Gaborone — President Mokgweetsi Masisi yesterday met with the nation's opposition leaders and apologised for anything his government and party could have done that was detrimental to the opposition.
Speaking during the historic Office of the President meeting, he asked his counterparts for a chance to start on a clean slate.
"I want this generation to entrench mutual respect towards each other as players in the political landscape.
As we gravitate towards the election, we should ensure that Botswana is kept peaceful. I want us to all commit to peace, civility, fairness, not only verbalise it, but live it. We are not only lead parties. We lead people and are opinion makers and can positively influence the society," Mr Masisi said.
He said political parties played an important role in the democracy, peace and stability of Botswana hence the decision to resuscitate the All Party Conference.
The conference would enable political stakeholders to engage on issues of national interest as well as provide a platform to discuss means of improving the national democratic landscape.
"Government has decided to revive the All Party Conference in keeping with our traditions of consultative governance.
We shall discuss the modalities such as the frequency of the meetings and the ambiance, that is, the venues most suitable and various issues to be addressed there," the president said.
He said the meeting was meant to establish the initial rapport ahead of a formally established All Party Conference.
"If we want to continue democratic conduct we need to work together.
Although we contest against each other and seek to win and maintain political office, we are the poorer without alternatives.
We cherish the existence of opposition parties. Please share with us whatever inhibits your ability to properly function," President Masisi said.
Commenting, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Mr Duma Boko, who is also president of both the UDC and BNF said; "We thank you for commencing what should be a standing feature of our democracy; engagement. We will differ, we have to, but this has to be tempered by civility.
Meetings of this nature could rescue politics from the perception of being an arena of mud and slander, an arena of self-interest."
While welcoming the revival of the All Party Conference, BCP's Mr Dumelang Saleshando said it should avoid the past practice of not implementing some important decisions taken.
"In terms of free and fair elections, Botswana should be further than neighbouring states; yet recommendations from the All Party Conference in the past, such as political party funding and other suggestions put forth by past election observers were not acted upon.
I sincerely hope this time the conference will not be a talk shop," Mr Saleshando said.
BMD leader Mr Sydney Pilane requested government to reconsider the use of Electoral Voting Machines (EVM) in 2019 general elections, a request buttressed by MELS president, Mr Themba Joina.
Mr Ndaba Gaolathe, the AP leader, praised Mr Masisi for reviving a consultative nature of governance which he said had been a national tradition but was eroded in recent times.
"I thank you and your government for bringing some form of normalisation after the consultative culture was stalled over the past decade. You genuinely deserve credit for bringing Botswana to where it should have been long ago, in forging a culture of dialogue.
We also urge you to work with us to empower the legislature to deliver on its mandate," Mr Gaolathe said. Real Alternative Party (RAP) leader Mr Gaontebale Mokgosi said previous opposition leaders such as the late Dr Kenneth Koma, had long called for a society with principled engagement on matters of national concern.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>