The Secretary General of the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Head of Communications for Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Moeti Mohwasa believes that he has played his part and will not be contesting the position of BNF SG.

However, he vows to remain a loyal member of the BNF and ready to serve in any assignment that the organisation assigns him. Botswana Guardian chats with him on the 'ins' and 'outs' of the BNF and UDC.

BG: Please briefly introduce yourself. MM: I am a father of five children, a last born in a family of eight and a very private person. My father was originally from Matjitjileng, a small place with a very rich history in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. My mother hailed from Goo-Seetso ward in Serowe. Both my parents were primary school teachers. I lost both parents at the age of five, in a car accident and was brought up by my maternal grandmother who was a staunch Christian and disciplinarian and graduate of the Temperance movement who would always insist that in our dealings with other people we should always show respect and not be conceited. Together with my elder siblings and other relatives they helped bring me up.


BG: When did you join the Botswana National Front (BNF) and what attracted you to the party? MM: I was attracted to the BNF by its policies and what it stands for. One day, we were walking from a football game at the age of eight we passed through a BNF rally that was addressed by the BNF leadership in Selebi Phikwe. I was able to connect with the issues they were raising and the BNF instantly became my political home and it will remain so forever.

Prior to that there had been a strike by the BCL mine workers which also opened my eyes. My late parents had some businesses in what was then African Mall which my parents had set up after leaving teaching. I was also able to eavesdrop on the mine workers' conversations about how poorly locals were treated at the Phikwe mine. Their story touched me. The workers happened to be regular customers of my parents. I have always been on the side of the weak and vulnerable. Though my grandmother was a staunch BDP member, she was tolerant of me being with the opposition.

BG: Besides the position of Secretary General which you currently hold, what positions have you held in the Front? You are also the Head of Communications for the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition. Has it been easy juggling the two jobs?

MM: I have been deputy chairperson and chairperson of the Youth League, Selebi Phikwe constituency. This is before the town was split into two constituencies. I also served in the National Elections Appeals Board, chaired the BNF 45th and 50th Anniversary Celebrations Committees, and was Information and Publicity Secretary of the BNF before becoming Secretary General (SG) of the party.

The 50th anniversary celebrations assignment was very successful as we managed to retrieve and re-print certain party publications and lay a tombstone for our former leader, Cde Dr. Kenneth Koma.

It has been challenging and taxing mixing the two. The position that I have sold and will continue to sell to our members is that times of moonlighting are over for the party SG. Resources permitting we need a full time Secretary General with an enhanced secretariat.

You cannot have a situation whereby when people come to the party to seek help but they are told the SG o ko morakeng (he's gone to the farm), or SG o ile go photha dinawa (threshing beans) for example, because at the end of the day he or she has to eke out a living.

Politics has evolved and the party has grown. Instead of standing for the elections, the SG should focus on servicing the party from the office. This will help the party become more responsive and organised.

This is important as the coalition is expected to take over government in 2024. We should be careful not to have the party migrate to government. The migration would collapse the party machinery and disable it to retain power in the next elections.

BG: How long have you been the BNF secretary general? How have things been going?

MM: I have been the BNF SG since 2016. It has not been easy but I remain thankful and grateful to all those who have assisted in making me carry out my assignment to the best of my abilities. I also thank those who made it difficult for me to carry out this important assignment for they made me resilient, develop a thick skin and become stronger.

BG: What are the main challenges facing the opposition in Botswana? MM: It has gotten worse under the current regime. The DISS harassment of BDP opponents and victimisation of those who challenge the status quo has become the order of the day. The state media with its huge footprint is a BDP propaganda tool that denies opposition coverage. Lack of resources to sell party programmes is another challenge.

BG: Do you envisage a change of government in Botswana? What are the main hindrances to that? MM: We should have experienced change of government in 2019 if it were not for the rigging that took place. So the only hindrance is a party that uses state apparatus to "vote itself" into power. This country needs fearless people who are focused, principled, not purchasable, and not moved even in the face of them being victimised by the state and its agents. Repressive regimes thrive through intimidation and do not stay in power forever. The evil things that the oppressors do will always follow them. Those who are being used by the state should borrow a leaf from the South African Apartheid regime experience. The Bureau of State Security and National Intelligence Service (NIS) failed to preserve one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

BG: You have refuted statements suggesting that the BNF is experiencing decline in terms of electoral appeal as instanced by the dwindling number of seats and declining popular vote in recent times. What informs the party’s insistence that the BNF ‘’is growing exponentially?’’

MM: The BNF has not contested under its ticket in the last two elections. Before then it had since 1969 been the main opposition party in terms of popular vote. We have in the last two elections contested under the UDC and the coalition also has been the main opposition, benefiting handsomely from our input.

Secondly, you cannot objectively use the last general election results in the southern part of the country, where the BNF was managing most constituencies on behalf of UDC to analyse our growth. You should appreciate that for the first time the UDC, represented by the BNF won Tonota and Shoshong constituencies which were previously dominated by the BDP since independence.

Let us suppose we adopt your approach of looking at individual parties within the UDC. Whether it is deliberate or not, you unfortunately and conveniently decide to overlook the fact that the BNF has since 2019 delivered more wards than any other party in the UDC in the by-elections. That does not reflect a decline. Does it?

BG: How accurate are suggestions that you are not contesting the position of BNF SG? If true, what are you retiring into? Will you remain a political activist?

MM: I have played my part and am not in any lobby list. I will however remain a loyal member of the party, available for deployment and assignments by the organisation.

The BNF has invested so much in me and others through theory and experience. It is only fair that we give back to it even when we are not in leadership. Cadre development is not an easy thing.

It takes time and it is only fair that we do not betray the cause. After the elective congress I will be pursuing my other interests like writing.