BCP youth league president discusses new job and the party’s battle for the hearts and minds of the people.
At a young age of 30, the newly elected Botswana Congress Party Youth League President(BCPYLP) Dithapelo Keorapetse, who has been effortlessly mixing politics with academics for quite a while now is undoubtedly one of Botswana’s upcoming political powerhouses. The Voice Newspaper caught up with this full time political science lecturer at the University of Botswana for a chat about opposition politics and his road map for the youth.
Q. Congratulations on winning the BCP Youth League Presidency, how does it feel to be called Mr. President?
I am honoured and humbled by the trust the youth of the movement has bestowed on me
Q. But has it changed or affected you as a person in any way?
I must admit that it does have an effect in a sense because I can’t run away from the fact that I now have to conduct myself and relate with people in a certain way knowing that I am no longer just an individual but a representative and a face of the BCP youth movement which is quite a responsibility.
Q. You come across as a rather reserved character, stepping into the big boots of the former BCP youth League president, Lotty Manyepetsa, are you confident that you will fill those boots effectively?
That question reminds me of Thabo Mbeki when they put it to him that he was filling the big boots of Nelson Mandela and his answer was that Mandela’ shoes were ugly and he was not interested in them meaning that him and Mandela were two different people with different styles of leadership.
Lotty is a radical, vocal and a gifted orator who has all the other qualities befitting a youth leader,but although he might arguably fare better than me at a freedom square I have a solid background of debate and as a political science expert I am comfortable to formulate policy papers and to speak at many different level forums and platforms
Q. You have a reputation as an academic, and oftentimes academics are perceived to be removed from the practical rough and tumble of politics and therefore fail to have mass appeal. Your take?
Academics and politics are complementary. Politics is becoming complex nowadays and there’s a need for politicians to be able to have a firm grasp of complex issues. For example a politician should just be vested in rhetoric but should be able to know what it means when it is said that Botswana is an upper middle economy, so being educated is a plus when you are a politician and not a hindrance. One does not necessarily need to be educated to be a good politician but being educated is definitely a plus.
Q. Out of the many parties, why the BCP?
It was at a Democratic Research Project elections debate at Makhubu CJCS that I got impressed by Gilson Saleshando, the then BCP’s arguments and I came to love him and respect him immensely. The BCP is the party that opened my mind to the state of democracy in Botswana and to how the economy of this country was being mismanaged. The party’s manifesto and its DDP has become my Bible because I share the party’s vision for this country. We believe in Capitalism with a human face as practiced in the Scandinavian countries.
As an inquisitive child growing up in a politically conscious household in Selebi-Phikwe around 1999 I started to realise that there was a lot of things wrong with this country like our education for example which the BCP has been advocating for it to become a right for every child in such a way that it would then become a criminal offence for a parent not to take their child to school. My activism however went to another level at UB where we grew BCP membership from about six to a point where our meetings did not have enough room for everyone to sit anymore.
Q. Now that you have the position what’s your strategy for the way forward?
My road map for the youth league will prioritise the strengthening of youth structures where they already exist and putting them in place where we have none like in Gantsi and the Kgalagadi. I also have Youth league policy formulation on top of the agenda. The BCP Youth League should start providing timely responses to issues on youth aspects, look at youth aspirations in the party and strive for youth empowerment. We aim to benchmark with other youth leagues in the region and play a meaningful role in the party but not forgetting that our key role, like any member of the party is to campaign to recruit more people into the BCP
Q. The BCP has been often described as an elitist movement run by a cabal of rich tribesmen. Your response?
Whoever says we are elitist is being mischievous. How can that ever be an appropriate description of the BCP when we are not afraid to soil our hands?
Q. Opposition politics in Botswana has impoverished many people who remain in opposition struggling with lack of funding until they die poor, with no prospect of ever ruling this country. Why would such a scenario appeal to a talented young man like yourself with a lot of potential to do well in life?
It is a deliberate decision of the ruling party not to fund political parties that perpetuates the above scenario but until and unless we have public funding of parties we shall continue to fund this democracy from our pockets. We believe in this project and in life if you haven’t reached a level of being ready to die or suffer for a principle then you are in the wrong field. The BCP is the most viable political formation. We are stable well run and we have policies that can emancipate Batswana from poverty and diminish the current huge income disparities that exist among Batswana.
Q. We have been reliably informed that you are in the running for Selebi-Phikwe West in the 21014 elections, confirm or deny.
This is not the right platform to confirm or deny because that is simply not the way BCP does things. What I can tell you though is that I am prepared to serve in any capacity that the party sees fit.