Themba Joina is not an ordinary politician. He is the president of Marxist Engels Lenin and Stalin (MELS) a communist party in Botswana.
Also a practicing attorney Joina speaks to MMIKA SOLOMON about his party’s recent marriage of convenience to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Welcome to the New Year Mr Joina.
Thank you very much. This is the year of politics. It’s a time for change.
Take us back a bit when did you start partisan politics?
It was in 1982 when I was a student at Shashe river School.
That was the time when there was a liberation struggle in most Southern African countries.
Those countries are South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
That was when you formed MELS movement?
MELS movement was formed as a study group.
We were a group of students who studied together, ultimately we formed a political movement.
However, it should be noted that I never joined any political movement.
But now you joined Botswana Congress Party (BCP) or you are in a special kind of arrangement?
MELS has resolved to collaborate with BCP. This was informed by many factors.
This is done at regional level, where both candidates of MELS and BCP should declare their interest if they wish to stand for any political office.
It is the most stable party in the country.
It is the centre of the political ideas, it accepts people on the left and on the right through discussions on the political atmosphere.
The BCP has been consistent in its respect and treatment of smaller parties.
Where BCP disagrees with other parties it does that with respect. It prides itself by trying to please its members. In politics, the power base is within members.
I understand that you are standing as a parliamentary candidate in Tonota.
Why shift from your base of Mogoditshane to Tonota?
In politics you compromise.
You do not look at your personal interest but the interest of the people.
I must admit that I have a following in Mogoditshane, but the party assigned me to Tonota.
In Tonota the chances are that I will win if I fail I will have representatives in the council.
Is the playing field level across all the candidates?
It is one of the constituencies where money is used to buy votes.
At BCP we don’t believe in distributing monies to hampers to people to influence their vote.
We are simply sell our ideas, we talk to people. Giving people money is not the solution.
You once said if MELS loses the elections you will coup the government and you have lost many times and we are still to see that.
Or was it a political gimmick?
It was not a political gimmick.
We were warning Batswana that this regime can refuse to hand over to the rightful party if it loses elections.
In this case that party will be BCP.
We don’t know what will happen during elections. Will they be postponed or cancelled?
With this regime anything is possible. The BDP is not tolerate. It does not want fair competition all they want is to compete with people with no money.
MELS was not in the unity talks of Umbrella for Democratic Change why?
I don’t know. I am not the convener of those talks.
What I know is that our partner BCP was invited to the unity talks. The talks have since collapsed. We have to move on.
Earlier on, you admitted that MELS is smaller than BCP. Isn’t BCP younger than MELS, so why is MELS smaller?
It is a fact that MELS is a small party compared to BCP.
BCP is better resourced than us. It is also better managed that all parties in the country.
It is a liberal movement that accepts all political ideas. Another fact is that MELS has a large following across the country.
In politics we use strategy, tactics and ideologies not the age of the party. But I won’t tell you the numbers of our members.
What are the needs of the people of Tonota?
The constituency needs a strategy on how we are going to create employment for the people of Tonota.
We are talking permanent jobs, not this Ipelegeng type of jobs. We need infrastructural development in the constituency.
The farming community also needs serious attention.
Is the current leader not addressing such issues?
Tonota is a peri-urban area.
It does not have a good leader at the moment that has the capacity to address issues that affect the constituency.
If Tonota is properly developed Francistown can be benefit from it.
Where are you from?
I am from Shashemooke. It is a village within the Tonota constituency. I grew up in Tonota.
A lot of people are happy that finally an able leader is going to represent them.
True. BDP is disgruntled it is like the whole country is disgruntled.
People want change. BCP will pull a surprise win.
As MELS what symbol are you going to use?
We have agreed with our partners that we should use BCP symbol.
But as a party we haven’t changed from our communist ideology.
In politics as I said earlier you need to compromise. To MELS all this is a learning curve.
There is rampant corruption that has engulfed the government from all levels.
What can be done to stop it?
Corruption in this country cannot be stopped whilst this current regime is still in power.
BDP is in power because of corruption, they are misusing government resources.
They are able to silence their members who are disgruntled through tenders or lure weak opponents to their side.
Every politician is talking about the plight of the civil servants what about those in the private sector?
BDP does not care about the workers.
Weather they are happy or disgruntled BDP government does not care.
I have advised workers in the private sector to unionize so that they can speak with one voice.
A lot of workers in the private sector are being abused and nobody knows where to report to because we hear that officials at labour are corrupt.
Thank you Mr. Solomon