The BNF Youth League: Who’s Fooling Who?


On Friday morning, Botswana National Front (BNF) Youth League (YL) Secretary General Osenotse Mabote waltzed into The Botswana Gazette offices and requested a one-on-one interview and to be given ample time as he has a number of positions from his organization which he would like to share.
When he was requested to provide hard copies of official statements, Mabote showed versions bearing notes scribbled with a pen on top but offered 5 clean soft copy versions bearing the BNF Youth League letterhead and gave express permission for their use. Mabote purported to be representing the BNF Youth League which was not strange because he has always represented the youth league. He even supplied the publication with a photo to accompany any potential story.
Among the several issues that Mabote came to talk about were; Response to the 2018 budget speech, UDC congress, UDC vice presidency, JC results, state of the BNF youth league and BNF primary elections. Ask why the BNFYL did not call a press conference to address the aforementioned issues, Mabote said they were constrained for time because of the ongoing parliamentary debates.
‘‘That is why we decided I should come here and break down all these issues in a more relaxed atmosphere’’, he said in the interview The Botswana Gazette also recorded in audio. Mabote speaks with eloquence. He is very articulate and more often borrows wisdom from former President of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara, a renowned Marxist revolutionary and pan-Africanist. He references the late Kenneth Koma to give authority to his arguments. He speaks of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia. He reveals that the BNF is currently suffering from ideological decay as some comrades are involved in what he terms ‘transactional politics’ even though he declined to give out names of those comrades. He said as the BNFYL they want to root out capitalist tendencies in the party.
In fact, Mabote warned that the UDC should vet its candidates for the 2019 general elections carefully and nominate people with a proven track record of political activism and service to the public. “Capitalists end up buying the vote and go to parliament and their maximum program ignores the minimum program of the UDC which is Social Democracy…the challenge is that our leaders…some of them, when they get to parliament their voice is drummed out by capitalists. This is because of the arrival of the bourgeoisies who are propelled to parliament,” he said, refusing to give examples.
Mabote speaks English. Not your everyday English. He uses bombastic words. His vocabulary is laced with words such as ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘classicism’.   His first take was on the budget speech that was delivered by Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo a fortnight ago.  He shoots, ‘‘this budget is a pendulous verbigeration syndrome. It is nothing but palilaia extreme verbigeration syndrome.”  Tongue-twisting as those un-google-able words may sound, Mabote pronounced them with perfect ease.
In Mabote’s words, the budget speech was ‘‘a repetition of colourful empty speeches that have failed to address the issue of social justice and human security for the past 52 years.’’ The BNFYL contends that the national budget of 2018/2019, which amounts to P67.87 billion, has not addressed the issues of social justice and human security.  Mabote argues that there is no clear indication in the budget as to how it addresses the issue of unemployment. The BNFYL complains of unfair distribution of wealth, land and natural recourses. They raise the issue of corruption and selective justice. They posit that lack of unemployment is the root of social ills such as drug abuse, robberies, divorce, passion killings and inter-generational relationships. On industrialization the BNF YL proposes that P1.05 billion which is allocated to the ministry of Investment trade and industry is not enough ‘‘looking into the fact that trade is the engine that generates wealth hence creating employment to attract investors, and implementation of ideas the ministerial ground must be fertile to accommodate this and it requires lots of funds’’. According to Mabote, if things were done according to them, it would be mandatory for a person appointed as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to be a youth of 35 years of age and below as such a person would resonate well with the needs of the youth. He however commended the incumbent minister, Thapelo Olopeng for ‘‘doing his best’’.
The BNFYL calls on the UDC to adopt a position for one vice president in the umbrella body.  They say they came to that conclusion after a robust debate within the youth league.
‘‘Remember that we have two attorneys in the BNF youth league.  We consult them for guidance. UDC must have one Vice president because this makes the constitution of UDC to be in harmony with the constitution of the republic of Botswana,’’the BNFYL statement reads. They also advocate for the UDC leader to be given ‘Presidential Powers’.
‘‘We found it imperative to give UDC president powers to take the last decision to save the institution when it is under life and death situation,’’ they reason. ‘‘If we cannot trust our president with veto powers to run the UDC institution, what is going to make us trust him with power to be commander in chief  of the armed forces of Botswana; the power to start a war at his hand , he must start to have these powers now plus he has them already at BNF and he is using them accordingly so suddenly what is going to change at UDC, Cde Boko is a tried and tested leader,’’ the youth league cemented their argument.  They also appealed to BNF delegates to avoid drinking alcohol on the day of the congress. ‘‘We are appealing to all BNF delegates to take the assignment of being a delegate at this congress very seriously because the future of Botswana is going to be decided at this congress. No alcohol please, it’s just a day,’’ they pleaded.
The BNFYL said they are appalled by the 2017 Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE) results that were released on January 22nd 2018. ‘‘We observe that the sharpest decline in student performance recorded in 2012 coincides with the escalation of the war between government and teachers’ unions post-2011 national strikes. Little progress has been made in resolving the issues and 6 years later the students’ performance hasn’t improved. The performance of students is tightly linked to teachers’ morale and motivation in any setting; therefore, we believe that low morale and motivation among teachers inevitably play a significant role in the performance of our students’’, the statement reads in part. The BNF youth leaders also demanded that the government must show serious commitment to improving the generally poor working conditions of service for teachers, including remuneration, working hours, workload, overtime, transfers, promotions and accommodation.
Even though the BNFYL Secretary General Osenotse Mabote said he was making all these submissions on behalf of the BNFYL, his president Vellem Heli released a statement on Saturday distancing the youth league from Mabote’s statements. Labelling them fake, Heli denied that the BNFYL ever met and agreed to respond to the budget speech. ‘‘The fact of the matter is, the BNFYL has not released any statement regarding the 2018 Budget Proposal which was recently tabled in parliament as of yet, and as such the BNFYL would like to distance itself from the said statement and its author/s, which has also been published in one of the News Papers Face Book Page,’’Heli wrote in his statement. This publication tried to solicit further explanation from Heli on Sunday but he promised to revert and never did. His phone went unanswered on Monday. Mabote did not respond to our follow up questions where we wanted to establish an explanation for the contradicting statements between him and his president.
It is also unclear why some BNF YL members and those purporting to be in the know of its innerworkings attempted to imply, on social media, that The Botswana Gazette had obtained unreleased drafts unscrupulously when Mabote offered the interview unsolicited.