New BMD youth president reveals roadmap to 2014
After beating the well-known former BMD spokesperson Rasina Winfred Rasina, in a humiliating defeat at the youth league congress in Selibi-Phikwe two weeks ago, the newly elected BMD Youth League President, Phenyo Segokgo talks to Francinah Baaitse about his plans to bring a tactful approach to opposition grassroots politics.
According to the pint sized politician, radical politics has cost opposition parties votes for many years and it is now time to adopt a calmer, and milder approach in order to succeed in 2014 general elections.
Q. How did you manage to beat Rasina, someone who is well known in the BMD and has been its mouthpiece up until he decided to run for the youth league Presidency?
Dynamite comes in small packages. I may not be famous, but I have been around. I have been in this movement for the past two years. I am one of the co-founders of the BMD. After its formation I became part and parcel of its interim youth league structure and my responsibility was to formulate the youth policy so that we can try to consolidate it with the mother-body policy. So I was a policy Director. Even when members of the interim youth league resigned along the way out of their own volition, I was the only member who remained and who sacrificed his own persona to the party. I found it fit to contest the Presidency because I had a strong conviction that I have amassed that experience pertaining to youth movement. I was running around with Rre Ndaba Gaolatlhe finding out what kind of animal the people want the movement to be.
Q. I am told that you initially resigned together with the interim committee but changed your mind after one of the party leaders spoke to you about it. What is your comment?
I am a good listener. If someone comes to me with a proposition, I listen to that person. They came to me with their requests, but I was just listening to them, but at the end of the day I made a very firm decision that would take my political career somewhere. I just listened to them but I did not want to move with them back to the BDP.
Q. So you never wanted to go back to the BDP?
I never wanted to move. In fact there was this misconception in the whole committee. Remember that there were two warring camps, the Rasina group, I don’t want to call it that, but it was those people who were initially in the youth league. They decided to resign on their own volition. So they formed a sort of a concerned group when the Dikgafela group took over the leadership.
Q. So that marked the beginning of the two youth factions and you remained neutral?
Kind of. It was just a difference of opinion, not factions as some may want to put it. It was not anything to do with the brutal attack on the party. I was neutral all along because I wanted to protect the interest of the party and that is why I remained behind when they all decided to quit.
Q. So how practical was it being the only neutral member in the committee with warring factions?
I was in the committee on my official capacity and I was not there to protect the interests of Armstrong or Rasina. I was in the committee to protect the interests of the party.
Q. In your campaign you apparently called the other group especially Rasina,radicals and militant. It would be interesting to know why you called them that?
I was emphasizing a point of identifying a culture of our movement, that is whether we are a radical movement, a militant organization or how exactly are we supposed to approach people on the ground. I mean we all know that our society is conservative and we have to be calm in our approach lest we scare them away. My slogan was “a calm voice of reason,” but I was not referring to anyone as militant or radical. A lot of people are getting a lot of inspiration from Julius Malema, but what about our society? Can we adopt the same approach as the South Africans? I doubt we can. But Malema has a following in his country because people who have tasted the struggle are behind him. Botswana is a country of refugees. If you look at our history you would realize that we come from various countries as refugees. When you come to them with such radical and militant approach, you scare them. Instead of listening to the message you are bringing, they would be shocked and terrified.
Q. How do you intend to bring together the two warring lobby list (Youth) after Rasina’s “operation Tsaya Puso” lost the elections?
I do have a strong conviction that those two lobby groups were just merely for a particular event, the youth congress. So I do believe that now we are well. Together as one in the movement we would work together. There are many positions in the party and I am willing to bring them to the fold so that together we can drive this movement to where we all want to see it ahead of 2014. They are very capable, hardworking and persevering young people so I really want to bring them on board.
Q. Do you mean you would co-opt them as additional members of the committee?
I don’t want to put myself in a tight corner and make promises. The decision as to who is brought in is the prerogative of the elected committee. Personally I do not have a problem with bringing them in. There are 5 additional members who are yet to be co-opted by the committee.
Q. Understandably BMD is facing bigger warring factions. The other camp is said to belong to Gomolemo Motswaledi, BMD leader and the other camp is aligned to the Party Vice President Botsalo Ntuane. I have been informed that it is Ntuane’s faction that emerged victorious at the BMDYL. What do you say to that?
There are no factions in the BMD. In fact if I was in Ntuane’s group or something to do with that, I would say I could have lost the elections because Ntuane was not even at the policy assembly, he was not even at the congress and when you look at the much castigations that have been leveled against him, it would look like he is currently at the receiving end. So our lobby group would have definitely lost. There are no factions in the BMD.
Q. So what new initiatives are you bringing tor the opposition as a new leader of the youth league?
One thing I have observed during my 10-year experience is that mudsling politics is common in freedom squares, so I would bring a paradigm shift in opposition politics so that we focus our political attention on fundamental policy issues. The youth need to be empowered so that they can be able to contest for top political offices. The youth have to play an important role in the success of the Umbrella (Opposition unity model between BMD and two other opposition parties). We are looking at the bigger picture, that is, taking over power in 2014.
Q. Since you participated in the formulation of BMD policies, what have you learnt from it?
I realised that Botswana is a conservative society. We may have a lot of young people who are learned and educated but when you go out to remote and rural communities you would realise that a lot of people are conservative in their understanding of politics. They want bread and butter issues. They don’t want these philosophical theories in like the Bolshevik revolution and stuff like that.
Q. Have you ever been a member of any other party before joining BMD?
I was in the BDP before. I joined it in 2003 when I was studying for my law degree at the University of Botswana, although after the first semester I moved to do Political Science as I realised that politicians are the ones who make those laws. Lawyers are just for judicial proceedings. I wanted to make laws so that I can help people.