An open letter to opposition MPs on the DISS – A wounded view from the left

Comrades, I have opted to stay out of the DISS discussions since 1998 and only opting to engage on the matter now because of my worriment in our efforts to plan to take over governance of this country. I have developed a worriment over the planning of taking over the country from the ruling BDP in the interest of our collective revolutionary intentions and to provide a radical transformation agenda in the betterment of the lives of Batswana. Comrades, ours has ceased to be politics of progressive forces. One only has to attend Parliament sessions to realise that ours has become a restless language of bravery and daring, blessed by an imagination and an inventiveness that has favoured no other language in our political history, at least the history of the BNF, which has never been about political posturing and mintage.
Our history, which is more old that those we have banded with, should continue to be our guiding principle. It is this guiding principle that we should use as a foundation in the uncomfortable debates such that of the DISS, its purpose, need and management. I do so now with a clear understanding that, though I don’t know of other opposition parties, at the BNF this matter has wrongly been left to individuals to embark thoughts on. There has never been a space to engage on the matter and hence we find so many contractictory views. But listening and reading from our comrades, such as comrade Dithapelo Keorapetse of the BCP, I am entitled to hold a view that the BCP has never engaged on the matter for a collective view hence their deliberations on anything involving the DISS is also a clutching of straws. Whilst we rightfully notice that the economy of the country is in the hands of the foreigners and that we need to get it back, we also are opining that we need influx of foreigners into Botswana no matter the consequences.
We have become not a political force anymore, but a mere lot of a colourful speech that is often terse, vivid and in our intention to satisfy ourselves, believing it to be progressively bold. It is in my view, a farce. radical transformation thrives on the understanding that to know is the best badge of culture that a human being can posses. And it is power at your tongue’s end. But before we set out on a radical transformation agenda, and in order to truly posses the spirit of radical transformation, not only to be heard or seen to be possessing, but to be truly possessing, it is necessary for us comrades to engage ourselves in some amount of planning, else we will find ourselves quitting before very long. We must be clear about our concerns over the DISS. Is it about the processes resulting in the appointment of who leads the security organ? Is it about who and how the DISS is accountable to as per the Act enacting it? Or is it about daily operations which by the way of continuing dialogues, none of us have a clear idea of what it does on daily basis? We are only in possession of bags full of allegations of what it is that they do on daily basis. But that is not my point, for a simple reading and research will show you comrades, that such is international practice. We only joined the practice when the DISS Act passed in our parliament.
Gauging on our blowing hot and cold on matters such as that of the DISS, were we seem not to have a common position as the opposition, perhaps it might be wise to take inventory right now. Beyond political posturing, what qualities have we been able to nurture and smoothed to go on? Are we efficient in getting ready for a takeover? Eager? Ambitious? Have we kept and developed our intellectual curiosity? Have we made up our minds definitely as to what we want most out of the life of our political tenure at the helm of the state? Honestly, now, would we in our current political posturing be considered agents of radical transformation if we intend running the state, managing our people as we currently are running our internal affairs? It has become too much fun as a game, but do we intend running the affairs of our people as some sort of a game? Are we proposing anything sustainable beyond the beauty of words and political posturing? Are we saying to ourselves that we are, once in power, convinced that we could sustain the garbage and political posturing that has come to define us? If not, why don’t we have a clear position on matters of national security and leaving that to individuals to decide on such matters per given discussion? Is it sustainable?
The inception of the DISS was a mandate to ensure that the national security of our people is enhanced through the partnership of security organs. Their role is, therefore, critical in ensuring our people are kept safe from those who wish to harm our people, its resources and our land. Like the role of all other organisations of the same purposes in other countries, it has never been about a putsch. Emanating from the opposition voices in parliament then, during the passing of the DISS Act, which we comrades voted in favour of, we agreed that it was a necessary regimentation. But we are the same people who have gone out to present it again as something we don’t want. I listened in awe about 2 months ago when Comrade Duma Boko said that upon assuming power, the UDC will retain the DISS. I could only ask myself, is this a collective view or it is an individual view? If it is a collective view, when, how and where was it made? If it is not, is it an appropriate statement. These are the points I asked myself when I sat in the public gallery of the Parliament listening to deliberations by Comrade Dithapelo Keorapetse. It is confusing. It is as if our real contention is that we want to import women from neighbouring countries under the guise of them being house maids and only to later make them house wives which will equally be tantamount to human trafficking.
We voiced our dissent during the passing of the DISS Act that it should not be used against politically dissenting voices. I am not that much vested to deliver an expert opinion on intelligence institutions. But from observations, intelligence organisations by design, or rather by history globally, are more than involved in the vetting of persons wishing to obtain visas of countries for purposes that their applications in ink say they are for. The global world is awash with undesirable elements who have gone to be liabilities into countries they have visited simply because someone at the vetting process, mostly if not all the time, that someone being of an intelligence organisation, has not done their work. We are now faced with a discussion in Parliament, which is difficult to scrutinise because it comes from our own ranks. It has become a taboo to scrutinise ourselves, this is a new phenomenon, at least to the BNF. This phenomenon is counter revolutionary and against the principles of radical transformation. We can’t preach and intend on radical transformation if we are not prepared to scrutinise ourselves, our leaders and our institutions. But this culture has for some reason been replaced with praise poetry.
The very countries that we are we as the opposition, supposing that Comrade Dithapelo Keorapetse assertions are collective, have complained about Botswana’s immigration processes, are the same countries that it is so difficult to enter their immigration borders. They mention the same reasons that have been mentioned by the Ministry of Nationality, immigration and Gender Affairs in Botswana. It is an open secret that all countries use the services of their Intelligence Organs to do immigration and security vetting. It becomes more confusing if we of the opposition are asking that the DISS should be excused from taking a part in this exercise. Are we really serious in asking for this mayhem? Or are we just too comfortable in our new political posture that words don’t mean anything anymore? I ask myself, if that was to be the case that the DISS should be excused from the security clearance and vetting, and we were to meet some national security crisis, are we not likely to turn around and blame the DISS of not doing their work? And I answer that, in our current tendency of blowing hot and cold, surely we will. We sometimes talk of the state and national governance as if we have no idea of what it is yet we also expect the ordinary citizen at home to believe that we can be trusted with same. It is confusing.
It should not be, or look like we are planning that upon taking over the ruling of our people, we will work to enrich and promote a small elite minority of connected cadres, while millions of our people will go without work and rely on social grants for their survival. This happens because of the influx of foreigners who in most cases are not able to invest in various countries because there are suspicious in character and lifestyle. Do we want to be a dumping site of criminals and looters masquerading as job seekers and investors? Throughout the history of opposition parties, at least the BNF, we have maintained a simple position that the economy must first be reserved for citizens. But the level at which we want to be seen to be despising that which we say publicly, also carries with it some form of preparation to loot the state coffers. Comrades, we are saying so many things in double coughed language that it has become so confusing even to our young cadres whom we are trying to prepare to take forward the radical transformation agenda.
On the other hand, we are complaining that our people don’t have decent jobs because such jobs are a preserve of the foreigners. On the other direct opposite, yet within our right palm, complaining that undeserving and undesirable characters are being denied entry into Botswana. We need to take a clear position on this matter. I am of the view comrades, that we need to engage robustly on this matter for whatever we say in rhetoric will have to be policy maintained once we have taken over. If that will happen. I am saying if that will happen because the way we are going on in some of these debates is purely devoid of focus and the future we envisage. We can’t just be throwing words around for political posturing as Comrade Dithapelo Keorapetse seeks to present that denying someone a visa is xenophobic. That language can’t be true.
Whilst at the BNF we have since the early days of exposing Batswana to alternative forms of governance, to expose into public light what the BDP and their gang of cronies are, we have of recent years tilted to be an organisation without a firm and debatable position on any significant revolutionary policy standards. We dance to every tune played in an uncoordinated fashion, just so that we are seen to be belonging to the mainstream. The BNF has never been, until recently, an organisation led by the few with an expectation of the masses being made to just dance for the sake of dancing. We have always showed the vision and sustained teachings of a mass led organisation that engages in uncomfortable deliberations and debates. One of such debates is the national security position of our people. The BNF has always had a position on foreigners.
The question we ought to ask ourselves is; are we only dissenting to the DISS because it is being led by a person we will rather not prefer leading for simple reason of our assertion that his is a close ally of the leader of the ruling party? In so doing, are we aware that we have sacrificed a culture of meaningful debate for a culture of just having something to talk about. Are we finding comfort in arousing a culture of debate only on those things that will give us blind votes? Are we oblivious to the fact that once in power, we shall retain most of these public institutions, including the DISS? And as it happened with a lot of new governments, we will, whether we want to admit now or we don’t; retain the DISS in its current standing, for we don’t now what exactly happens at the DISS as that is only for the ears of the state President. This shall continue to be so under any government, including the progressive government of the UDC led by the BNF. And we ought to provide guidance on this matters, lest we be blamed for bad leadership.
The only thing that seems plausible to revisit is the alignment of the budget justifications and the reporting processes of the DISS. I recall that there are Comrades who were crucified for launching an onslaught against the decision of our MPs from the opposition to shun and boycott the DISS Parliamentary Oversight Committee. Their reasons as to why that was a reactionary and counterproductive move, which reasons were not even debated as comrades were busy defending their counterproductive behaviour, have come back to be proved a debate not to be wished away. Comrades, I am of the school of thought that the influx of foreigners into our country shall harm our economy. Our people are without jobs, these private companies complaining must rather use our good will as a country to train and retain our locals. Those pretending that they have been denied an opportunity to come and trade in Botswana for the benefit of Foreign Direct Investment must be named so that we may discuss with much information. There are just too many of allegations being presented as facts and we allow this practice to go on, we shall be bound to retain it once in power and none of us wants to see all that happening.
Lefoko ‘Folks’ Dithebe
BNF Activist