BCP revels in progress

By Ryder Gabathuse
Published July 25th 2003 in Mmegi, Botswana

MAHALAPYE: The president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Otlaadisa Koosaletse said last Sunday that they have made progress in renewing people's faith in politics.

Speaking at the party's fourth congress in Mahalapye he asserted that the BCP has become a force to reckon with and a lot of people are showing confidence in it. The theme for the congress was: "Leading the way for democratic development".

Since the last party conference, at Pandagala CJSS in Tutume last year, the BCP has won a council ward by-election in Selibe-Phikwe. The BCP also performed "very well" in the Lentsweletau by-election last year. Koosaletse said the party has registered about 11, 000 new members over the last twelve months.

"We have indeed become a force to reckon with and those who regarded us with prejudice as well as those who dismissed our star are beginning to take heed," he said and added that if they remain focused the party would achieve more. He said the BCP remains a beacon of hope in a political environment littered with exclusionist politics. "Equity is central to our vision and agenda. We are committed to equity in opportunities; equity in access and provision and equity in outcomes of quality of life," Koosaletse said.

He presented the BCP as a party of the majority and not the privileged few. Under the BDP rule, the BCP sees democracy as outmoded and patrimonial in nature.

Koosaletse called for a reform of the electoral system. He advocated for a hybrid system that taps on the strengths of both the First Past the Post (FPP) and Proportional Representation (PR). He called on the BDP government to enhance the independence of the Electoral Commission (IEC). The party recommended that the All-Party Caucus should choose the IEC Secretary and the Commissioners. The BCP leader called for popular election of the State President. Koosaletse asserted that there was a need to transform the state by reducing the powers of the executive arm of government and devolving such powers to other democratic structures like parliament and local councils; establishment of a permanent gender commission to advise government on gender matters; entrenchment of press freedom in the constitution and recall of ineffective leaders.

The BCP joined other opposition parties in condemning the Vice President, Ian Khama, for his 'continued abuse of office'. "We have in the past engaged the office of the Ombudsman complaining about the abuse of office by the VP. The Ombudsman concurred with us and advised that the VP desist from using BDP helicopter in party campaigns". He said recent evidence suggest that the VP continues to "stubbornly fly BDF planes as he wishes".

Meanwhile Koosaletse regretted that the party seems not to be attracting sufficient numbers of women to contest the primary elections. "I must admit that the party has not done enough to find ways of attracting more women candidates or has the party evolved any mechanism of ensuring adequate women participation in elections," he admitted.