Ndaba Gaolathe, leader of the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP)- a splinter political party that recently broke away from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), carries a heavy responsibility on his tiny shoulders.
He has to lead the party into the 2019 general elections.
But with barely a year to go, ‘The Herdboy” as he’s popularly known to his followers, knows that leading his flock to the promised land will not be easy, especially without his former partners in the coalition- the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Whilst his immediate priority is to embark on a consultative process to sell the party to the masses, Gaolathe says he does not rule out the possibility of renegotiating with the UDC for the much needed coalition ahead of the general election.
This week the AP leader had a chat with The Voice Reporter SHARON MATHALA about the formation of the new party and its journey into the future.
Q. Why the Alliance for Progressives of all names?
It is a confluence of groups, stakeholders, communities which also includes people who were in the BMD and those who were political but not active.
It also includes workers and churches. By the word ‘Alliance’ we were looking for something that will reflect that we are not a single group.
Progressives’ movement in formal historical terms is a movement that is very passionate about reform, restructuring and rebirth.
We are also part of that mindset that Botswana as a country has achieved certain things but there is need to catapult to the next level.
Q. What lessons have you learnt both as an individual and as a party president from the BMD misfortune?
I learnt a lot of things, but the one thing is that there is nothing you can achieve without the people.
Anything that does not have the blessing of the people cannot succeed. I have also learnt that there is no guarantee what tomorrow brings.
Q. In 2014 you had the famous tag line ‘victory is certain’, do you still feel victory will be certain come 2019.
Victory is still certain. Victory is not just about winning the election, its not only about getting numbers at the ballot box.
It is largely about standing up for what you believe in.
I believe our people have stood out for what they believe is the truth, what they believe will bring change for the lives of our people.
Q. When you announced that you will be forming a new party, you mentioned that there was still room for negotiations between yourselves (AP) and the UDC, when do you think you will be ready to have those talks?
I would not know when we will be ready to have talks with the UDC.
What I do know is that this is an unfolding narrative and journey.
We can’t actually say there is going to be a date for the negotiation.
I do however know that for the next year we will be engaged in the party’s convention, followed by launching the party to the rest of the country.
There is a lot of work we will be doing over the next year.
If we go into negotiations now we won’t know what to say to the UDC should we end up at the negotiating table.
I’ll give it a year so that we settle down in terms of establishing structures.
Q. Were you disappointed with the recommendations made by the UDC after the mediation attempt?
We need to accept that the UDC leadership had to make a decision. Let’s take the power sharing recommendation for example.
The fact that we did not buy into it means that we did not want to contest it, making life easy for the UDC in terms of positions to say who the Vice President is, who the Coordinator is and so on.
In fact the UDC should appreciate that we did not block anyone, we did not fight.
Q. But did the outcome or the recommendations by the UDC possibly affect your relations with the UDC President?
(giggles) I think everything affects relationships along the way.
Q. Critics say the formation of the new party is typical of political leaders to not want to compromise by power hungry political leaders. Your take?
I disagree. I believe it is an act of balance between compromise and not selling your soul.
Part of it is to navigate what truly constitutes compromise and the selling of who you are.
What is fundamental here is the idea of the basic value system of honesty, integrity and respect of the people.
We do not believe that there was or is genuine political difference; we believe there is something fundamentally at stake which is the idea of the basic value system.
We could have compromised and done all the things we were asked to do that would have been seen as a compromise.
But in doing that we would have let go of our values just for the sake that we make 2019 and probably win government.
But at the end of the day the people would have been able to see that we had sold the foundation of who we are.
It was not a refusal to compromise but a refusal to sell ourselves off.
Q. Do you see a change in Government come 2019.
Yes, yes I do.
Q. The BMD has maintained that they will keep the constituencies allocated to them by the UDC, which means for your constituency, it belongs to them, how will that pen out?
We still have a journey. The AP might for strategic reasons not run for all the 57 constituencies, but then again we may just run for all of them.
We may also consider leaving constituencies in which we believe the UDC candidates match the standard and meet the vision and type of representation.
Time will tell really, there is a whole host of arrangements.