Real alternative or just a joke?
The upcoming 2019 general elections promise to be characterized by a hype of activities, with new political parties formed a few months before elections, throwing spanners in the works and splitting votes.
The latest addition to the existing opposition parties is the three months old Real Alternative Party. (RAP).
Although many have argued that the new movement doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things, the founders are adamant that they hold enough political appeal to secure both parliament and council seats in 2019.
FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA speaks to the new party’s leader, Chairman, Gaontebale Mokgosi.
Q. Please tell us about your party, what is RAP all about?
We are a revolutionary movement, an opposition party. Real Alternative Party is a pro-socialism party seeking to advance the economic justice agenda with the aim to eradicate the social discrepancies, create a just social order and ensure social security for its citizens.
The aim is to build a formidable opposition to the anti-capitalist policies and agenda of neo-liberalism.
Q. How different are you from existing opposition parties?
Some of these parties say they have issues with BDP leadership and not political dispensation of the BDP per se.
We are about bringing groups otherwise excluded from power into the decision making process and guard against elitism and its attitude of dominance.
We believe change has to be brought by the people. Historically people have been taught to depend on others, but we are saying everyone is a leader.
Q. Who is your party President?
We are unique. We don’t have position of President in our party, instead we have a chairperson.
President will only effect when we take power. We learnt that this term tends to cause havoc, people turn to confuse it with prestige.
People think they are above the rest if they are called President. Chairperson was a position used before in many parties but was later replaced by “Presidents”.
Q. How big is your membership in terms of numbers?
It is a new party but it already has over 50 general membership. It is a legally registered movement having been given a certificate in December 2017.
Q. Another opposition party was formed last year. Why form another one and not join existing ones?
We realize there is a gap in the political arena in Botswana.
Parties do not have interests of the people at heart; unemployment, under employment , workers at clerical level , domestic workers the low wage earners, they want regime change but they need a party that will identify with their lives.
Q. Isn’t that That is what every political party claims to stand for?
Yes, they do but in practice they don’t, for example, people had a lot of trust in the UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) but because of elitism they were disappointed.
Q. I am told you are a socialist at heart, raised by the BNF. Why did you quit?
I left BNF in 2009 when it was led by Moupo (Otsweletse). If you recall there was a group called temporary platform which protested against the leadership of Moupo.
I was one of them and we were expelled from the party in 2009.
I had joined BNF through International Socialist Botswana, a political party which was BNF’s group member and we had issues with Moupo’s leadership. Ever since I never joined any political party.
Q. Does RAP intend to contest the 2019 general elections and if so, which constituencies?
We are going to contest the 2019 general election. We are still selecting and trying to prioritise.
We will of course not try all the 57 constituencies but definitely all the five in Gaborone and possibly those near Gaborone.
The reason is that the party was established in Gaborone and most of its members are based here.
Q. Looking at the plurality of the country’s political field, where are you going to get the numbers?
We have potential. We are looking at the lower income earners.
These are the people who believe in ownership of political parties.
We will have candidates coming from these communities. Variable groups will contest .
Q. Have you considered partnership with other political parties?
We have not considered any of the parties at all.
We believe and we are confident that we are competent enough to stand on our own but we cannot rule out coalition with other political parties, although we do differ ideologically because we are a revolutionary party and we abide by our principles.
Q. With just 50 members, where are you going to get funding for campaigns?
That is a problem we cannot deny. This is a party of the poorest of the poor, but we will find ways to raise funds, food markets, merchandise, membership etc.
IEC has raised registration fees, e.g P10 000 for Parliamentary candidates and P5000 for Council and those are ridiculous sums.
We are in the process of making international alliances and hopefully we’ll find financial assistance.
Q. You have worked with NGO’s and especially with BNYC sourcing funds for young people who had won primary elections. Are you not going to take advantage of such contacts?
I have been a political consultant for youth political aspirants for 10 years.
We would use my experience to appeal to the broader community.
I was able to establish links. It was civil society not party politics but I learnt how to present proposals to the donor world.
Q. Some on social media are calling your party a group of socialist Rastafarians. What is your response to that?
Firstly everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
This party was formed by disgruntlement of voices of people from below who came together to express things that UDC and BDP (ruling Botswana Democratic party) have failed to do for Batswana in the past 50 years.
I am of Rasta faith but Rasta is a faith, we have people of different faiths and some even know what Rastafarian is all about, so it is not true.
Most of our membership did not have previous political affiliation and neither are they of Rasta faith. Ours is not a splinter party.
People just have a hangover that we are political animals.
BNF is mistakenly known as socialist party but it is a broad church, they allow all ideas, it is a competition of political ideas.
Today it promotes liberalism, but it also has socialists, but it is socialism from above.
Ours on the other hand is the real party for the people.