Last year Botswana People’s Party Youth League (BPPYL) President, Mbaakanyi Smart spoke of his mission to revive and re-brand the party which failed to win a single constituency out of the six that the Umbrella for Democractic Change had reserved for BPP in the 2014 general elections.
This week BPP president and Umbrella for Democratic Change Chairperson, Motlatsi Molapise in an in-depth interview with Voice Correspondent, Dubani- Wa- Dubani explains why the BPP remains relevant to Botswana Politics and why an aggressive recruitment drive to increase party support base would strengthen the UDC and help topple the ruling party.
Q. There’s a new development suggesting a somewhat aggressive recruitment drive and a reawakening of the BPP brand on the horizon.
Is this part of the party strategy or is it taking place independent of Party leadership planning and input.
Is it part of the “robust approach to re-branding” that the party Youth League President, Mbaakanyi Smart spoke of in 2015?
We are trying to revive and re-brand the party. The BPP led the fight for independence but they seem to have been forgotten by Batswana.
We are celebrating 50 years of independence and the surprising thing is that the nation at large and the press, whose duty in to inform seems to have forgotten the BPP’s contribution in the fight for independence.
There is no mention of Matante who was the first person to petition the queen for independence at the United Nations.
That man is a hero and deserves a statue to appreciate his and the BPP’s contribution to the fight for self-rule.
The likes of Kgalemang Motsete and Motsamai also need to be celebrated for helping free the country from British misrule.
You cannot talk about independence without talking about the BPP.
I must add that the BPP has always advocated not only political independence but economic independence as well.
Right now most indigenous Batswana are poor and the economic wheels are mostly in foreign hands.
We need to empower Batswana and it is only through economic independence that this can be achieved.
Our policy in this regard is now part of the UDC programme.
Our people need to benefit more from our land and the plentiful natural resources we have.
I must add that without the BPP, Botswana would probably have no army, national anthem, currency and old age pension.
These were all BPP ideas. The people need to know that.
Q. This same apparent revival which seems to be driven via social media and social media political platforms with hashtag #RonakoBPP has attracted mixed feelings and suspicions of infiltration by agents within the UDC.
Some feel it’s driven by power hungry troublemakers who want to use BPP for political positions within the UDC.
Your thoughts on that.
This is a party strategy in which the leadership has had an input.
Those who say it is led by power mongers who want positions in the UDC are talking nonsense.
We are not surprised because the revival of the BPP is a threat to some who are comfortable with the political status quo.
As members of the UDC the BPP has the right to positions within the UDC and there is no need for in fighting.
Those who say we are recruiting from the UDC are lying. We cannot do that, as we do not want to harm opposition unity.
We however welcome anybody who joins us voluntarily from the UDC. We will let those who are in the habit of talking nonsense carry on.
Q. Over the years BPP has been pushed out of certain areas by various circumstances and relegated to the northeast.
Would you agree or disagree that there is a need for a stronger BPP at this point and time?
I agree that we need a stronger BPP, as this will also strengthen the UDC.
We are working hard to establish structures countrywide so as to make the BPP the national organization it deserves to be.
Q. Speaking in Nlaphwane three years ago you said BPP had failed Batswana because of an ineffective and clueless leadership.
How has this scenario changed over the years? And if it hasn’t changed wouldn’t the party be better off disbanded or simply affiliated to another party?
What I said in Nlaphwane was that we needed to rebuild the party by putting up proper structures all over the country.
I never talked about ineffective and clueless leadership.
After Matante’s death the party started suffering.
His death created a vacuum and because those who had worked with Matante had failed to take advantage of his popularity and build structures.
His death reversed whatever gains the party had made. It is our duty to repair that damage hence our recruitment drive.
Q: Has the BPP played any tangible role in the opposition Unity so far considering that the party did not even win a single constituency in the last general election in areas that could have been said to be its strongholds, what hope does the party have in 2019?
We have always advocated for opposition unity. In 1989 we had a working relationship with the now defunct Botswana Progressive Party.
We were part of BAM and PACT and we are now of the UDC. We have long realised that only opposition Unity can defeat the BDP.
In fact we have always advocated for a complete merger of opposition parties. Our experiences over the years have shown us that pacts are fragile and prone to defections.
Q. Could we be on the advent of seeing the rise of the phoenix, considering that the BPP was one of the first political parties to be formed in Botswana?
Our intention is to revive the party and make it national as was intended from the beginning.
With time the phoenix will rise and take it.
Q: Would you be ready to hand over the party presidency to a younger candidate anytime soon?
Yes. Those with good memories and no political malice will remember that I once stepped down and Bernard Balikani took over as president.
When he quit I was asked by some party members to stand and I won.
I could have quit before the 2014 elections but was asked to stay as the UDC was in its infancy and some felt my counsel would be needed to stabilize the UDC.
I am ready to step down and hand the baton to a younger leader.
Q: Where do you see the BPP in 2019, how many constituencies do you think you would win?
We will have grown our membership and will win all the six constituencies in which we stood as part of the UDC during the last elections.
Q: Do you have presidential ambitions?
No. I have never coveted power.
I became president of the BPP and Mayor of Francistown because people asked me to.
If I had presidential ambitions I would not be willing to hand over the party leadership to a younger and more able person.