Acting President and long time BPP member, former Francistown mayor and active preacher, 68-year-old Motlatsi Molapise is a veteran campaigner and arguably one of the few honest politicians still around. He gives his views on the political scene to DUBANI WA DUBANI
As an elder and seasoned politician whose organization is the oldest surviving political party, what do you think of the current state of politics in the country?
The level and quality of politics has deteriorated. One sign of this is the way many ordinary citizens have lost trust in politics to the extent where politics and voting is an issue that has no bearing on their personal circumstances. Since 1965 the BDP has been winning elections but most have not gained anything from this.
This has driven people to think that the average politician is in the game for economic gain and cares very little about voter aspirations. And if you look at what many politicians do after getting into office you will realize why people have lost faith and accused politicians of only being concerned about their stomachs, not about the people whose vote put them into office.
It is apparent that a number of those in the BDP do not agree with its policies but believe that if you are a member of that party you stand a better chance of winning political office. An illustration of this is the way some politicians bad-mouth the BDP one moment and the next they have joined it. This is evidence of the stomach politics that are being practiced at the expense of the electorate.
How can this situation be corrected?
First we need to have people in politics that are interested in making people’s life better rather than just lining their pockets. Secondly we need to make sure those who go into politics are not financially challenged and have proved to be honest people with integrity.
The electorate also needs political education so they understand the role politics plays in their lives and the changes it can bring. Many of these are poor people without education or skills of any sort. Because of lack of education and political consciousness they do not realize that the government of the day is responsible for their plight.
They blame their situation on God without realizing that the politicians have not put in place programmes to better their lives and in their ignorance they continue voting BDP.
Party splits have hit all major political parties since Independence. What do you attribute this to?
These are also to do with material want and lack of principle, something the BDP plays to its advantage. For instance when the BDP realize you are in debt they will approach you and offer to help you out on the condition that you join their party. Even if you do not qualify for any financial scheme they help you through so that you can benefit. In other cases they offer financially rewarding jobs such as District Commissioner or Chief in exchange for BDP membership. Unless and until the electorate becomes more politically conscious the status quo will continue.
Have they ever tried recruiting you?
No. They have never officially done it, but some of my friends who are BDP have insinuated it in private conversation. When I was Mayor of Francistown I interacted with senior BDP members amongst them Festus Mogae who was then President, Mompati Merafhe and Daniel Kwelagobe, and when I pointed out their party’s shortcomings, they invited me to join them and help correct the situation from inside.
I of course declined their offer because I am a principled politician. I clearly pointed out to them that they were on the wrong road and I was not going to join them in leading the people into social deprivation and misery.
And what do you think of politicians who jump from party to party?
True politicians do not betray their principles for anything, but they are becoming an endangered species. The late Kgosi Seepapitso perhaps described it best when he was guest speaker at Independence celebrations in Francistown and said that most Batswana are so unprincipled that even a ten pula note would make them shift from convictions they have held for years.
A truly principled politician does not desert his believes and convictions because of some offer that may change his financial or social standing.
Nobody thought Robert Molefhabangwe or Kagiso Ntime would join the BDP but because they are not true to their convictions they betrayed the people’s trust in them. I personally was especially shocked by Ntime’s move.
This is the guy who less than six months before was supporting the then African National Congress Youth League President Julius Malema’s call for regime change in Botswana. His move surely leaves a lot of questions about him and other politicians. It is such moves that make Batswana lose trust in politicians and Batswana are justified in doubting most politicians’ integrity because of such political chameleons.
What do you think of President Khama?
Khama has a bad and good side to him and unfortunately the bad overrides the good in him. His emphasis on service delivery is commendable but is overshadowed but his lack of consultation. It appears that when he decides to do something he does it without considering other people’s input.
Otherwise it appears that he has surrounded himself with people who are afraid of him or he is just too stubborn to take advice. If he took advice he would be a good leader. Every person needs to listen to others and it’s time Khama realized this. I say he is bad because he has failed to manage the economy and the civil service.
The worse thing that he has done is put aside P29 million to buy Magwinya for those employed in the exploitative Ipelegeng Programme. It does not make sense.
Why does it not make sense?
We are in a recession. The country cannot afford that but there is a purpose behind the Magwinya move. It is a clear vote buying exercise just like many of his programmes. The other example of his vote-buying programme is the purchase of radios for elders. These schemes are not self-sustaining and are harmful to the country’s economy.
Batswana need proper jobs not unsustainable programmes. Trust me after the next elections these initiatives will disappear and the cunning BDP will come up with another vote buying scam.
What do you think of the constituency league?
To me it’s another vote buying scheme. I agreed that money should be used to develop sport but it should be routed through the relevant association. This is an example of the mistakes Khama has made in managing the economy. You do not just give money to a constituency without a measure of what it is they are expected to achieve. The BFA for example would use the money for its development programme and there will be tangible results at the end of the day. With constituency football it is just money down the drain with no results to talk about at the end of the day. It is just a waste of national resources for somebody’s political gain.
Do you think the BDP will win the next elections?
There is that possibility not because people want Khama but because he is exploiting Batswana’s political ignorance and lack of education and fooling them with his schemes.
Your party is part of the Umbrella that the BCP has withdrawn from. Why did the BCP leave the umbrella?
I was part of the negotiations and I can tell you that the BCP never had this national project in their hearts from the beginning even though they made the nation believe they did. I do not know why the BCP decided to take part in Umbrella 1 when it was clear to most opposition politicians that they were not genuinely interested in the umbrella working.
If they were asked to explain why they pretended to be interested they will have no clear answer. All other parties were willing to compromise certain things but the BCP would not budge.
They were the only ones to refuse to use primary elections, which shows that they were only interested in themselves. We are in a democracy and anyone who rejects primary elections has no place in our society. Another reason is that we realized late that they had infiltrated the BNF.
Isaac Mabiletsa is one those who were BCP but wearing BNF colours. I am not surprised he has joined the BNF. It has always been clear which side he is on. We also understand that the BCP engaged a consultant who told them they would win the 2019 elections if they destroyed the BNF and ignore both the BMD and the BPP.
I think that is why they do not want to be part of the umbrella. They have their own selfish aims at the expense of the masses that are suffering under the BDP government.
Don’t you think then that the BCP will infiltrate the Umbrella?
I think they will try but I do not see them succeeding because it is a national project that is a threat to their aspirations. Their intentions have been clear since the attempt to oust Botsalo Ntuane as leader of opposition. Mabiletsa was part of that plan and had been offered the position. The BCP wants people to lose confidence in the umbrella and I hope Batswana will see through this and support the umbrella for the good of the country.
There are fears from certain quarters that if the umbrella succeeds there will be a fight for positions that may leave the country in a worse economic state than it is now. What is your take our on that?
That is just malicious talk from those who want to see this national project fail. I must admit that like any political organization there will be people competing for positions but there will be no fighting because we will be guided by the constitution which should be ready soon. We are a democratic movement whose aspirations will be guided by its constitution, not some people’s whims.
What do you think of our constitution?
My party the BPP has long advocated for a constitutional review. One of the things we advocated for was the recognition of all languages and tribes by the constitution and we were labeled tribalists. The constitution needs to be reviewed to reflect the aspirations of this nation.
What do you think of the government’s handling of the education crises?
It’s been badly handled because we have a very stubborn government which functions on instructions of one man, President Khama. I sympathize with Minister Venson because her hands are tied. She cannot get help from stakeholders like the union because she has to follow the leader.
Mr. Molapisi would you accept a dinner invitation from Khama?
No.No. I won’t attend anything to do with the BDP or its leader.
That sounds strange because you have said you have friends in the BDP
Yes but they are just casual acquaintances with whom I do not socialize.
Lastly you are a preacher and a politician, how do the two relate?
I use religion to show people there is no lesser being before God and in the same way I tell them through politics that they have as much right to living a rewarding life on this earth and not be victims of political whims.