Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate for Letlhakane, Lelatisitswe Sethomo sounds more like a renegade than a ruling party activist.
In fact he shocked many at his launch this past weekend by president Ian Khama in Letlhakane when he suggested that Boteti region must benefit more from diamonds than the rest of the country. Of course the idea is anti-government, but the opposition has harped on it over the years. It seems it is gaining currency in Boteti, and this surely worries Sethomo. “It must be seen that truly diamonds are from this area and that can be done through doing better developments here,” he said at his poorly attended launch leaving some people surprised.
In his 2011 state of the nation address, president Ian Khama denouced the belief that minerals must favour areas from which they are found more than others. In an interview after the launch, Sethomo stuck to his guns that he would push seriously for this cause if elected in October. “It’s high time diamond sorting is done in Boteti. It’s a dialogue that we must pick,” he said. Sethomo says Letlhakane has no lights while diamonds come from the same area. He believes government must make developments in favour of Boteti so that when the diamonds are gone they will have something to fall back on.
“We must not forget where our ‘oil’ comes from,” he posited. The youthful parliementary hopeful does not believe he would be viewed as a renegade who wants to raise issues that have never found favour with the party’s top brass more especially the president. “These are issues that can make or break the BDP in Boteti because right now you have the opposition that is talking about them in that manner and what they say is true. That is why I believe we must not leave the issue lying down or else it will mark our demise,” he said.”The issue puts a lot of vulnarability on the party. There is a lot of influx of people into our district which leaves the area at risk in many ways,” he said. “We end up with crammed hospitals that cannot absorb the vast population around and getting development with government’s formula which is based on the number of people becomes a problem,” he said.
However Umbrella for Democratic Change council candidate for Khwee ward in the same constituency, Keiketlile Gobotswang said Sethomo is treading on dangerous grounds with his wishes. He said Sethomo is playing with fire to raise such an issue in the BDP. “His colleagues in the BDP will not buy into that good idea because they have long been against it,” Gobotswang said. Should Sethomo win election, he is going to be guided and silenced by his party’s policies Gobotswang believes. He says they will tell him to toe the party line that says minerals are for the development of all in Botswana and not the ideology that a greater share must be reserved for areas where they come from. “Remember Khama once talked against it and who is he to claim that he can change the mindsets of those people?” he asked.
Sethomo’s counterpart on the other side, Slumber Tsogwane of Boteti West says the issue has been raised before and the problem is the misenterpretation of how Boteti can be assisted to benefit and wondered how it must be raised in a way that would be listened to. “I am not saying greater share for Boteti from government, but there must be legislation that compels these companies to plough back their profits in areas where they operate,” he said. “Really what needs to be done is corporate governance where companies will be required to do developments, downstream industries must be set up in areas where these mining companies operate,” Tsogwane said. “These companies operations have direct impact in areas where they mine.
When they leave there would be nothing for the people in the areas to show,” Tsogwane said. “Look at how Tati has been involved in places surrounding where they mine, that is what we want in Boteti as well. Here we have a company like Debswana that will give to communities far from where they operate when communities in their surroundings are in need of just that which they give away,” he said.