The spokesperson of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Rasina Winfred Rasina has denied that he was left a bitter man after his party lost some of its prominent Youth League members to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recently.
In an interview this week, Rasina claimed that despite the seemingly mass exodus of the youth back to their original political home all was well within the BMD and there was no threat of a major split ahead of the 2014 general elections as alleged by some political observers.
Q.It has been two years since you left the ruling Party. How has it been in the opposition?
A. It’s quite revealing. For me, the level of leaving the ruling party was not as of the other comrades. I am BNF politically schooled. I attended Koma’s study groups. Until I parted ways with the BNF in early 2000 to join the BDP. At the BDP I wasn’t much of an activist. I was mostly an opinion writer. I put on my political activism jacket in 2008. The journey I am in is quite a revealing journey, it is a revolutionary game, and it is a successful journey and a progressive one.
Q. Koma held study groups a long time ago and you must have been a toddler then, about three or four years old?
A. What I mean is that we used to go to the old man’s house at the Village to get wisdom and outlook on political landscape and history. I had an opportunity to not only debate politics with comrades but also listened to his political perspective. We learnt a lot from him.
Q. So, despite Koma’s teachings, he could not make you stay in the Opposition.
A. I left the BNF not only because of its unending internal wars which had even divided us at UB (University of Botswana) then but largely because of my realization that I was not necessarily in favour of the lefties political thought. It was at the same time that I was recruited by the BDP.
Q. So what happened at the BDP? Did you realise that you were only confused and then decided to go back to the opposition?
A.I joined the BDP in 2001 and realised as well that I was not necessarily in a political thought and preference leaning primarily towards the left. Until April 2008, I was never active at the BDP except through research and writing and hence the BDP Kanye congress remains my nostalgia.
Logically and within reason, I never had any other option except to be a morata-phathi (BDP faction) until the most gracious and most merciful God led us together with our leader, Sir G (Gomolemo Motswaledi) to form BMD.
I do not favour the lefties paradigm. I am a liberal Pragmatist (realistic). That is the political mode I am in favour of and hence my deep roots at BMD because it is an open minded centrist organization. I am hoping for a pragmatic (practical) government that attends to issues as they arise.
Q. During your time at UB you served only one month in the SRC. How far true is that you were kicked out for embezzling funds?
A. Hahahaaah! Eish UB politics and their propaganda machinery! You remind me of the good old days of political fearlessness. Like other victims such as Benson Phuthego, I served only for a semester and I was expelled from the SRC by the then SRC president, Nelson Ramaotwana.
I don’t know now but back then it was the UB politics tradition for SRC President to expel Culture and Entertainment Minister to apparently solidify powerbase. Reasons to expel were always manufactured to be as ridiculing, malicious and damaging as possible.
Eish, nostalgia! Ramaotwana was to later make fun of me after some years when he was Gaborone City Council’s Mayor that I was too popular and expelling me was his only means of survival. These expulsions also had a lot to do with outside varsity politics. Party factions played major roles.
Q. I understand you verbally attacked some youth members who recently rejoined the ruling party. What would be your reaction if someone said you were as much a political prostitute?
A.Political prostitution defines those with price tags to their defecting tendencies. I studied politics at the BNF and at UB (University of Botswana). I then joined the BDP where I was recruited by Tebogo Toteng, Louis Benedice Sibanda, Lesedi Dintwe and Godiraone Letsholo.
I still recall that I was welcomed at a BDP Gs-26 event by Dr Margaret Nasha. Unlike at the BNF, I was never active at the BDP. I then inevitably became part of the political cream that formed BMD. That is in the essence pragmatic political growth within a nation whose political landscape has evolved to be progressively dictated by the revolutionary youth of my generation.
Q. I understand you secretly admire the BDP President. Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama so much that you have given yourself the Lt. Gen. title?
A. Not at all. I cannot admire Khama. He is below average. It is my political title. I am Lt. Gen. Abdul Al-Rahman Rasina, commander of the Political ground forces, operation Tsaya Puso.
Q. So where do you get this Al-Rahman name?
A. Abdul Al-Rahman is my Islamic name. It means the most gracious.
Q. All right then. What would you say to the people who allege that your party is headed for a big split ahead of the 2014 general elections with many of its members expected to rejoin the ruling Party?
A. I’ll say the allegations are BDP propaganda. BDP is pulling a PR (Public Relations) stunt and it does that most of the time. The reality of Botswana Politics is that no sensible person wants to be part of the BDP. We have reached a stage as a nation that voters matters the most. We are able to differentiate what belongs to the government and what belongs to the BDP. The BDP does not have think tanks anymore.
Q.Are you contesting the Youth League Chairmanship in the upcoming April congress and if so, is it true that the Leadership favours you the most?
A. It is very unfair for those who want to defect to blame the leadership of the BMD over something unfounded as this. Of course I am a young person and as of whether I would be standing for a position or not I will cross the bridge when I get there. I will serve this party whether in the youth league or not. It is not true that the leadership favours me over the others.
Q.Why did you decide to remain in the BMD when some members of the BMD jumped to rejoin the BDP?
A. They chose to go to where they feel comfortable, probably because they felt challenged by the intellectual capacity of the BMD. You must understand who ran from the BMD, it is Ruth and Armstrong. They jumped from the BDP to BMD and jumped back to BDP and most likely they are a problem.
My remaining here has everything to do with objectivity, principle, logic and reason. Nothing more nothing less.
Q. I understand you are very broke. As an unemployed married man with children, how are you coping with the demands of daily life?
A. That we have financial problems as opposition party politicians, is of course a given. Remember politics in Botswana do not remunerate, so we actually spend our family resources, building the political institutions.
You will recall that I had to part ways with my employer as well, so I am totally focused on BMD. I am therefore unemployed. I survive on handouts. I get this question a lot. People say that since my kids go to private schools and I stay in Phakalane, how do I survive when I am unemployed. The answer is simple, I survive on the generosity of members of the BMD to be precise. Someone would decide to pay my water bills and another would pay for my transport. I cannot say I am enjoying it but I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to join the BMD.
Q. Given your situation, one could assume that you could easily be tempted to cross over to BDP if you were to be offered a better employment or money. What is your comment to that?
A. I do not subscribe to the idea of buying people on monetary provisions to lobby people into your camp. I believe it is a matter of principle and objectivity. Part of the reason why I do not take BDP seriously is the notion that they use money and other economic provisions to lobby members. BDP is no longer a political party but rather a club of political elites. It has lost focus.
Q. You accuse BDP of throwing money to lobby membership. Haven’t they tried that on you and if they did what was the offer?
A. They did but I never took them seriously. You see the problem with BDP is that you get approached by different members and they make these outrageous offers. You do not even know if they are real or not. But that is besides the point, what I am saying is that I was never and will never be bought to join a political party.
Q. I understand that you were hit by a stroke a day after you were served with divorce papers. Are your financial problems the cause of the divorce?
A.I am not going through divorce. I may be having financial problems but I am happily married. The medical report says that the stroke attack was due to excessive stress and fatigue.
Like I mentioned before, my stroke had nothing to do with the umbrella (opposition unity talks) either. It had everything to do with me being a young person who did not rest.
Q.Politics must be a tough game. How do you plan to keep the BMD youth from jumping from one party to another?
A. I have always maintained that the BMD has a variety of audience. Those who recently defected back to the BDP was the audience that left the BDP because they had issues with Mr. Khama and there is another audience of the policies of a country, those who believe in the aspirations.
If they read our document titled the “aspirations of the people” which is the core centre of who we are as an institution, they will understand our politics better. If they read it and compare it with the current government they will never leave the Party. The actions of those who crossed back to BDP were too much of personal vendetta. It was Khama and now Motswaledi. I doubt their understanding of how much is going on. I very much doubt that.
Q. Beside the Umbrella (opposition unity) attempts, what can you say are the BMD achievement since its formation in 2009?
A.I maintain that we have already achieved a huge part of our intention. You will remember that before BMD there were concern about civil, lack of consultation by the government, there were a lot of concerns about the overall business of government. With the formation of BMD we had the government cooling down in terms of arrogance. The government is now more consultative, we have seen it giving up in terms of stifling civil liberties. We have seen the government trying to be much clearer in terms of its policy focus and direction. By that, to me BMD has already achieved a lot.