Monday, 05 December 2016 11:19

BDP approached me but I refused-Kapinga

Opposition parties’ parliamentary candidate for Okavango in the 2019 general election Kenny Kapinga has revealed that the ruling BDP approached him while he was with the police service but that he refused to join their party.

He assured Okavango voters that he will continue to reject the promises that are being made by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) executives. Kapinga said the BDP executives told him to get a party membership card so that they will give him some top positions such as commissioner of police.He said he rejected the offer because he is a patriot and can’t be bought by the ruling party using big positions. “There are so many things that I have done and am proud of like rejecting the promises of the ruling party who are still doing so but I will continue to reject them, I can’t trade my soul for money or positions because I don’t want to be their object,” he said.

Kapinga said people thought that he was working for BDP that’s why they were approaching him adding that he knew that he was working for the government of Botswana. He said the BDP executives understood that they can’t use him to protect them when engaging in corruption or to abuse citizens. He said that after giving up on him they sent him to South Africa and later to Zimbabwe but vowed that he will never accept any offer from them. Kapinga however told the Okavango voters that he sees himself as the only man to represent them.

“I belong to this constituency, I have a cattle-post, borehole and cattle which really indicates that I am the son of this soil”, he said. For his part BCP youth league President, Tumiso Rakgare described Kapinga as a bona fide member of the constituency and a real patriot that rejected BDP’s promises and will never be bought by positions or money. “Our parliamentary candidate can’t be bought by billions of Pula like other guys who are being bought by BDP”, he said.He pronounced Kapinga as the biggest fish of the year in politics saying a constituency like Okavango which is poverty stricken while it is the hub of the Delta which is making billions of Pula through tourism, needs brave men like Kapinga who will win the battle in coming elections.

Meanwhile various speakers at the rally described the constituency’s Member of Parliament Bagalatia Arone as a ‘robber’ and a ‘crook’ who defected to the BDP with their votes.BCP president Dumelang Saleshando told Okavango electorate that Arone lied and misled them when he said he is joining the BDP to bring them developments. He said the MP stole BCP votes but added that they are not threatened in anyway.“We want to deal with Arone’s embezzlement by voting for Kenny Kapinga in the coming elections because he worked with law enforcements he will help us to deal with Arone’s theft”, he said. Saleshando said they still have hope of reclaiming the constituency.

He said they have been moving around the constituency and have managed to receive many members from BDP. “We have received 376 new members in Okavango constituency, most of them are from the ruling party and contested in the 2014 elections. This makes us believe that Arone’s defection is not a threat but rather a blessing”, he said.For his part, Vain Mamela said the MP is really a thief who ran with the people’s votes to BDP. He said that had it not been for BCP Arone would be running after students with chalk and duster because after he resigned from teaching, BCP pledged to give him a salary for a year.

“Arone found himself in big arrears because when he got to Gaborone he started imitating other MPs’ livelihoods forgetting that he is from Sekondomboro, which caused his defection because he was given money to buy a lodge”, he said.He however said they are not threatened because they know that the BDP will dump Arone in the coming election adding that they have realised that Arone is in plan of giving the constituency to Ian Khama and Tshekedi Khama so that they can do their businesses.

Mamela however said they are not threatened because in their travels throughout the constituency they have met and seen extremely worried constituents. Meanwhile Arone could not be reached for a comment at the time of going to press as his mobile phone rang unanswered.

Published in Northren Extra
Tuesday, 18 October 2016 11:55

BCP demand ministers’ report on BCL

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has approached President Ian Khama calling for the early convening of Parliament to deal with the BCL crisis.

BCP President Dumelang Saleshando told Botswana Guardian in an interview that the Parliament session would allow for the tabling of findings by the task team of ministers, which looked into the future of BCL. At press time the letter according to Saleshando was to be written and handed to Khama before end of business yesterday (Thursday). He explained that there should be some dialogue about the issue. “We learnt that in all the meetings that are being addressed by some ministers led by the Vice President and some government officials nothing concrete has come out. As we speak we could be having investor flight out of Selibe Phikwe.

We know the President might not be comfortable dealing with opposition parties or trade unions- but what we are saying is the issue is bigger than political parties’ differences. Even when I was leader of Opposition in Parliament I had difficulty meeting the President. This time around we have to come together and save the country because this is not only about Selibe Phikwe”, stated Saleshando.He indicated that there is need to try and build a cross-partisan consensus around the future of BCL and Selibe Phikwe. “We will write to the President and request him to convene Parliament a week earlier than was scheduled”, said the former legislator.“This will allow for cabinet to table the detailed findings of the committee of ministers that was charged with the responsibility of looking into the future of BCL mine.

This report should also be shared with other key stakeholders such as the business community as well as the labour movement.  It should not be assumed that only cabinet knows what is good for our nation.  Key decisions on critical sectors of our economy should be subjected to the nation’s collective wisdom. The reality is that BCL and Selibe Phikwe can be economically considered to be Siamese twins.  You kill one, the other one dies”, Saleshando explained. The BCP leader said there is need to take a long term view of how Selibe Phikwe can be prepared for the ultimate closure of BCL, not the kneejerk decision announced over the past weekend.

He feels that Parliament, the house of elected representatives, must be allowed to reflect on the options available and pronounce its view before the axe is brought down. Saleshando explained that the impact of the closure of the BCL mine would be severe and it would be great for the president and his cabinet to admit that they failed to achieve what they wanted and they should engage other stakeholders.

Published in News
Saturday, 13 August 2016 11:16

Agents say DISS practices favouritism

All is not well within Botswana’s most feared secret agency, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). Some members of the notorious spy agency are not happy at the way they are being treated, Botswana Guardian has gathered. Sources at DISS have told Botswana Guardian too much favouritism is killing morale at the organisation.

The most affected are the agents who have been recruited from the government security. In the past few years DISS engaged in a massive recruitment drive including reaching out to security officers from government, police officers and Botswana Defence Force (BDF) officers. “The issue which is of major concern within our organisation concerns training, promotion and participation in operations. Some of us who were recruited from the government security are being sidelined,” said a source. The disgruntled agents accuse their superiors of favouring agents who were previously in the employ of the BDF.

Another source revealed that about 100 former government security officers and now DISS agents have expressed their displeasure about this treatment during various meetings. The agents have queried that during their recruitment they were promised intensive intelligence training and participation in the agency’s various operations. “We never get promotion or participate in those operations. Some have gone for the one-year training while others have not. Even if you have undergone training you are overlooked and those who are picked are from BDF.

The only job that former government security officer do is being a registry officer at the offices- it is basically clerical work that we do,” said the source, adding, “We are never promoted. All that was promised during recruitment has never occurred. Of course in most cases our training is integrated training where we go in group. Upon completion of the training we are placed in different divisions but you would find that those you trained with are progressing while you are in one rank for a long time even years.” The disgruntled members are said to have on several meetings demanded answers as to the promises made to them but nothing has come to pass. The concerns are said to have been expressed during meetings with DISS boss Isaac Kgosi while his subordinates had promised to take up the matter with him at other meetings at which he was not present.

The officers claim that no one except for former BDF members, has been promoted or participated in any of the operations undertaken. The agents are said to be reluctant to take the matter further or organise themselves to petition their leaders because within the spy agency there is no trust. Everyone is said to be looking over their shoulders, as the agents do not trust each other.

Apparently no one wants to take a lead in approaching the management because they fear losing their jobs. It is alleged that even though DISS Director General Kgosi has introduced an open door policy, the agents who do not trust their superiors are reluctant to approach Kgosi. Contacted for comment Kgosi said given the sensitivity of his organ, he is hindered to discuss any matter with third party regarding DISS.

Published in News
Saturday, 13 August 2016 11:07

Nkate emerges as BDP’s secret bomb

As reports of clashes within the Botswana Democratic Party members continue unabated over the preferred candidate to lead the party between Mokgweetsi Masisi and other candidates, Botswana Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate, is said to be the secret bomb to be delivered at the appropriate time.

It is said some of Nkate’s supporters and volunteers are busy assembling teams of strong and influential men and women within the party who are doing the ground work for him in their constituencies and regions while he is still on official duty. Nkate, even though not active currently is said to be enjoying the support of some MPs and Ministers who are being frustrated within the party. The BDP faithful are said to be putting their hopes on Nkate despite his absence from the political scene. Nkate will return home at the end of this year after completing his diplomatic assignment in Japan. The alleged bickering between the Vice President Masisi’s camp and that of Infrastructure, Science and Technology Minister Nonofo Molefhi is said to be one of the contributors pushing some democrats to believe Nkate is the solution as his campaign is quiet and typically in alignment to the norm and processes of the Party. When contacted for comment, Nkate maintained that he would not discuss his candidature for now because he is still a civil servant. His team is said to be playing their cards close to the chest to allow him to finish his term in Japan.

A minister who is in support of Nkate’s candidacy said “a lot of people tend to think they know you just because you have been in the public eye for so long. Some even tend to dehumanise you. They forget that one is a normal human being with feelings, family and friends.” He further stated that “We people in public life also tend to allow others to define us and they define us through how they see us. With Nkate for instance, those who like him will say he is decisive, assertive and firm. Those who don’t feel so positively disposed will say he is impulsive and arrogant. So it may be important sometimes to help the truth as opposed to just letting the truth speak for itself.

That is why some of us are waiting for him to come home and publicly declare then would we rally behind him”.Botswana Guardian understands that the recent BDP special congress held in Mogoditshane gave Nkate’s supporters an opportunity to reach out to a wide audience during the same weekend. It is understood that during these informal chats their potential supporters were encouraged to carefully and objectively gauge those in the race for the leadership with a view to identifying the best candidate in terms of Party and Government leadership experience and ability to woo voters and the rest of society to believe in the Party again, especially the youth and the middle class and other members of the party who feel side-lined and excluded or have left the Party for various reasons. The supporters were energised by the fact that coincidentally, Nkate had a pre-arranged visit to the country during the same week. While he flew back to Japan on the same weekend, Botswana Guardian could not establish whether Nkate met his supporters for a brief on progress or not.

Nkate, who comes from the small village of Tsau, served in various structures of the party and in government. A senior BDP MP told this publication that as a politician Nkate’s path has been well traced. “I believe he is a conviction politician. He does what is right in his view for society, not for himself or his political career. That is why in spite of all that has been said you would not find that he has favoured himself, his family or his friends whether it’s at Lands and Housing, Trade or Education ministries or BEDIA. If you recall well he is the only cabinet member who resigned as Assistant Minister at Finance Ministry under Festus Mogae during the Zac Construction saga.”

The MP is of the view that Nkate’s resignation was motivated by his desire to clear his name while the rest of Government continued with business without being encumbered by his personal issues. “A mark of a leader indeed! He came back to Cabinet as a full Minister because there was never any fault on his part and therefore no need to clear his name either with the police or court. In fact, Nkate was legally and formally appointed as a Director of Zac Construction and was registered as such with the Registrar of Companies with a director’s fee attached to the appointment, as is the practice in the economy. I believe, where he has made mistakes, they have been just that, genuine mistakes”.

The legislator further said Nkate has proved to be a decisive leader in Government and is probably one of the few Ministers who have had to run Ministries that are perceived to be controversial and difficult such as Lands and Housing and Education. Said the MP in favour of Nkate, “he has had to take difficult and controversial decisions such as the demolition of Tsolamosese squatters’ houses. Here again, his Ministry was simply implementing a court order, yet some of us try to use this to adjudge him as arrogant. In my view our country and economy needs decisive leaders who are going to make unpopular decisions if such are for the good of all society and the economy”.

BDP insiders believe given his track record in government, private sector and his current diplomatic role as well as his legal training and practice, he would be able to have more people interested in the party even internationally. Confronted, Nkate said he would not discuss politics because of his employment. “I would rather not discuss political issues. Look I can only spare you time if you ask me about my current assignment on behalf of Botswana Government.”

The veteran politician has however indicated that he would only pronounce his next move at the right time. “Obviously when I am back home I will be free and ready to be “me”. Politics is my second nature and if I were called upon to serve and I and my family believe I can add value, I will gladly do so. However, there will be a lot of soul searching and conversations with colleagues in the party to be had as part of the determination of my next steps.” When quizzed whether he will be interested and consider standing for the position of president if called upon by his supporters he answered, “As far as I am concerned there is no vacancy in the presidency and again interest is one thing and reality another. Let us cross the bridge when we get to it”.

Published in News

The Botswana National Front wishes to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the onslaught on basic fundamental freedoms by state security apparatus in Botswana. We have witnessed an insatiable appetite on the side of state organs to disperse peaceful gatherings by meting violence on peaceful protesters.

It must be a concern to all of us when state security apparatus resorts to violence against its people, and thereby trampling upon basic freedoms to associate and to assemble. The importance of freedom of assembly cannot be underscored in any democratic society such as ours. Lately we have witnessed a narrowing of the civic space in Botswana. Peaceful protests which seek to communicate a legitimate societal scourge of unemployment cannot be dispersed with sjamboks and violence in the manner that we have witnessed recently. As the BNF, we hold dear the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. An onslaught on peaceful demonstrators by state security apparatus is an onslaught on Botswana Constitutional democracy, its ideals of humanity, Botho and patriotism.

There is need to contextualize the unemployment protests which are spearheaded by unemployed, yet qualified youths of Botswana. As the BNF, we characterize the protests as a welcome move by youths who seek to enforce and remind the BDP-led government of its obligations imposed by the Social Contract. It is apparent that the BDP government has, for many years, ignored its obligations as far as the social contract is concerned. Instead of discharging its obligations, by creating equitable and dignified employment opportunities, the BDP led government has institutionalized corruption, nepotism and thereby sidelining our population from the mainstream economic activity. 

It is worrisome and disturbing that journalists and reporters have not escaped the wrath and brutality of state security apparatus. We learn that Security apparatus confiscated equipment and other work-related material belonging to journalists who were covering the Unemployment protests. Once the state forcibly censors the work of journalists, it is an indication that our democracy is being derailed. There is no law which empowers the police to confiscate material used by journalists in their line of duty. Such actions by the Police demonstrate impunity and arrogance of the highest order.

As the BNF, we view the Public Order Act as incompatible with participatory democracy and active citizenry. The Public order Act seems to suggest that for citizens to exercise their right to assemble, they require ‘permission/permit’ from an administrative officer.  It seems to suggest that the leaders hold the rights of the public in trust and only deposit it with them when it wishes to. To us Human rights are God given and cannot be taken away, not even by the leaders.

Although the BNF is alive to the fact that rights and freedoms are not absolute, it is however our firm view that the Public Order Act seems to limit the enjoyment and exercise of freedoms unreasonably and such is unjustifiable in an open and democratic society such as ours. In would appear that, in terms of the Act, without an express ‘permission/permit’ from the police officers, citizens cannot peacefully assemble and protest. It is our believe that such as approach goes beyond limiting the freedom of assembly and potentially takes away the very rights which the constitution and various international human rights instruments sought to safeguard.

The Unemployment protesters posed no threat, real or imagined, to national security, peace, morality, rights of others and as such, their peaceful assembly ought to have been protected by state security agencies even without a permit. It is only a barbaric government which responds to a peaceful protest with violence. As the BNF, we make a clarion call to other civil society organisations to consider testing the constitutionality of the Public Order Act. Our fear is that it would not pass the constitutional muster, atleast in the manner which it is arbitrarily applied to deny citizens their freedom to assemble and protest. Not long ago, members of the #Ishallnotforget movement were capriciously denied a permit to march after the Sebinagate scandal. We are of the view that the Public Order Act is an instrument of oppression used to narrow the civic space for citizens to express their grievances openly.

As the BNF, we applaud the fearless youths who participated in the peaceful protest at Parliament precincts. History will remember your heroic deeds someday. We call upon government to consider dialogue and constructive engagement with the leaders of the Unemployment protest movement. Violence has no place in our society. It is alien to our culture. The state must never unleash terror and violence on its own people. It is a classical breach of the social contract and such a fundamental breach necessitates the citizens to consider cancelling the social contract with the BDP come 2019, or earlier if need be.

Moeti Mohwasa
BNF Secretary General


Published in News

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is yet to finalise and decide on the reforms that were introduced by party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane.

Ntuane introduced the reforms during his campaign for the office in 2015 which he termed BDP Reform Agenda Conversation; 22 Discussion Points’. Ntuane has been criticised within the party for failing to ensure that the reforms see the light of the day. He has however indicated that the reforms are not his but belong to democrats. No decision has been taken ever since the reforms were introduced.

This week Ntuane revealed that the reforms were part of the agenda during the party’s special congress held in Mogoditshane recently. He said the reforms are a work in progress and there is engagement between the party leadership and experts who have been roped in to interrogate the reforms. In the reforms, the former Gaborone Bonnington South MP cautioned the party to understand that it would not rule forever but in his view, BDP can still retain office for two more terms (10 years) either on its own or in a coalition.

“Should our tenure in power come to an end without having introduced key electoral reforms such as Proportional Representation and party funding, we will go the way of the dodo because the new rules will have no incentive to oblige us on,” he said. He called for a strong activist Central Committee and this means recalibrating their relations with government and reclaiming the party authority over government.

Responding to a question about progress on the reforms, Ntuane stated that when party leader President Ian Khama briefed the congress he indicated that they are still working on the reforms. “We are working with experts in different fields to advise accordingly. They would then produce a document that would be brought to the central committee for interrogation. There is a lot going on internally in this exercise. There has been an engagement between the experts and President Khama and different party committees where robust debates are undertaken on the reforms”, revealed Ntuane who added that once the process is concluded the outcome would be shared with the party membership.

In the reforms Ntuane reiterated the need for the enactment of the law on declaration of assets and liabilities. This he said would demonstrate the BDP’s commitment to good governance and zero tolerance for corruption and abuse of public office. Ntuane said the BDP had suffered a political backlash due to unfinished mega projects but no action was taken. He called for an activist Central Committee which must demand accountability and for heads to roll when wasteful expenditure occurs.

Published in News
Tuesday, 26 July 2016 11:29

Are we a nation of failures?

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) said President Ian Khama is to blame for the unsuccessful campaign of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi in her bid to ascend the chairmanship of African Union Commission over the weekend.

The Minister wanted to replace the incumbent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma but could not as she failed because she could not obtain the necessary two-thirds majority vote.According to BCP Information and Publicity Secretary, Dithapelo Keorapetse, the party is of the view that President Ian Khama should be blamed for the loss of Venson-Moitoi because of his isolationist foreign policy and snubbing of AU heads of state and government meetings for almost eight years. “It was Khama’s duty (not Festus Mogae or Mokgweetsi Masisi) to persuade the countries that abstained to vote for Venson-Moitoi,” said Keorapetse adding that it did not make diplomatic sense that Khama expected other Presidents to vote for his candidate whilst he was having fun at Makgadikgadi Epic and Presidential Performing Arts Competitions.Over the long weekend, the President joined party revelers at Makgadikgadi for quad bike rides and planes.

“Botswana will during this July session domesticate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) when the AU has fundamental misgivings about the ICC and some African countries are actually withdrawing from the Court. Botswana is ready to arrest and handover Africans indicted by the ICC but is unready to arrest and handover Americans indicted by the ICC,” writes Keorapetse adding that it was unrealistic and unreasonable for Khama to expect Africa to vote Botswana candidate under these circumstances.Vice President Masisi was quoted on Bloomberg after the elections saying, “The best defense is not to abuse, stick to the law. We would never allow our president to get away with murder. We are not being prescriptive, we are just asking that we up the game.”Speaking in an interview with BG News, Tati West MP, Biggie Butale who was in Moitoi’s campaign team said Khama could not be blamed for the loss because already the good work was done.

“Our campaign was going very well and during elections when some countries realized that we were going to win they abstained so as to stop our candidate from being confirmed as AU Commission Chair. Most people, like BCP, do not understand the geo-politics of Africa, that is why they make ill informed statement, shooting in the dark.” He said they are confident that Moitoi will emerge victorious in January next year. He reveals that some countries from West Africa have expressed desire that Khama should visit them but he declined to mention them.

“I will have to sit down with him first to pass the message. Botswana has a lot of respect in Africa. Quite a number of Presidents have asked me to convey to the President that he visits their countries” said Butale.According to Butale there are some countries in Southern Africa that want to field a different candidate in January. “They are our friends but we are confident that Moitoi will win because they want to frustrate us,” he said.

Venson- Moitoi managed to pass all election hurdles to the last stage as she remained the last candidate standing after others, in the former Uganda vice president, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy were eliminated.Venson-Moitoi is not the only woman from Botswana to be snubbed at a regional or international level. In 2014 African countries rejected Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme’s candidacy for the presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rather endorsing Senegalese Minister of Justice Sidiki Kaba as their preferred candidate.

In 2015 Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba failed in her bid to become the Commonwealth secretary-general. Dominica-born lawyer Patricia Scotland beat her to the post. The other candidate was Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the United States.Still in 2015 President Ian Khama nominated Dr. Gloria Somolokae as Botswana’s candidate for the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the period 2016-2019 but the candidate failed to get the nod. Keorapetse argues that these are women of substance who are qualified but were let down by “their President and Government who didn't campaign seriously for them.”  Khama and the government could have done more for these women and secured a place where it could play a meaningful role in international relations, he says.

Published in News

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?”

Published in News

The epitome of patriotism is truth, unshakable truth. As such, it would be very unpatriotic of me to say anything other than the truth concerning Pelonomi Veson-Moitoi’s campaign for the AU Commission Chairpersonship. With her campaign being as lacklustre as it is, surely Venson-Moitoi is provoking a humiliating defeat and a national embarrassment.

With AU Summit just around the corner, Venson-Moitoi must up her tempo or resign to the fact that she is running a losing battle. That does not mean I do not support her campaign, as a Motswana I am duty bound. But I am making an observation on an issue that is already raising concern not only in the SADC bloc but also continentally. There is already a growing concern from prominent persons and influential non-state actors in the continent that the current aspirants for AU Commission Chair are “below par.” Names of the former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and current Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra have been mentioned in the frantic search for a ‘suitable’ person to replace Dlamini-Zuma who is due to end her term in a few weeks, having declined to run for a second term. This unfolding scenario has also seen voices from various quarters of the continent calling for postponement in the selection to next January Summit so that there can be an open and consultative selection process and the vibrant public debate that will go with it.

The argument is that, the five spelled out AU criteria for choosing the candidate, which are education; experience; leadership; achievement; and vision and strategy should only serve as a starting point. They argue that Africa should not be content with a person who simply meets the standards, but should demand the very person for the job and so far Dlamini-Zuma has set the bar high. The fact is, the selection of the AU Commission Chair a huge decision that could shape the fate of the organisation and the whole African continent for years to come.  It is even more important given that the AU is more than just an inter-governmental organisation.

It is representation of the common demands of ordinary people across the continent for unity, dignity and emancipation. Who its chairperson is matters. Besides, it is a truly demanding job. It demands visionary leadership, political credibility and acumen, and managerial skills. It is not a job for a political crony, but someone who can truly reach out and inspire the African people. The person who will lead the AU Commission and guide the continent for the next four years, or possibly even eight. They will be in charge of realising Africa’s Agenda 2063 and implementing all current programmes, including overseeing the African peace and security architecture, the African governance architecture, and ensuring the AU is adequately financed. It’s a hugely important post and Africans should care who fills it.

Although SADC is arguing that Venson-Moitoi should continue the incumbency because the current Chair, Dlamini-Zuma will not be serving a second term, it is becoming apparent that other countries are uncomfortable because of Botswana’s firm support for the International Criminal Court, which the AU has rejected as biased towards Africa. However, there is already a counter-argument to this rotation thesis arguing that it focuses more on where the candidate is from rather than what the candidate is offering to the continent. They argue further that strictly adhering to the rotational-format could easily become a conduit for cronyism.

It is in this context that Venson-Moitoi should not only rely her campaign on the rotation-thesis, but also prove herself to the continent to be the best candidate to tackle the continent’s most serious challenges, such as negotiating peace agreements, dispatching peacekeepers, advancing regional integration, and promoting the principles of democratic constitutionalism. Key to her success is for Botswana and SADC, especially South Africa to launch an aggressive diplomatic campaign to ensure she gets the job. Surely Botswana will have to ride on South Africa’s regional and continental status to lobby. However, the paradox is that on the ICC issue, Botswana and South Africa are surely poles apart.

Published in News

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,”

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