After five all-consuming years in office, Botswana National Front’s (BNF) charismatic Secretary-General (SG), Moeti Mohwasa has decided to call it quits.
Drained by the demands of the role and desperate to spend more time with his family, Mohwasa will not stand for re-election when BNF hold its congress later this year.
However, he will remain an active part of the party’s structures.
The Spin Doctor, whose dry wit and sharp tongue have become the stuff of legends in local politics, originally came to prominence in 2005, when he was elected BNF Public Secretary.
It was a position he held for 11 years before making the step up to SG.
In this in-depth interview with The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA, Mohwasa looks back on his journey and reflects on what the future might hold.
Your time as BNF’s Secretary General ends later this year. Kindly summarise your journey with the party, starting from the very beginning.
I never set out to become the party’s Secretary-General.
Remember the situation when I became a member was worse off than now.
There was no office to operate from.
The party had no resources.
It is the sacrifice of the Comrades and the unwavering commitment to principle, the fight for justice and pro-poor and pro-worker policies that drew me to the party.
I was attracted by what the party stands for. In short it was not planned.
What was your goal?
My goal was to continue contributing to the opposition, taking over the reigns of power from the moribund [declining] BDP.
What is important is to see a complete transformation of our society’s political and economic structures, a disruption or revolution of some sort.
There is a need to rid ourselves of the muck of so many ages and become a thriving society.
You have been part of the BNF Central Committee for 16 years – did you intend to stay this long?
I honestly did not want to stay for long as an SG.
I wouldn’t have minded doing another term but I took a decision to give more time to my children.
One of them actually told his cousins that politics had stolen me from them!
Being an SG of a party that is under-resourced is not easy, more so when you stay out of Gaborone where our head office is.
It put pressure on me in terms of time and resources.
I have also been in the UDC NEC since 2012.
Before this, I was involved in other party work and this made me neglect other aspects of my life.
The BNF is a very big party that requires a full time SG.
This is an idea I will continue selling to party members.
I will still remain a loyal member and participate in the activities of the organisation whenever time permits.
But the time has come to pass the buck.
What challenges did you encounter in your journey?
In the BNF you have people who are fearless in putting their views across.
You can have some who stubbornly execute their views in the name of robust debate.
They would shake you if you are weak, labelling what you are doing or saying as ‘un-BNF’ – ‘Gase seforante’ they would say!
When you have risen through the structures or have learnt what the party stands for you should be able to deal with these challenges.
They are very jealous of their party and would not hesitate to protect the party with their bodies.
The sacrifices they make are out of this world.
One of my major challenges was therefore how to navigate a way through.
What did you achieve and where did you fall short?
The achievements and failures were not mine alone if any.
I believe in teamwork and gave the best that I could, working closely with other comrades.
There were instances of deepening contradictions but this is inevitable, particularly in an organisation like ours, a broad church.
My disappointment has been that in some instances, some would raise issues outside established party structures, tarnishing the image of the movement.
What legacy are you leaving behind?
That is for the party members and the nation to judge.
I hope I did not disappoint anyone.
If I did, they should know that it wasn’t deliberate.
I am only human, I do make mistakes!
With Covid-19 looking like it’s here to stay, at least for the immediate future, do you think the party will manage to hold its congress?
We will, though I can’t say when or how.
We can’t go on and on. Our congress was scheduled for July last year but due to Covid-19 it was postponed.
The central committee will give direction on the way forward.
You have been a key figure not only within BNF but the UDC as well. Will you remain part of the UDC leadership?
That’s for the BNF to decide.
Not availing myself for election does not mean I am abandoning what I believe in.
I just want to give myself time to attend to my personal interests.
I am happy because there are equally capable, if not better cadres, who have availed themselves for the position I currently hold.
When are you intending to hold the UDC congress?
The UDC NEC at its last sitting resolved that the issue of inaugural congress be deferred until the ongoing talks with the AP and BPF have been concluded.
A decision will be made then whether to hold elections before 2024 or not.
Within the UDC constitution, is there a provision that says the umbrella’s Presidency must go to a BNF member?
No, though your question should have talked about the distribution of positions in general.
There is a Transition Clause, which since the UDC formation has empowered the NEC to create and allocate positions to its members.
Such decisions are arrived at democratically.
All the current and past office bearers were appointed in terms of this Clause.
What is your take on the BPF’s ongoing mass recruitment?
It is welcome as it is weakening the ruling party, the organisation that we want to take over from.
Some members of the BDP would rather join its splinter parties than us.
We should not look at the opposition as immutable.
The opposition of today can’t be like the opposition of yesterday.
We can’t afford to remain stagnant and not be accommodative.
Remoulding oneself does not mean you are demeaning or distorting yourself, the objective laws of social development demand it.
So how exactly will BPF’s recruitment of BDP old guns help the UDC?
One of the brightest leaders to emerge from our structures, Cde Kenneth Koma, argued that this struggle is not ours but a national one.
If those from the BDP decide to join the opposition to unseat the BDP, we should embrace them without compromising what we believe in.
The UDC believes in social democracy and I believe that parties that we are talking to also believe in the same ideology.
Is the BPF not a threat to BNF?
It is not.
They are complimenting what we have been doing.
We should be careful not to believe that we monopolize opposition politics.
This is a space for all who are opposed to BDP.
The most important thing is to avoid vote splitting.