The President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Ndaba Gaolathe, believes that his is the only principled alternative political formation with the foresight to move Botswana forward but nonetheless he says a hung parliament is highly likely.
1. In 2014, you won your seat under the UDC, then as President of the BMD. Would you say the UDC played a role in your victory in 2014?
In 2014 I was voted for by men and women from all political persuasions, including and the non-aligned. The feedback that many of them proffered was that both the platform on which I stood and the person represented their values and aspirations as citizens. So yes, the UDC of 2014 played a role, but so did many citizens who were not necessarily part of the UDC. That platform of 2014 no longer stands for the vision and values it stood for in 2014.
2. Leaders of the UDC, and some in the political space believe that the AP made a mistake by not joining the UDC and they believe that going it solo will be AP’s greatest undoing.
The leader of the UDC has stated so in your previous publication, and indeed so have some others at UDC rallies. They are entitled to that view and it is natural that their political station lends them to that posture. It is worth mentioning though that the UDC is a broad church and many of its original activists and sympathisers do acknowledge that our collective decision not to join the UDC was inspired and indicative of sound judgment.
The decision was based on principle and inspired by foresight. First, our vision, and indeed the enduring vision of many of our citizens to build a Botswana that is a paragon of prosperity and nation-building on the African continent, needs fertile ground and a nurturing environment on which to take root. Suffice to say it was morally necessary to plant and sustain this vision on fertile ground or on a sound foundation. Botswana has for a while been at such a crossroads as to be in a dire need for an authentic alternative formation that possesses the character, moral courage and capacity to overturn the leadership crisis and grave economic decline that is corroding the welfare of our people.
We needed an alliance of like-minded citizens whose work and character we could vouch for with our lives, without doubt or fear that our own collective decisions would speak against what we say we stand for. So, this decision that we took was based on these principles and foresight. It is a decision about which we are proud regardless of the potential electoral outcome because it was the right thing to do. The AP has grown in leaps and bounds beyond even the imagination of its original founders. The majority of the members and sympathisers of the AP of today are ordinary citizens from all the established parties, churches and non-aligned citizens. The majority of our members will not even know what “decisions” we are talking about here because their only concern is that of pursuing the vision to build a new Botswana.
3. There are those who believe that you as President are too conservative to make an impact on otherwise the ‘dirty game of politics.’ Please share your views with us.
It is somewhat puzzling that the same people who acknowledge that the current morass of a leadership crisis and economic decline, both of which continue to feed a culture of corruption, would believe that those who subscribe to the “the dirty game of politics” are the only ones that can extricate our nation from the current circumstances. We reject that view and we are determined to push back the idea that politics has to be dirty. The AP offers Botswana the best prospects for political and economic transformation as it offers Botswana an opportunity to be led by men and women of integrity.
4. Your UDC opponent, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa and his president Duma Boko, believe that you will lose your seat. They say that your campaign is not as vigorous and as appealing as theirs. They also say that the UDC is the alternative to the BDP and that anyone who wants change will vote for the UDC and not the AP. How confident are you that you will retain your seat?
Fortunately, the elections are close and so we hardly need to speculate on the outcome. I have faith in the people of Gaborone Bonnington-South and indeed faith in the people of Botswana at large, that when it counts most, they will make the right decision and we will all need to embrace that decision. I am confident that Batswana yearn for a New Botswana. They yearn for a leadership collective that is serious about a clean government and a strong value system. They yearn for an economy that will offer them high paying jobs. They yearn for a system that will bring out the best in them as individuals or as a nation and they all yearn for a high quality life with a roof over their heads. The AP gives Botswana that opportunity. We have the vision, the character and the personnel to achieve these aspirations with and for our people.
5. Further, how do you see the AP performing in these general elections? Would you give us an estimated number of seats which the AP, as per its assessments, believes it will surely win?
Am I allowed to have fun here with a bit of a giggle? No, I am not going to sell our secret weapons to your newspaper. Besides, even the prophets of our time need to acknowledge that in this round of elections, God has kept his cards close to his chest.
We have quietly touched more ground than the analysts and pundits realise, and I am happy that by the time they realise what extraordinary work ordinary people have planted to pursue a new Botswana it will be too late. We have been able to field 41 sound and capable Members of Parliament candidates across the country. We have also fielded about 300 council candidates. Given the calibre of our candidates, the 29 seats we need to secure government are very much within reach, even as a new party.
6. There is belief that the bigger race is between the BDP and the UDC and that the AP is lagging behind. Kindly share with us your views.
We do not share this view. We are very much within the race, according to objective measures and studies that have been done behind the scenes. The BDP and the UDC may well be more established and older or better financed, but we have a range of circumstances working in our favour. First, both the BDP and the UDC need to contend with major internal divisions which have started to play out on the ground among their leaders and activists. The AP, on the other hand, is highly united and disciplined at both the top and on the ground. Second, the calibre of our MPs and Councilors is strong, arguably stronger than that of our competitors. There is a reason for this – the very idea that they stepped forward on an untested platform is testimony to their quality and sense of sacrifice. Thirdly, the AP has been consistent about its vision and values. There is no ambivalence as to who we are working with. The UDC has sent mixed messages about its alliances in a way that has confused the electorate. Fourthly, the majority of voters in Botswana are not activists, and so even though the other two parties may have the appearance of size due to visible activists, the real voters do not make a whimper of sound until the ballot day. And this silent majority has been warming up to the AP and is pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a party of such transformative determination as the AP is.
7. Studies by some credit rating firms predict possibilities of a hung parliament. Should it happen, which party is the AP likely to form an alliance with?
Our own assessment, as I have already stated, is that a hung parliament is highly likely, but nothing is a certainty in this election. However, should we encounter such a scenario, there is no constitutional obligation to choose any of the other parties. In other words, the fact that it is the Members of Parliament that will elect a leader means Members of Parliament could, if they wished, defy their own parties on whom to elect. For this reason, we foresee a process that is driven more by the type of individual Members of Parliament that are elected than by party decisions at the top. So, to be precise, should the AP be the largest majority, we would seek to have MPs from all parties in our cabinet based on merit and the national interest. In a scenario where we are the smallest of the parties, we would cross the bridge when we get to it, provided whoever has the majority is willing to include MPs from all other parties. In other words, we are more inclined to a Government of national unity than a bilateral coalition.
8. There is talk that the AP is in talks with the BDP. Is that correct? And would the AP be open to negotiating with the BDP in case of a hung parliament?
We are not in talks with the BDP or any other party. As a principle, we are opposed to any form of boardroom decision because that would be a betrayal of the confidence of ordinary people that we represent for authentic change. However, a hung parliament by definition is a mandate from the people, even an instruction to all political formations to discuss among themselves after the elections.
Botswana is a nation on the verge of something special. The October 2019 elections are pivotal; they represent a time where we can usher in a new government that is determined to pursue and realise a new Botswana. We urge all Batswana, both party aligned and non-party alighed alike, to go out in their numbers on October 23rd to vote for a New Botswana that will afford them a clean government, well paying jobs, cutting edge skills/education system and access to land.