Prodigals son returns
The Former Deputy Leader of the Botswana National Front(BNF) Isaac Mabiletsa made a dramatic return to the Botswana Congress Party(BCP) shortly after being suspended from the party he served for 35 years after expressing a disdain for the under siege party President Duma Boko.
"There are many more high profile defections on the cards. The BCP must brace itself to harvest and make hay of this fortuitous opportunity," charged Mabiletsa.
He maintained, " that my political life spans for 38 years. Of these thirty eight (38) years, thirty five years of them, I was a leading BNF member and my heart was always with the BNF. This partly explains that, the decision to ditch the BNF and switch to Botswana Congress Party was not an easy one for someone who has devoted his entire adult life serving and helping to grow the Botswana National Front as my profile which will soon be distributed to you clearly highlights." Mabiletsa charged that Duma Boko and some leadership members particularly in the BNF Youth league view this as ploy of a Big Brother mentality exhibited by BCP to try and swallow the BNF and other opposition parties.
In one of the Central Committee meetings, Maemo Bantsi being at pains to persuade the BNF leader to plan a leadership retreat to dialogue and come up with a counter strategy to define his vision for taking the BNF forward and rebrand it to make it more attractive as an alternative party of choice during the next general elections and beyond. "I am afraid Comrade Maemo Bantsi was talking greek to the leader of the BNF whose reported whilst addressing BNF members at Mochudi as alleging that party structures were destabilizing the party," said Mabiletsa.
Membership of political parties anywhere in the world, including also in Botswana is voluntary. Election of political leadership is not Presidential Elections. It is leadership elections and confers collective responsibilities on those elected to the leadership structures. This is currently the missing link in the BNF where divergent opinion is dealt with through suspension as was noted the suspension of the four members of the BNF Executive and Central Committee by the leader.
"The ignorant, innocent and unsuspecting rank file are told "Tautona wa tsuololwa ke maloko mangwe a Executive, Tautona tsaya kgato and members are suspended in flagrant violation of the BNF constitution," said a fired up Mabiletsa.
Mabiletsa maintained that he was fascinated and left breathless in the manner in which BCP President Dumelang Saleshando handled the Botswana Television(BTV) interview of Matlho-A-Phage that was beamed on Sunday 8th April 2012 immediately after the evening news. When interviewed and pressed by James Ramoroka to explain why the BCP is not at the Umbrella II talks despite being invited to attend the Talks, he is reported to have said"
"My mandate on the Opposition Cooperation Talks (codenamed UMBRELLA TALKS) ended when the talks collapsed on 22nd December 2011. Because I do not lead the BCP alone, I need to first consult the BCP leadership and its members in order to obtain fresh mandate in order to proceed to the Negotiation Talks with leaders of other political parties. Some of them have consulted and then given fresh mandate to negotiate UMBRELA II by their members, like I know the BMD had its extended leadership forum retreat at Ramotswa which gave the leadership fresh mandate to proceed to UMBRELLA II talks. I, Dumelang Saleshando as leader of the BCP cannot proceed to the negotiating table and commit BCP at UMBRELLA II without proper mandate. My mandate ended when the talks collapsed on 22nd December 2011" I need at least a month to consult before proceeding."
According to this willingness to consult is lacking in the BNF, which has degenerated to a one man show. "This was a wonderful response from a capable and visionary leader of the Botswana Congress Party who fully understands and appreciates that party leadership is collective rather solitary responsibility. This is how DEMCRATIC CENTRALISM in political parties which I know of operates. In my previous party, I and some of my leadership colleagues in the BNF Executive tried to suggest this route, but did not succeed in persuading the leader of the BNF because he said he personally has the mandate to proceed with UMBRELLA II talks. It is national project. This is what has led to the current leadership stalemate within the BNF," said Mabiletsa.
The BCP was established in 1998 to build an opposition party that could bring integrity to the sphere of opposition politics in Botswana, leading to a democratic change of ruling parties, something that has eluded Botswana since independence and therefore stunted our democracy.
"It had been observed by the founders of the BCP that the main opposition players of the time had branded opposition parties as unstable, chaotic, unpredictable, unreliable, untrustworthy and simply not worth being entrusted with the responsibility to take charge of national governance. The instability within the opposition has by and large been attributed to lack of inner party democracy. It is a tragedy that at a time when the ruling party is unashamedly limiting the democratic space within its ranks and replaced free democratic contest with what they call Compromise Model, some in the opposition are attracted to the option of annihilating democratic principles, the cornerstone of which is free debate," said Dumelang Saleshando, President of Botswana Congress Party(BCP).
After 14 years of existence, BCP allegedly remains strongly committed to building a political party that runs its affairs in a manner that will demonstrate to Batswana that it has what it takes to be entrusted with the affairs of government. A party that is unable to conduct its affairs in an orderly manner has no moral authority to claim that it can perform any better in government says party officials. "The BCP is happy to welcome Comrade Isaac Mabiletsa to its ranks. Comrade Mabiletsa has an enviable track record within the politics of Botswana. He is a seasoned organizer who has contested and won many elections. He was part of the team that engineered the formation of the BCP in 1998 and went on to represent the party as a candidate for the Kgatleng East constituency in 1999. To prove his mobilization skills, with only a year of campaigning for the BCP, in the 1999 general elections the BCP under the leadership of Hon. Mabiletsa came a close second to the BDP in Kgatleng East, losing by a margin of 635 votes," said Saleshando.
This was however a time of great uncertainty for the BCP as the 1999 election results were interpreted by many as suggesting that the BCP was not a viable project. Countless meetings were held to reflect on our performance and what the future held for us. The final conclusion was that there is need for the party to forge ahead and present itself as an alternative to both the unruly opposition formations and the moribund BDP. Some, including Comrade Mabiletsa held a different view and left. The BCP has allegedly grown in leaps and bounds.
"We are no longer a small voice as was the case in 1999 but are now a major player in the political landscape of Botswana. Of the 14 district councils in Botswana, we have representation in 10 of them. The 1 MP curse has been shed off once and for all and no opposition party has more MP's than the BCP, following the defection of Comrade Mabiletsa," charged Saleshando. The BNF won Kgatleng East for the first time in 1994 when it was represented by Mabiletsa, came third in the 1999 elections when it was not represented by Mabiletsa and only to win it again when it was represented by Mabiletsa in 2004.