The political landscape of Botswana has no doubt taken a different form because of the entrance of the newly formed Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) into the political scene. And never before has the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) been shaken to such levels ever since its formation and ascendancy into power in 1966.If what leaders of BMD are saying and supposedly doing as it appears in the press is anything to go by one can be forgiven to say they are very determined and ready to fight with all they have to win their struggle, struggle to subsequently topple BDP and become Botswana’s ruling party.
The Voice had a chance to sit down with the party’s spokesman Sidney Pilane to get an insight of the party, where it’s coming from, where it’s headed and to get a better understanding of the man who is the mouth piece of this new kid on the block.
Q. Let’s start by talking about BMD, when did you and your comrades actually decide to form this breakaway party from the BDP?
It was not our decision as vocal members of Barata-Phathi to form this party but a decision of the people who attended our Big Five meeting (in March). When we went for that meeting the objective was not to form a new party but to find other ways of dealing with the crisis within the BDP. We had tried all means possible to find a solution, the elders had tried but to no avail so we wanted people to tell us what route to take and for them the only way out was to leave BDP and form another party.
Q. You are saying its people who attended the meeting who made that decision but you as people in the forefront were quick to accept that decision, why?
It had become very difficult to be a member of the BDP and a member of Barata-Phathi. (President) Khama had made it clear that we were no longer acceptable in the party because we did not agree with him and his policies and so it was very easy to make a unanimous decision to form a new party.
Q. The problem of BDP factions has always been there but there was never a breakaway party, why now, what is or what was the real problem?
(President) Ian Khama.
Q. What do you mean, why are you saying he is the problem, what did he do?
He failed to handle the problems within the party. As you indicated factions have always been there in the BDP but the former presidents (Ketumile) Masire and (Festus) Mogae managed to handle them well and the party remained intact despite the bickering. With Khama is has been a different case. Instead of solving problems in the party he made them worse by making clear his position that he supports the other faction, which is the A-team.
Q. You identified President Khama as the problem and formed your own party. What is it that you really want to achieve by forming this new political party?
Our aim is to become Botswana’s next ruling party. We cannot allow the current situation to continue because if we do then our country will just become another Zimbabwe economically, politically and socially. We need to stop that and we will.
Q. Do you think by 2014, you will have made that impact that would make people vote for you and give you the mandate to run this country?
2014 is too far. We are hoping that many members of Parliament will soon cross the floor to make BDP lose its majority status. If that happens they will be left with no choice but call for elections and believe you me if that happens that will be the end of the BDP as a ruling party.
Q. You seem to be so confident about this because this is also not the first that your party is saying there should be elections as soon as tomorrow, where is that confidence coming from?
There is no doubt that Batswana are tired of the current ruling party and its leadership. For how long are they going to watch their friends and relatives being killed (extra-judicial killings)? For how long are they going to watch their money being wasted on useless projects? Time has come to put an end to all this and to give Batswana what belongs to them which is their democracy and the right to participate in the running of this country.
And again remember how the A-team was beaten left, right and centre during the Kanye Congress, that goes to show just how people are behind us.
Q. Your talk or reasons for wanting to rule this country are similar to those of other opposition parties, any chances of you working together?
We have a common goal with other opposition parties, which is to remove the BDP from power so we cannot rule out the possibility of working together.
Q. If you were to be the next governing party, what is one of the first things that you will do when the winds of change blow in your favour?
We will review the constitution and change some of clauses such as the automatic succession and the total immunity that is given to the president. We want people to choose their own leader and not having leaders being imposed on them. And this of course (constitutional review) would be done through consulting the people.
Q. Can we now talk about you Rra; some of your detractors say you are involved in BMD because you are bitter with President Khama for not appointing you a judge, what is your response to this?
(Laughs)When I left the Office of the President I really wanted to be a judge because it was one of my ambitions. But contrary to what people think, (President) Khama wanted me appointed a judge just like (former president) Mogae. The only person who had a problem with me joining members of the bench was the then Chief Justice Julian Nganunu. We had our own personal problems and so he made sure that he blocked my appointment as a judge. So if ever I am bitter with anyone for my not being appointed a judge, it is with Nganunu and not Khama.
Q. What about the issue of your dual citizenship, it is believed that you are also a South African?
The issue of me having dual citizenship was never a secret. When Mogae approached me about joining his office as his advisor I told him about it because I still had it. And in any case by the time I had dual citizenship the constitution was silent about it and so it was not an issue. However I renounced my South African citizenship long back and I am now a 100 percent Motswana.
You also need to understand that these things about me are being brought up to divert attention from real issues. The issue here is not about me or any other personality, it is about trying to solve problems which are faced with as a country.
Q. Some consider you as a political failure since you once tried your luck in politics but never made it and that your failure in politics coupled with you being the spokesperson of this party will have a negative bearing on it (the party). How do you respond to this?
(Laughs) It is known that I didn’t make it to Parliament in 1994 when I stood as a candidate for Kgatleng East because of serious factions that were there in the BDP. After beating my fellow members of the BDP who were in the other faction in the primary elections they made sure that I lost in the elections by campaigning against me and the Big Five faction. So it was not a question of me losing but it was a question of my faction losing. Remember that was the same year that BDP lost 13 seats to the opposition because of the factions.
Q. Lastly there is also a belief that you and other top members of BMD are power hungry and that you actually formed this party so you can hold powerful positions, your take on this?
That is ridiculous. The decision to form this party was not motivated by positions of power but by interests of this country which are in great danger. And bear in mind that our struggle did not start last month, it started way back before the Kanye congress and even at the congress most of us were not seeking any positions. I believe that if were power hungry we would have sought positions then.
Full names: Sidney Tshepiso Pilane
Date of birth: 31 May 1952
Place of birth: Mochudi
Marital status: Married
Children: Had four girls but now three after the passing on of one