Mangole’s faction is opposed to it.

But, what reasons do those opposed to the project give? Some, it is said, do not support it because there has not been adequate consultation of the members. One wonders why such is the case considering that the BNF, for example, resolved to be bound by the UDC constitution as far back as 2013.

Others, it is said, fear that the project is part of a grand plan for the UDC to ultimately swallow its affiliates. This view, it will be remembered, was prevalent, at the birth of the UDC, especially among the then members of the BNF’s Temporary Platform, who warned that the UDC project will not only result in the dilution of BNF’s political ideology, but will also lead to its peril.

Proponents of this school of thought argue that if this happens it is the BNF which will have lost much because other coalition partners have little to lose. They argue that compared to the BMD, for example, which has been in existence for only six years, the BNF has more than fifty years of existence.

They further argue that unlike the BMD the BNF’s existence is influenced by a real ideological basis. The BMD, they argue, has no political ideology different from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s, but is only made up of members who though BDP at heart only left the BDP because of political purging.

They also argue that though the BNF and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) have been in existence for almost the same number of years, the BNF is more accomplished than the BPP. For example, while the BPP has, for years, not had any representation in Parliament, the BNF has always had MPs and has been the main Opposition in Parliament for decades.

There is also the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) factor. The issue of individual membership has emboldened those who, like many in the BCP Youth League and some who lost at the party’s last elective congress, are opposed to the BCP joining the UDC coalition.

On the contrary, proponents of UDC’s individual membership argue that it will bring income to the UDC through the subscriptions paid by the individual members. Some argue that there are those who, though disgruntled by their political parties, do not want to join the BDP and the UDC would be their home.

Others argue that the UDC’s individual membership will assist with political marketing and data base management, things which will result in membership growth and the possibility of assumption of state power in 2019.    

There is also the confusion on the exact manner in which individual membership will be implemented. For instance, while the UDC constitution provides that individual membership is open to any citizen of Botswana of the age of sixteen (16) and above, it is alleged that Honourable Boko has said that only 1000 membership cards will be issued for fundraising purposes.

If these reports are true, Honourable Boko’s view cannot be correct because no way in the UDC constitution is there mention that individual membership will be limited to a 1000 members. Clause 6.1.1 provides that ‘membership of the Umbrella shall be open to any citizen of Botswana of the age of sixteen (16) and above’.

Its corollary, clause 7.1.1, provides that ‘eligible prospective individual members of the Umbrella may apply either orally or in writing to any authorized official or agent of the Umbrella for enrolment. On enrollment, each member of the Umbrella shall be issued with a membership card and his or her name entered in the membership register.’

Therefore, while the 1000 individual membership limit is not provided for in the UDC constitution, there is no doubt that clauses 6.1.1 and 7.1.1 provide for individual membership. In terms of clause 8.1 of the UDC constitution, the BNF, BMD and BPP are obliged to observe individual membership of their members to the UDC.

Clause 8.1 provides that ‘group members shall remain autonomous bodies governed by their own constitutions but they shall abide by this constitution and the policies of the Umbrella.’ Clauses 6.1.1, 7.1.1 and 8.1 notwithstanding, the fact that there is such a division as regards UDC’s individual membership issue necessitates the matter to be taken back to the members for reconsideration.

Not only that. Prior to the congresses, the UDC itself and all its affiliates as well as the BCP need to embark on transparent nationwide consultations in order to get the views of not only the party members who will not be able to attend the congresses, but also of Batswana in general.

While the congresses and the consultation will cause significant financial expenditure, such expenditure will be worth it considering the adverse effects the Opposition will suffer the longer the issue remains unresolved.

If the views of the general membership are that clauses 6.1.1 and 7.1.1 are a threat to their own existence, it is instructive that the UDC constitution should be amended to only allow for group membership. If the majority are comfortable with the clauses then the status quo should remain, but an inclusive and consultative implementation should be embarked upon.

With only three years before the next general elections, the Opposition cannot afford division and conflict. The BMD conflicts are already causing enough concern. The Opposition cannot afford another debacle, lest it suffers an on goal in 2019.

It will be remembered that the BDP’s selling line has always been that if Batswana elected any opposition party into power they will suffer instability and conflict. With respect to the UDC coalition, the BDP has warned Batswana that there will be conflict on who among the coalition partners governs if the UDC wins elections.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

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.

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