FIRM: Binkie

The Botswana Movement for Democracy’s (BMD) Secretary General, Binkie Kerileng says despite BMD’s financial woes the party is well on track to winning the next general elections in 2014.

In a recent interview, Kerileng talked about being a woman in politics as well as what the BMD is doing to prepare for 2014.

Q. You are one of the founding members of BMD and in fact its first female member. How has it been?
That is true. I was one of the founders of BMD. Politics is a challenge more especially when it comes to a new party.
The first challenge is funding. Membership is not an issue at all.

Q. But I am told that your party has been failing to issue membership cards due to financial constraints. Is that part of the reason you are complaining about political funding?
We have overcome the issue of membership cards.
We needed something permanent and user friendly. Cards are now in circulation.
You should understand that there is no way any office can be successful without funds.
Parties have to cover all the 57 constituencies if they are to win the 2014 general elections and that requires traveling expenses.

I see.
This is democracy we are talking about. When a government funds Political parties, it funds democracy.
If government does not fund parties, the ruling party will always have an advantage over others because everyone who has money wants to associate with the ruling party.

Q. Why would they want to associate with the ruling party?
For obvious reasons. They want to be favoured when it comes to big tenders.
Some of us who are in opposition know that we cannot win tenders worth close to a Million Pula.

Q. So how is it of benefit to the ruling party?
Politics depend on campaigns. When you go around big companies requesting for donations, some would give you blankets and you would go around the country distributing them to the less privileged.
That on its own is a campaign strategy and it can prolong one’s stay in power, so you award the companies fat tenders and they would afford the handouts.

Q. You were a member of the ruling party at some point and in fact, you were in a leadership position in the BDP. As a businesswoman, were you favoured in terms of tenders?

Q. Would you say after joining the opposition, you were disadvantaged and subjected to winning only the smaller tenders?
I don’t want to bring my business into this because it is a sensitive matter.
But what I can say is that when I was in the BDP, my business was small and was still growing, so I cannot say that it has been sidelined or victimised.
Nothing has changed.

Q. I see. I hear that your party is broke. How are you managing to run it given the financial challenge?
We are managing through funds raised from membership subscriptions.
The truth is, we did not start our party like any other political party out there. When we started the BMD we were facing a legal battle against the ruling party and that ate from our account.
Those were hard times but we survived.

Q. By the look of things, campaigns for the next general elections are going to be very expensive. How would you fund the campaigns when your party is so broke?
Money or no money, we are determined, we have strength to win the elections against the BDP. Remember we are going the Umbrella way. (The Umbrella is opposition Unity model between BMD, Botswana National Front and Botswana People’s Party). We have accepted that the political landscape has changed and we have joined politics of the left, we have joined the struggle.
Batswana need a new government to put things right. We are not opposition, but rather a government in waiting. We went into this aware of that and we are ready to face the challenge.
Let the BDP bring the game on and the voter would decide the winner. All Parties including the BDP itself, started with nothing and they grew.
We cannot give-up the fight because we don’t have money.
We maybe broke, but it is not money that cast a deciding vote, but the voter.

Q. You were raised in a BDP family and grew up as a BDP strong supporter, what made you realize that it was no longer the party you wish to be associated with?
I was raised in a BDP family and I loved the party and that is something I don’t regret. I was politically groomed by the BDP. My father (The late Motsaalore Lotshwao) was one of the first BDP councillors in Kanye.
He went against the will of his own tribal leader Kgosi Bathoen who was a strong BNF member to join the BDP because he liked it. That is how I was raised, to be free to choose my association.
I liked the BDP as well. But things changed ahead of the Kanye congress when factional fights became heated.
I was in the campaign team for Rre Gomolemo Motswaledi (Former BDP Secretary General and current BMD President) who was then a Parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central.
Things were gloomy then, but it became clearer after the congress and I realized that the party that I so loved had changed and no longer the one I knew. So I decided to quit

Q. You recently lost the party’s Vice President to the ruling Party. What does the loss mean to the general BMD membership?
I don’t know what it means. All I can say is that people are disappointed and some are feeling betrayed. In the political realm it creates fear and people may turn not to trust Political leaders with their votes. Others are feeling betrayed because he made them leave the BDP to join the BMD.
At the time the BDP was plagued with factional wars and he initiated the split.
Some people were disgruntled but were not ready to leave but he made them leave the BDP to form the BMD.

Q. Are you regretting leaving the BDP?
No I am not. I am BMD and I stand for its policies.
What I was trying to explain is that Ntuane’s defection did not come as a shock to us because we had long seen it coming.

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