On the 24th the Botswana Congress Party(BCP) will meet in Palapye to discuss whether the party should join the resuscitated opposition unity talks otherwise known as (Umbrella II) or not.
Party president, Dumelang Saleshando had this to say “Our meeting could go two ways. We could decide that we are not going back to the talks of the Umbrella II or we could decide to join the negotiations. If we join the talks we must be aware that other parties have already decided to take further steps, and implement “constructive exclusion.” That is what I would call it.
Q What could have gone terribly wrong if they had waited for BCP to finish consultation?
A. The fight over constituencies would have resurfaced.Maybe it was strategically decided that it is in their interest to exclude BCP and when it said it was consulting it was an opportunity for other parties to solve the constituency jigsaw puzzle much easier.
Q.Understandably the BCP has been invited to attend the Umbrella team-building workshop next week. Will it attend?
Q. But have you received the invitation letter?
A. No.The conveners came to see me and told me about the workshop. I told them that I have written to other party leaders that I would not be taking part in Umbrella II until our consultation process is over. Besides, simple courtesy requires that if they really wanted BCP participation they would have sold the idea to BCP and said “look, we have this idea, how can we accommodate you?”instead of calling a press conference to announce that they were planning a workshop and BCP was to send a representatives.
Q. And you sound very offended.
A. I take it to be completely discourteous and disrespectful of my colleagues to call a press conference to announce that and even give an impression that the workshop was proposed by BCP . C’mon! What is happening is grand standing, sheer political grand standing!
Q. Do we see the BCP doing it alone in 2014 general elections?
A. We would decide on the 24th whether we do it alone or not and I don’t think it is Umbrella or nothing for BCP. Remember that among the things we are negotiating is that when the 2011 talks collapsed, BNF and BCP did not have any differences. We agreed therefore that we must touch base in 2012 and explore other ways of cooperation.
Q. Don’t you think the BCP and BNF coup attempt to oust the BMD’s leader of opposition really worked negatively against the BCP leading to its isolation?
A. No, the talks mainly collapsed around the issue of constituency allocations. The leader of opposition incident is very recent. You cannot pick one thing and say the source of acrimony is this. Collapse of the talks is the main one.
The tension was caused by the allocation of constituencies, BMD said Incumbency and nothing else. Remember BCP tasted this medicine called incumbency before. We know what it means. In 1998 we had 11 MPs, we went to elections and we returned with 1. On top of that the BMD wanted winnable constituencies to be shared equally.
Q I hear the BCP constitution does not limit the Presidential terms. How many terms are you going to do?
A. It does limit the terms. Well in a different way. We have a three-year term and my term comes to an end next year. But it can be renewed.
Q.So if the BCP wins the 2014 general elections you would not be its President?
I need to renew my term what I can confirm is that I do plan to contest in 2013. My view is that if you lead a party you must at least lead it to a general election. It is like a job of Chief Executive of a stock listed
company. You must stay at the helm up until the end of the financial year and in politics the financial year is the general elections. The shareholders would then decide to keep or replace you.
Q.What would be your response to people who say the BCP is a Saleshando dynasty?
A.Parties that run with dynasty are not only labeled so by the people, they conduct themselves as such as well. You know the Congress Party in India, the general feel is that they cannot move without the Gandhis
Q. So do you feel the BCP cannot move without the Saleshandos?
A. I think that should be the question. Is that what the BCP says? Were they so desperate that they had to go and find another Saleshando to lead their party because that is what dynasty parties do?
Q. What is the answer to that?
A. It is obvious that I went up the party structures. I started in the youth league, went into the central committee and was Publicity secretary for 11 straight years. I held the position even before Gilson Saleshando became the party President. So it cannot be said that it was because of him that I became the publicity secretary. All my brothers who are not in politics do not expect to be called to come and lead BCP when I leave because the party does not believe that it cannot survive without me.
Q. I am told that you are extremely rich and that you own top of the range vehicles such as your Range Rover, BMW and you stay in an expensive house in Phakalane worth Millions of Pula. Is politics so remunerating?
That must have come from the BDP. Fact is a lot of my colleagues in the private sector earn much more than what a politician earns in Botswana.You cannot become rich out of politics in Botswana unless if you are corrupt. How do you get rich on a monthly salary of P15 000? You say someone is rich based on their balance sheet and Botswana is one of the countries that weigh people’s wealth basing on the worth of their cars and because you have fallen into that mindset, let me tell you, I am not rich, but reasonably comfortable.