Botswana National Front President Advocate Duma Boko says this week he is expecting a team of experts who will do a survey for his party regarding next year’s general election. Advocate Boko stated that this is part of his strategy as leader of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to topple ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from government. He revealed that he recently engaged experts to do a study for UDC on what should be done to win the 2019 general election.
“They have given me a report. According to their report 34 percent of electorates are aligned with the UDC. Most of these people are the youth. Next year is for regime change and if we cannot change government then we are wasting our time. The report has recommended that we should target this group of people and ensure that the message we are going to craft for general election speaks to them. They would be here to do thorough analysis,” said Advocate Boko who accepted that there are problems in the UDC.
He said the UDC contracting partners need each other desperately. He said the UDC would engage in precision marketing in order to win the general election. He said challenges at UDC are unique and resolving them needs to be approached with care. The UDC leader told BNF conference in Rakops during President Holidays that as a collective they have to identify problems at UDC. He explained that after identifying the problems then they have to come up with diagnostic treatment.
“I have been under attack for refusing the kicking out of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) from the UDC. I was not refusing just because I wanted to. I told you that to do such we would be creating more problems in the UDC. I told you that it would be unlawful to do that. I said we should find another way of dealing with the matter. I accept all the insults that were hurled at me by you,” he said.
He said as the party the BNF needs to have vibrant constituencies, wards and regions. Advocate Boko revealed that the ten regions would be coordinating the 2019 general election. The UDC leader pointed out that the BNF has to decide if they want to be considered the backbone of the UDC or the belly of the movement. “If you want to be regarded as the backbone of the UDC, then you would have to act like one,” he said. Advocate Boko stated that they have to face the challenges bedeviling the UDC.
BNF is currently at loggerheads with BMD over constituencies. The BNF conference sent a strong message to the BMD when it resolved that there should be primary elections in all BMD constituencies and wards except constituencies where BMD is incumbent. Out of the 13 constituencies, BMD is only incumbent in two constituencies being Molepolole South and Mochudi West.
The BMD however has already chosen candidates for most of its constituencies and wards. BNF conference resolved that ‘noting that after several and consistent requests BNF made to have a bilateral with BMD to address the representation issues, BMD has consistently not been responsive. We therefore resolve that there should be joint primary elections under the UDC in all the parliamentary and council seats allocated to the BMD in 2014, except where it holds incumbency. If this fails, then the BNF should assume the leadership of these constituencies and wards. The UDC Congress would be the final arbiter if the above two do not succeed.’ BMD has in the past indicated that it would only have bilateral talks with their colleagues if any party interested in some of its constituencies should be prepared to swap.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) could find itself in court over the Constitution that has been filed at Registrar of Societies.The new Constitution was filed last week Friday. According to information gathered by this publication one of the contracting partners, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) is contesting the submitted Constitution. The new Constitution has incorporated amendments tabled during the February Congress that was held at Boipuso Hall.
The congress wanted the constitution to be amended by removing the provision that catered for two vice presidents and replace it with one vice president to align it to the republican constitution. The new constitution now caters for one vice president and has given powers to the National Congress instead of the National Executive Committee (NEC). It also gives UDC powers to suspend and or expel a contracting member. The constitution recognises Botswana Congress Party (BCP) as a member of the UDC. Members of the NEC are President, Vice President, National Chairperson, Treasurer General, Secretary for Communication and Publicity, Secretary for Legal Affairs, Secretary for Labour Affairs, Secretary for Gender Affairs, Secretary for International Affairs, Secretary for Youth Affairs and one member from each of the contracting parties. The NEC shall hold office for a period of four (4) years until the next election.
During its conference in Rakops this past weekend, one of the contracting members, Botswana National Front (BNF) resolved that having noted that the new UDC Constitution has been filed with the Registrar of Societies, the BNF should ensure that the process is concluded within twenty one (21) days. It has emerged that once the constitution has been adopted the NEC might call a special congress for adoption of the constitution.
“The BMD is contemplating contesting the Constitution in court because that is the wrong constitution. It is unfair to have registered a constitution which we do not know. The correct constitution has provision for two vice presidents and not one,” said a source. BCP President told journalists in Bobonong after the party’s conference that the submitted constitution provides for one vice president. Sources have however indicated that the BMD would humiliate itself if they try to challenge the constitution. It is alleged that the BCP and BNF believe that the incorporated amendments from the February Congress are the voice of the people and the constitution should reflect as such. “That was a political solution and it would be wrong to go against the will of the people.
The February congress was a decisive congress and nothing would change that. The argument by BMD that the congress was not decisive cannot be entertained. We cannot be taking our members for granted and expect them to gather around and not take decisions,” said another source. The BMD has for long maintained that the February congress was not decisive and nothing that came out of that conference was binding. BMD Spokesperson Winfred Rasina said as the BMD they know nothing about the submitted Constitution. He said as far as they know the Constitution that was agreed by the UDC structure being NEC, caters for two vice presidents. He said the one which has been submitted at Registrar of Societies is not a UDC Constitution.
“We have decided that we should give our colleagues who submitted the constitution to go and recall it. We take it that what they did was just a mistake and we are hopeful that the mistake would be corrected. The constitution accommodating two vice presidents was agreed by all the four parties and the one with one vice president is not for UDC,” said Rasina in an interview after BMD National Working Committee held a meeting on Wednesday. According to Rasina, the submitted Constitution would be the one where BCP is not a member. He said BCP is the one that suggested two vice presidents. He said the BCP had also suggested for UDC+ which was rejected. “That Constitution which you say was submitted according to us does not exist,” he said. Rasina could not be drawn into discussing their next move should the constitution be recalled.
The constitution is said to have been filed by UDC leader Advocate Duma Boko and Saleshando who is also one of the UDC vice presidents. Interestingly the constitution under suspension or expulsion states, at Article 21.1.1 that the National Congress and/or the National Executive Committee may by resolution suspend or expel a group member for acting against the interests of the Umbrella; failing to attend more than two (2) consecutive meetings of the National Executive Committee without an apology acceptable to the National Executive Committee; or failing to pay its group membership fees.
BMD might also face expulsion should it not agree to one of the resolutions taken by both BCP and BNF that there should be primary elections in all the BMD constituencies and wards except where the BMD is incumbent. “The UDC has not notified us of any new constitution. Naturally so we are not a part of any new constitution. We thus cannot be talking about something we are not a part of. We are only aware and a part of a constitution that accommodated the BCP into the UDC. And that is the constitution that exists.
“Any new instrument, or suggestion may be taken up with the UDC NEC and such a structure, comprising of four contracting parties may agree on way forward. It is not for any individual party to decide or resolve anything on behalf of the UDC. Such will be an anomaly that in politics, the view being national governance, will communicate something against the view,” pointed out Rasina.
Botswana National Front (BNF) President Advocate Duma Boko has finally briefed his National Executive Committee about his intentions to fund the party’s upcoming conference in Rakops Village next month.
BNF Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa revealed on Wednesday this week. He said the president briefed them during a central committee meeting on Tuesday. The BNF leader had written a letter to regions revealing that he intends to fund the conference by transporting and feeding delegates while at the conference. The BNF conference is hosted by North Central Region and will be held in Rakops village from 14th to 17th of July 2018. Advocate Boko has declined to reveal the source of the funds.
He explained that as opposition they have to protect their funders because ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) might come for them and harass them. He said he always gets funds from his personal friends and has never used the BNF or Umbrella for Democratic Change names to source funding from his friends locally and internationally. He said all BNF Central Committee members should be fundraisers.
BNF Treasurer Noah Salakae would not be drawn into discussing the matter with the media. He said the issue of the conference is handled by party Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa. “Mohwasa is the one dealing with the matter. Myself would be just waiting for him to give me a report to tell me how much they would need for the conference then I can release such funds,” said Salakae. Salakae who is also Member of Parliament for Ghanzi North said preparations are however progressing well for the conference.
Mohwasa told the media on Wednesday that Advocate Boko briefed the central committee about his intentions.
According to Mohwasa all those who would have been selected at ward level to attend the conference would have to register with office of the secretary general. He said this would make it easy to know how many people would be in need of transport to the conference. He said a party they would not rely entirely on the president’s gesture but would have to also contribute because the conference is “a party activity”. “Anyone is free to assist anyway they can to fund any party activity. There is nothing wrong with what the president is doing as long as he has declared. At times it does not have to going through the Treasurer.
The aim is to have a successful conference where resolutions would be made. This is decisive conference because we are going for general election next year,” Mohwasa stated. He indicated that at this point they would not state their budget for the conference because preparations are still ongoing. He said this would only be know during the conference and after because of some of the matters that may arise.
In the letter seen by this publication, which Boko has copied to Mohwasa, he called on the regions to prepare well in time so that a proper account for logistics could be made. Boko wrote, “my intention is to provide transportation for all the delegates to the conference and to feed them while there without them having to spend anything. This will relieve the pressure on the delegates themselves as well as the local leadership. It will also ensure that we get maximum attendance at the conference as we position ourselves for the upcoming National Elections.”
The Opposition coalition deal remains on shaky grounds. The marriage between Botswana Congress Party (BCP)and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) might have been declared done and sealed but the four opposition parties involved are not lying on the same bed. Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has emerged as a suspect behind the controversial additional four constituencies demand made by Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).
Four opposition parties Botswana Congress Party (BCP), BMD, BPP and Botswana National Front (BNF) have formed a united front with the aim of ending Botswana Democratic Party’s five-decade rule. The four parties unveiled their new movement, UDC, after BCP joined the other trio that had been working together. Following the announcement of the new UDC, excitement filled many little knowing that what had transpired behind closed doors was not what has been portrayed publicly by the leadership.
The allocation of constituencies, which has been a thorny issue, is refusing to set the UDC free. It is alleged that the decision by the BPP Central Committee at its recent meeting to push for an additional four constituencies was masterminded by BMD. BPP has been allocated four constituencies.
Sources say that the acrimonious relationship between BCP and BMD, which dates back to 2011 when the first attempt for coalition between opposition parties failed, is the root cause. BMD is said to be bitter that BCP has been given more constituencies and is trying with all it has to reduce the BCP numbers. BCP has been allocated 17 constituencies within the 40 allocated to UDC.
In terms of the constituency allocations, the UDC president Duma Boko revealed that inside the UDC, the BNF gets 22 constituencies, BMD 14 and the BPP four (4) constituencies. Information passed to this publication shows that of the additional four constituencies demanded by BPP, three belong to BCP being Francistown West, Nata-Gweta and Mmadinare while one belongs to BNF being Gaborone South. In all these constituencies, the BPP did not field a candidate in the previous elections.
“What also raises eyebrows is that the BPP has not asked for a constituency from the BMD. And it is known that the BMD has all along been skeptical about us joining the UDC. They just want to dilute the BCP influence. Why can’t the BPP request to be allocated from the 40 constituencies of the UDC and leave our 17 constituencies alone? We have compromised and given the Tati East which was to be given to the BCP”, said a senior BCP official who preferred anonymity.
It is alleged that the BMD hatched the plan so that it would become the biggest victor in the end. A source who was also part of the constituency allocation negotiating team suspects that should the BPP emerge victorious the constituencies would likely be handed over to the BMD under a provision of the agreement. The source wondered why BPP chose the constituencies that it had not fielded a candidate in nor seconded the BDP in the last election?
BPP did not field a candidate in Mmadinare, Gaborone South and Nata-Gweta while it came third under the UDC ticket in Francistown West. A provision has been made that where a party that has been allocated a particular constituency is not able to identify a suitable candidate, it will be expected to approach the other parties for assistance in that regard. The provision allows for trade-offs where necessary between the parties (BCP, BMD, BNF and BPP).
It is suspected that the BMD intends to exploit this provision and use its presence and numbers in those constituencies to persuade BPP to trade-off those constituencies. BMD Vice President Wynter Mmolotsi has described as “an insult” the insinuation that the BPP leadership would make that demand under pressure from BMD.
“We are not in a position to undermine the leadership of the BPP. That is an insult to the leadership of BPP and the party in general. BPP has more experience than the BMD especially in opposition politics and we respect that”, said Mmolotsi adding that as the BMD they would not be party to a matter where the BPP integrity is being belittled.BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse told this publication that everything that had to be communicated to the media regarding UDC was done during the unveiling of the new project. He explained that any other issues arising subsequently are “internal matters” that cannot be shared with a third party.
For his part BPP President Motlatsi Molapisi and his deputy Mbaakanyi Lenyatso could not be reached for comment. Political Analyst Anthony Morima says if the constituencies are genuinely demanded by the BPP this would be an own goal for the opposition as prospects of winning in 2019 are negative. Morima stated that looking at the history of the BPP no one really recalls when the party last won a Parliamentary seat. He explained that even if the BPP was to say that they would be relying on support of other partners, it is unlikely that those partners would vote them because of other dynamics. The analyst argues that the BPP should rather be concentrating on taking advantage of the new UDC to rebuild itself.
The Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) has formally raised objections about the number of constituencies allocated to it during the just-ended opposition cooperation talks involving the four parties in the opposition coalition - Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The party has been given four constituencies, while the BNF, BCP and BMD have got 22, 17 and 14 constituencies each in that order. In a letter written January 28th and signed by party secretary general, Otlaadisa Otlaadisa and addressed to the UDC secretary general, Ndaba Gaolathe, the party indicates that, it discussed the UDC-BCP cooperation talks and resolved that it was underrepresented regarding the number of constituencies allocated to it.
“It is therefore on that breath that the committee has resolved to make a fresh request and or submissions as we hereby do, through you on our preferred additional constituencies,” said the letter. Specifically, the party wants to be given Gaborone South which has been a BNF stronghold for many years until 2014 when the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won it. Said the BPP, “The rationale behind this request or submission is that our vice president, a capable man, is based in Gaborone. It is therefore appropriate in our view that as a senior member of both the Botswana Peoples’ Party and the UDC he has a constituency in Gaborone to contest.”
The BPP explained that, should the BPP not be allocated a constituency in Gaborone or at least one major city, it will face certain death because, “…cities play a crucial role on the development of a political space.” Mbaakanyi Lenyatso is the BPP vice president and stays in Gaborone. The party would like Francistown West to be given to it, so that, its president, Motlatsi Molapisi, who resides in Francistown, may have a constituency to contest in the second city. The constituency has been allocated to the BCP.
The BPP also wants Nata-Gweta, Mmadinare and Shashe West, all of which have been given to the BCP, to be allocated to it. As a bare minimum the BPP wants to be allocated eight constituencies. Efforts to ask for confirmation of receipt of the BPP letter from Gaolatle could not bear fruit as his cell phone rang unanswered.
President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko is missing in action at Parliament. Boko’s absence was glaringly conspicuous this week as Parliament debated the draft National Development Plan (NDP) 11 – by all means, an important document of national interest.
As per Parliament Standing Orders, Boko was scheduled to be the first to respond to the NDP11 draft on Tuesday this week but did not. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Molatlhegi told Parliament that Boko, who is also President of Botswana National Front (BNF), was not in and would not be able to respond. He however indicated that Boko has complied with Standing Order 9.5, which directs him to inform the speaker of his absence and to designate one of his members to act on his behalf.
Thus, he had picked Ndaba Gaolathe to act as Leader of Opposition. Opposition MPs have expressed concern over Boko’s continued absence in Parliament. The MPs argue that this has over time weakened them as the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has had a field day against them in previous Parliament sittings.
An MP from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) - a contracting member of UDC said, “There are issues that have to be led by the leader of opposition as a senior member of the opposition rank. Now you will find that the BDP, led by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, always takes advantage of Boko’s absence. If he is absent on official duty it is understandable and not when it is for his private business”. Another MP who also preferred anonymity said they have tried to speak to Boko on several occasions but in vain. He also alleged that at times Boko would miss an opposition Parliamentary Caucus meeting, which is a forum where the opposition prepares itself to rally as a united block against the BDP MPs, especially cabinet.
The MP revealed that this is one of the reasons why BMD’s rank and file have been querying the decision to have BNF occupy the LOO seat instead of BMD which has more MPs in Parliament. The MP also stated that even though Boko left for Mauritius the following day (Wednesday) that cannot be used as an excuse not to attend Parliament. “Traditionally the expectation is that the leaders of opposition should be impactful in Parliament business. Their contributions must be frequent. If you look at Boko, his contribution is more or less on the same level as that of Moupo. He is not so much heard even when compared to his deputy Ndaba Gaolathe. We continue to attack President Ian Khama for not attending Parliament but our own leader is doing the same which could simply mean that even when we take power we would not be different from the current regime,” said another disillusioned opposition MP.
Boko could not be reached for comment as he is out of the country on Parliament business. BNF Information and Publicity Secretary Justin Hunyepa was also not available as his mobile phone rang unanswered. Observers argue that if opposition MPs are worried this could have a negative bearing on the cooperation talks between UDC and BCP. It is argued that this could lead to other parties requesting to have their leaders take the seat so as to increase the impact of the opposition. Political Analyst Anthony Morima said this could mean there is lack of leadership direction. He however pointed out that Boko has to be applauded for timeously and adequately responding to both SONA and budget speech.
“These debates are made public to the effect that their impact is made known that the leader of opposition was in-charge. The nation has to know the impact the leader of opposition has especially when dealing with critical issues like NDP11,” he stated. From Otsweletse Moupo to former BNF Vice President Olebile Gaborone to the current leader Boko, the party has been criticised for failing the seat, which is deemed crucial in the running of Parliament especially for the opposition MPs whose performance is expected to be anchored on the leader of opposition.
The position is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest opposition party in the house; it is usually regarded as the voice of the united opposition. According to Parliament’s Standing Orders, the Leader of Opposition’s enjoys the same status as the Leader of House in relation to the business of the house. He or she is offered the opportunity to be the first to respond to the State of the Nation Address, Budget Speech or any other major government policy statement and is allowed to read his or her speech if he or she so desires. He or she serves as the second vice president of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Botswana Branch) and an executive member of the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum - SADC(PF).
Botswana National Front (BNF) leader Duma Boko seems to be headed for another litmus test, this time over the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) membership card. The card is said to have divided the party and there are growing fears that may tear the BNF into factions.
BNF rank and file are worried that proper or adequate consultations was not done and the UDC membership is aimed at annihilating the movement (BNF) that many are very much attached to. The members are questioning the UDC application form, which talks about one’s previous party arguing that technically it renders one’s membership of either the BNF, BMD or BPP null and void.
Boko is widely credited for keeping BNF united- a party, which is synonymous with vicious factions. This would not be the first time for Boko who is also the President of UDC to fight a battle of this nature. He once fought a legal battle against some BNF activists who were against the use of BNF symbol in the UDC emblem.
Insiders within the BNF have informed Botswana Guardian that the UDC membership card has divided the BNF even at central committee level, as some members believe the masses were not taken on board on the matter. Ever since UDC Secretary General Ndaba Gaolathe issued a letter regarding the UDC card the BNF central committee is still yet to meet and deliberate on the matter. Some BNF members are of the opinion that the party should take its time to educate members on how things would work once they have the UDC membership cards.
“We do not argue that the congress as the supreme body of the party could have endorsed the UDC Constitution but the fact is that fellow comrades especially those who did not attend the Gantsi congress and those who cannot convincingly interpret legal instruments like the constitution should not be left behind.
The party leadership was supposed to embark on educational campaign about the UDC Constitution and its structures including this card,” said a source within the BNF Central Committee.Another member of the BNF said the issue has to be clarified to the membership because as the UDC contracting party they need the card.
“For instance, logically all the council and Parliamentary candidates contested under UDC so we need this card,” said the member. Currently the issue of the card is said to be a heated debate in the ongoing regional meetings that are being conducted by the party led by Secretary General Moeti Mohwasa.
President of Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth League, Phenyo Segokgo is intending to leave the movement to join Botswana National Front, Botswana Guardian has learnt.Segokgo, who has been a member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) breakaway party since its formation, has been approached by some BNF councillors within the Tlokweng Constituency.
The councillors are said to have tapped on Segokgo’s unhappiness with the proposed special congress by his party. Sources within the BNF told this publication that the councillors believe this would be beneficial to the BNF, as Segokgo would be pursued to challenge the current area Member of Parliament Same Bathobakae. The councillors believe that BNF under Bathobakae would not be able to retain the constituency due to her inactiveness in the area and in parliament. BNF in the 2014 general election won four wards; BMD four wards while the Botswana Congress Party got one. BNF and BMD are contracting partners for Democratic Change (UDC). Segokgo is believed to be against Advocate Sidney Pilane being admitted back into the BMD but reckons that a Special Congress should not be used as the solution. “This is one of the reasons why he is not active like he used to be these days. The leadership of the BMD has for long been sidelining him. I would not be surprised if he would jump ship. This not so good relationship started long back during the days when the movement was led by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi because he was one of the people who advocated that the BNF should be given the presidency of the UDC,” said a source. His belief was that the BNF has sacrificed so much for the umbrella coalition after the collapse of the Umbrella 1 negotiations.
“Segokgo only managed to mend his relationship with our leader just a few weeks before he passed away”, said a BMD MP who is close to Segokgo. It is also alleged that the youth leader who is also the South East District Council Chairman does not have a good relationship with Party President Ndaba Gaolathe. This is said to have been witnessed through various platforms where Segokgo was never featured in any party activity at which Gaolathe was officiating let alone to show support for the youthful council leader when he was sworn in as council chair. A BNF councillor who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that the plan is not to sabotage Bathobakae but to retain the constituency.
Things are said to have worsened when Segokgo’s team won the BMD youth elections last year whose outcome Gaolathe protested. The councillors from the BNF are said to have promised Segokgo their full support should he make up his mind. “Our MP seems to have distanced herself from the electorate. This is one of the constituencies that the Botswana Democratic Party is dying to snatch from us. In our assessment Segokgo is the only candidate we can sell to the electorate because come 2019 BDP would use all it has to win the constituency. We have nothing against comrade Bathobakae it is only that she is not visible enough even at branch level. Segokgo was unopposed even for the council chairmanship, which shows the confidence that we all have in him. Despite the attacks that Batlokwa unleashed on our MP and some councillors, Segokgo managed to save us through some developments in the area”, said the councillor who attended one of the meetings with Segokgo.
Segokgo is said to have agreed in principle with the councillors. Anticipation is that he will defect to BNF after the completion of his term as BMD Youth leader next year April. Contacted for comment, Segokgo laughed off the matter. He said as far as he is concerned his relationship with the past and current BMD leadership is solid. He dismissed claims that he is not active. “Look I have a healthy relationship with party president. We might have not shared a stage due to other commitments, as you know I am a council chairman and member of Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA). I have close ties with BNF councillors and hold meetings either as a collective or individuals because we belong to the same movement being UDC. We share a lot in terms of bringing developments to our constituency. As for Bathobakae I treat her as my political mother and have a good relationship. All I know is that she is capable and could still represent the UDC come 2019”, he said.
Bathobakae could not be reached for comment. In 2014 she got 6442 votes against Olebile Gaborone of BDP’s 3867. Segokgo won Tlokweng’s Sefoke ward by 964 against Tiego Lekoko’s 325 votes. Fears are that with the new approach by BDP to have shadow MPs in opposition held constituencies Tlokweng is on slippery ground. BDP has stationed MP for Tati East Guma Moyo to take care of the constituency.
The Speaker of the National Assembly has suddenly found herself on the other side of the aisle as the opposition parties, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) take her for just another Botswana Democratic Party legislator.
In their mission to oppose the proposed Bill for Presidential Gratuity and increment of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Ministry’s Bill, the two parties accuse the speaker of mischief in favour of the ruling party and therefore promise no generosity towards her.The speaker has been identified as a major stumbling block following her decision to invoke standing Order 60.4, which she vowed to use on her quest to tighten screws against ‘misbehaving’ MPs.
The opposition whip, Wynter Mmolotsi told a media briefing recently that they were aware that the Speaker would try to intimidate them with the newly discovered Parliament Standing Order. Under this standing order, Kokorwe has so far suspended from Parliament two opposition MPs, Haskins Nkaigwa and Dithapelo Keorapetse of Gaborone north and Selibe Phikwe West respectively.
Kokorwe revealed at the start of the current session that she has been lenient on the MPs and she would stop at nothing to use Standing Order 60.4 against any MP whose behaviour would be un-Parliamentary. Mmolotsi, who is also UDC Member of Parliament for Francistown South stated that Kokorwe is serving the interest of the BDP. He said as opposition MPs they do not need the Speaker’s leniency.
“This standing order was just discovered when Parliament went on recess. This is the same discovery as that of some clauses of the Constitution that have been discovered on several occasions and used. The current administration would continue to use such clauses or pieces of legislation that would work to their advantage. We would not be silenced by the speaker to speak what we believe is true or oppose anything that is of no beneficial to Batswana and our country,” the legislator stated.He revealed that they have expressed their concerns on several occasions during the General Assembly.
According to Mmolotsi they have reached a point where they have no confidence on the speaker. He said they would also oppose the Bill that calls for the increase of Specially Elected MPs and increase of Ministers, which according to Mmolotsi, would be a costly exercise.
Mmolotsi said they were surprised to learn that the Bill would propose for a housing allowance as opposed to the current arrangement where government provides a retirement home for any President leaving office.The MP for Maun West, Tawana Moremi indicated that as the opposition they are against this development. He said they are already constrained to do parliament business, as there are a few backbenchers from the BDP. It is Moremi’s opinion that government was supposed to have first identified problems then look for resources to fix such problems.
“You cannot fix the problem at education ministry by splitting the ministry. You need to assess what you are trying to achieve. Then get resources to fix the problem. There has never been any mention of increasing MPs or ministries during the 2015 State of the Nation Address or even during the budget speech in February this year. Then all of a sudden the issues comes in June, who are they intending to reward?”
With the Botswana Democratic Party’s fondness of claiming credit for the country’s independence, the opposition political parties in Botswana are adamant that their role towards independence in 1966 and beyond has been of significant value.
Of the current 6 political parties in this country, only Botswana Peoples’ Party(BPP), Botswana Democratic Party(BDP) and Botswana National Front(BNF) existed before independence. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin(MELS), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana Movement for Democracy(BMD) were formed in the 80s, 90s and 2000s respectively.
Discussing the role of the opposition in a democarcy, Julius Kiiza of Makerere University said that, besides holding government to account for its commissions or omissions, the opposition provides the electorate with electoral alternatives. “Parties present a viable alternative to the incumbent government by designing alternative ideas, principles and policies for governing society. Should the party in power let the voters down, the ‘government-in-waiting’ takes over the reigns of power through free and fair elections,’’ says Kiiza. The opposition parties are also expected to articulate the interests of the people they represent both during parliamentary sessions and the budget process. According to him, by “Promoting responsible and reasonable debate, opposition parties promote a national conversation and pushes democratic discussion to a higher level of political development and maturity.” Opposition parties help raise political consciousness in the country by teaching the people how politics affects their lives.
Kiiza further says that parties, including the opposition, are the training ground for future leaders. “Shadow cabinet ministers, for example, typically conduct serious party business in their designated portfolios,” he says adding that the participation of party members at their respective conferences and other party fora engender s the spirit of tolerance, enhance accountability and entrenches the culture of democarcy.
Mpho Molomo of the University of Botswana (UB) says this about opposition parties, “They play a countervaillance role to government and make it more transparent, accountable and responsive to the people.” The academic goes on to explain that, in trying to play their role, the opposition in Botswana was faced with daunting challenges such as financial constraints in a country where there is no political funding. “At the same time, over the years, the BDP has had unfair advantage by receiving funding from external resources. According to him, the ruling party, in 1999, got P24 million from an undisclosed source. “In typical Mafia style, the source of the money was only identified as ‘Client’ under code name MRMDU 33XXXX in the bank telegraphic tranfer transcript,” he stated. Opposition parties have complained that their efforts have been compromised by the ruling party’s dominance of the public media at the expense of its competitors.
The challenges notwithstanding, the secretary general of the BPP, Shathiso Tambula maintains that his party has contributed hugely to the development of this country. “The country is where it is today because we have played our role as an opposition party with alternative views. The BDP was in no hurry to change anything even after the attainment of independence. The BDP had no problem with the country using the South African Rand after leaving the British Pound at the occassion of independence until the BPP raised its voice resulting in the introduction of the Botswana Pula and Thebe, our own currency,” said Tambula who also reminisced that, for some time, after independence motor vehicles had registration numbers with a ‘P’ for Protectorate. For instance, the plate numbers, according to him, were BPA(Francistown), BPB(Serowe), BPD(Gaborone), BPE(Palapye), BPF(Lobatse), BPG(Kanye) and so forth.
Tambula added that it was the BPP that pressurised government to buy land from the Tati Company for settlement by some communities in and around Francistown. “Our first manifesto said that a BPP government would introduce the old-age pension. We also talked about free education long back,” said Tambula whose party came into being in 1960. He added that the BPP’s demand for tribal equality has given hope to the minority tribes some of whom government has begun to recognise. For his part, the information and publicity secretary of the BNF, Moeti Mohwasa, says his party has shaped the modern day Botswana. The party was founded in 1965. “Both in and outside parliament, we advocated for free education and when it eventually came, access to education increased manyfold,” said Mohwasa who further attributed the introduction of Setswana in Parliament as well as the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission(IEC) to agitation by the BNF.
The BNF spokesman gives credit for the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 years to the BNF. “Elections in this country have always been unfair but we participated in them in the face of all the provocation. For exmple, the ruling party has always dominated the state media but instead of boycotting the elections in ptrotest, we hoped for the best and mobilised our people to go to the polls. We did not want instability in the country,” said Mohwasa. The BNF official said that one of the achievemets of his party has been to organise labour to rise and fight for their rights. “All in all, we have been a worthy opposition,” added Mohwasa.
“As a collective, the opposition has done a lot for this country. We have been peaceful even under the most difficult of circumstances. For example, we have, since independence, tolerated mismanagement of the elections by the BDP government which made it difficult for the opposition to win. This was not because we did not have the wherewithal to go to war. If the opposition were not tolerant, there could have been war. We perservered because we treasure peace. We love this country,” declared Themba Joina, the founder of MELS in 1984.
“Considering that we were formed as recently as 1998, there is no doubt that, looking at the motions that we have passed which were adopted by parliament, we have an admirable track record,” said the vice president of the BCP, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang. He noted with pride that his party successfully moved a motion seeking the exemption of basic food items from VAT. “First time home owners were exempted from VAT when buying building materials,” remembered Dr Gobotswang. His party tried to push through a motion for the inactment of the Freedom of Information Bill but the motion failed. “Our motion on the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities motion was never given a chance by the BDP either,” regretted Dr Gobotswanag. “
He also mentions his party’s role in civil society activism. “We are the only party in the country that sent out a mission to the CKGR at the height of the controversy to relocate the Basarwa by government. We produced a report and we are happy that, the High Court judgement that followed after the matter was taken to court had startling similarities with our findings. We have also published and distributed copies of the Democracy Alert whenever we saw the need such as during the public service strike,” His party has also used platforms such as the Ombudsman and the courts to advance some of their activism.
The chairman of the BMD, Nehemiah Modubule contends that the BMD, formed in 2010, has been a game changer in the political landscape. “For starters, the split of the BDP and resultant formation of the BMD has made it possible for the opposition to attain the unprecedented 53 percent of the popular vote in the 2014 general election which translated into 20 seats. Because of our contribution and participation in the cooporation talks, a total of three parties managed to go to the election as a united front. Previous efforts at uniting the opposition did not go far,” said Modubule who noted that democracy in this country is much stronger thanks to the BMD. “We are a force to reckon with,” boasted the veteran of opposition politics.
While admitting that the opposition has contributed to this country’s democratic heritage at least by their very existence in the political space, the secretary general of the Botswana Democratic Party(BDP), Botsalo Ntuane, has found the opposition wanting with regard to meaningful contributions in Parliament. “We would not be enjoying our status as one of the foremost democracies in the world if we didn’t have an opposition that since independence has been permitted to operate feely without repression or harrassment,” said Ntuane in a written response to an enquiry. Ntuane, however, said that the opposition has, for the past 50 years, failed to come up with workable alternative policies that resonate with Batswana. “Voters need progressive and life affirming policies and not the grievance politics that increasingly seems to be the stock in trade of our opposition,”