Tuesday, 07 July 2015 14:49

Domkrag is sick-DK

Former Botswana Democratic Party Secretary General, Daniel Kwelagobe has delivered a damning verdict on the once mighty Domkrag. According to him, the party which has been in power for the past four decades is now on “slippery ground” and in need of immediate change at leadership level.

The ruling party is heading for its elective congress this weekend in Mmadinare, just a few days after the nation celebrated the BDP and Botswana’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama’s birthday. Thirty-five (35) years after his passing Seretse is still renowned for building a formidable and united BDP. His firstborn son, Ian Khama will this weekend lead a disjointed party to a congress which political pundits say will test his succession plan. Khama’s anointed successor Mokgweetsi Masisi is contesting the position of party chairman-a contest that will test his own popularity.

He is contesting against Ramadeluka Seretse, Seteng Motalaote, Moemedi Dijeng and Biggie Butale. But Kwelagobe, who holds the record of being the longest serving secretary general for the BDP thinks the once mighty Domokrag is now on a sick bed and has called on party members to stop denying the fact that the BDP is on slippery ground. “A sick person who keeps denying his or her condition cannot recover,” he said, addressing delegates in Francistown in his quest to garner votes for Tebelelo Seretse.

DK, as Kwelagobe is popularly known, served the BDP as secretary general for 27 years and was later voted chairman of the party. The man who served as Member of Parliament under all the four Presidents, including Sir Seretse Khama, threw his weight behind Tebelelo Seretse. “I support Tebelelo Seretse because I know her. She has the wherewithal to turn this party around if elected,” he said. Even President Khama is aware of her capabilities, said DK, because when she “contested against me for the same position back in 2010, he sang her praises.” He reminded that former President, Festus Mogae once told women to use their numbers to empower one another, when they demanded him to appoint them to decision making positions in the country, “I repeat this appeal to you today. Use the congress to elect a competent woman to a decision-making position,” said DK.

Meanwhile, Tebelelo Seretse is confident that she will emerge victorious at the congress. Should she achieve that feat, she will be the first woman to hold the position of chairperson in the ruling party. “I have covered the entire country canvassing for support and I must say I am humbled by the reception,” she told close to 40 delegates at Tati River Lodge in Francistown on Sunday, “This is despite the fact that I have got no money. I already feel the weight of your expectations ahead of the party elective congress in Mmadinare,” said the former cabinet minister who returned from the United States of America (USA) recently where she served as Ambassador. Seretse, who has served as board member for several organisations including Debswana, Botswana Life and Bank of Botswana told the meeting that she is the only one among the other contestants for the post of chairperson who has represented the party in debates. “I have competently represented the party in a number of debates at the University of Botswana (UB), Matlho-A-Phage and other fora,” she reminisced.

She explained how she also raised money for the party and even acquired a kombi for the BDP Women’s Wing when she was its chairperson. “If you do not vote for me, it will not be a loss to me but to the party,” she said. Kwelagobe added that Seretse would bring reforms for the benefit of the party and the country. “If no radical changes are made in the party, forget about winning the 2019 general election,” he opined. DK, who during his heydays used to amuse people at public rallies by suggesting that a win by the opposition was as impossible as a donkey growing horns, told the meeting that the possibility of an opposition government in Botswana now exists.

The BDP veteran who lost his parliamentary seat in Molepolole to the opposition in the last general election said that even Masisi supported women empowerment. “When he returned from the African Union (AU) meeting in South Africa recently, the Vice President explained that one of the issues discussed and agreed upon by the African leaders was the empowerment of women,” he said. The first woman to contest an executive position in the Botswana Democratic Party was Margaret Nasha when she sought to be the party chairperson. She lost to Daniel Kwelagobe.

In 2010, Tebelelo Seretse contested the position of party chairperson but also lost to the then incumbent, Kwelagobe. Three years later, for the third time in a row, another woman, Pelonomi Venson contested the party chairpersonship against another new entrant, Samson Moyo Guma, but also lost. The party chairperson is effectively the party vice president although the latter provision does not exist in the BDP constitution.

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President Ian Khama has cut short his attendance at the ongoing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national congress in Mmadinare for an emergency SADC Heads of State meeting in Pretoria, South Africa today (Friday).

The meeting will discuss the political turmoil engulfing the mountain kingdom of Lesotho brought about by the killing of former Army Commander Maaparankoe Mahao last Thursday. It will also address the precarious security situation in that country. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi told Botswana Guardian that Botswana’s advance team led by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lapologang Caesar Lekoa has already left the country for South Africa to prepare for the respective meetings. Moitoi was scheduled to leave for South Africa yesterday (Thursday) to attend the SADC Ministers meeting while President Ian Khama will arrive in Lesotho on Friday for the SADC Heads of State meeting.

Moitoi said that their visit to South Africa follows a debriefing by South Africa’s Special Envoy in the Minister of Defence and Security, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The envoy was dispatched on Wednesday by SADC Troika chairman and South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma to brief Botswana government on the latest developments in Lesotho. According to South Africa’s High Commissioner in Botswana, Lembede Mdu, Nqakula was part of the fact-finding delegation that travelled to Lesotho to assess the situation in that country. The killing of Mahao last Thursday has thrown Lesotho into political turmoil. Currently all three opposition leaders are reported to have fled the country fearing for their lives. Among those who fled is former Prime Minister, Tom Thabane who was an ally of Mahao. Early this week, SADC Troika Chairperson President Zuma sent SADC facilitator in Lesotho who is also his deputy President -Cyril Ramaphosa-to Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane.

The killing of Mahao has raised security concerns in the mountain Kingdom, which recently underwent regime change through the electoral process. Mahao’s family is accusing the Lesotho government of reluctance to investigate his murder. Based on this, Lesotho Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili appealed to SADC to help with the investigation. South Africa agreed to send pathologists with Zimbabwe and Namibia offering to send investigators to probe the killing of Lesotho’s former army commander General Mahao.

At the end of his Lesotho trip, Ramaphosa was widely quoted as having said that, “Prime Minister Mosisili has requested that SADC should assist with the investigation into the death of Lieutenant General Mahao, as well as to assist with the pathology examination around his death.” He said that South Africa would be sending pathologists to do the examination and other countries in the region; Zimbabwe and Namibia would send investigators to investigate the circumstances around Lieutenant General Mahao’s death. Minister Motoi confirmed that the decision to send experts from the neighbouring countries to Lesotho was SADC’s and would lead to a lasting solution.

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Tension among democrats continues to play itself out as the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) prepares to go to an electoral congress in Mmadinare next month. Things are in that descending order of importance. An invitation by the Southern Region to former president Sir Ketumile Masire has triggered heated debate regarding whether Masire has endorsed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the position of party chairman. Masisi is contesting against four others in Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Biggie Butale and Moemedi Dijeng.

Since the Jwaneng regional congress last Saturday, reports have emerged that Masire wrote a letter to the Southern Region endorsing Masisi. This is something that both the Region and Masire have vehemently denied. However, what all agreed is that Masire was invited as an elder who comes from that region and was to give a word of encouragement at the regional elective congress. However, Masire did not attend as he had travelled to Dubai to attend a meeting of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation as a board member of the governance body. Instead he wrote a letter of apology declining the invitation. It is his response that has caused so much brouhaha.

Masire’s letter reads in part: “Although I have retired from taking part in party meetings and other activities, I would have loved to have taken part in your meeting which should, amongst other things, be a congratulatory one for somebody from the region, being the Vice President of the country, as well as a preparatory meeting for presenting him as the region’s candidate for the chairmanship of the party in Mmadinare. May our hopes and wishes find grace in the eyes of the Lord. Wishing you a successful conference.” Former cabinet minister, Peter Siele, read the letter. The latter was among several party elders who were invited to grace the occasion by the region’s former chairman Julius Kamodi and his committee. Siele has confirmed attending the congress as an elder and being asked from the floor to read Masire’s message as well as give a word of encouragement.

Kamodi says they invited “all our elders, especially those who served in Parliament, to embrace congress.  When we invited Masire, he did not know who would be here or who would be elected. He responded by tendering an apology. He was merely congratulating our region for having produced a Vice President as this was the first congress he would attend”. On Wednesday this week, Masire sought to set the record straight and denied ever endorsing any candidate for any position. Says Masire in a strongly worded statement: “I am a board member of Mo Ibrahim Foundation on Governance.  In that capacity, I was due to attend a meeting in Dubai on 5 - 7 June 2015. Two days before my departure, I had an invitation to speak in Jwaneng at the Domkrag meeting of the Southern Region. I declined because I was going to be in Dubai on the day for which I was invited.

“I however thanked the chairman for the invitation. I also congratulated them for one of their parliamentary candidates having become the Vice President of the country and wished them to put up a credible candidate for the chairmanship of the party. Since I had no pre-knowledge of whom the conference would decide on, I could only express the hope for their candidate to be worthy to hold that position.  For all I know, the candidate could be from any other region. “Having outlined the above, I am not in a position to apologise to anyone for responding to the chairman’s invitation the way I did. Common courtesy demands that if you get an invitation, you should express thanks for it and acknowledge whatever the meeting is intending to achieve.  This was the essence of my response to the invitation. This is what constitutes the body of my letter to the chairman, and if he chose to share that with the meeting, it was up to him.

“If those who heard the message interpreted it in the context of the North and the South, it would be most unfortunate.  I can only say to them, ‘Gomotsegang, welang dibete,’ my message was not meant to support any candidate over any other. We have a very good slate of candidates for the chairmanship of the party. Age, gender and youth are all brandishing their amour for the battle for the chairmanship of the party. It is up to them to ask for inspiration for the congress to choose the best from the good, the better and the best.

“Perhaps this is as good a time as any to express my concern. We seem to be missing the substance to embrace the shadow. Botswana is whatever we can wish it to be. Botswana is more important than parties and parties are more important than individuals and individuals are more important than their positions. Things are in that descending order of importance. What is worrying now is that positions seem to be deemed to be more important than the party and the party more important than the country.”

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Tuesday, 02 June 2015 12:32

BDP: reforms or demise – part 2

It was previously submitted that in order for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to stand a realistic chance of retaining state power at the 2019 general election and beyond, it has to confront its shortcomings head on. This instalment discusses some of these shortcomings, many of which have been in existence for decades but became glaringly evident under President Khama’s administration. Most prominent amongst these is the party’s lack of control over the BDP government, hence the party’s dismal failure to rein in government over its excesses.

The remarkable success of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at the 2014 general election was to a large extent due to its deft exploitation of excesses by the BDP government, against which rebuttals by the party were impossible. Without the unrestrained behaviour of the government, the UDC would not have gained the kind of traction that resulted in its electoral achievements. Government excesses have taken the form of extra-judicial killings and corruption by public officials.
It would appear that extra-judicial killings by security agents did not start with the administration of President Khama; but they increased significantly under his watch. Under previous administrations, there were rumours doing the rounds of extra-judicial killings by military intelligence agents, but these were rare and it would seem that every effort was made to keep the killings out of the public domain. People took comfort in the fact that the government of the day was fearful of such acts being made public, given the likely political repercussions.

And when, in May 2009, Mr John Kalafatis was executed in full glare of the public by members of the Botswana Defence Force reportedly on loan to the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), public reaction was complete disbelief. The act shocked the nation to its very core. And the insensitive remarks that made light of the incident reportedly by the then vice president did not help matters. Before long, the police also jumped onto the bandwagon and incidences of criminal suspects being shot dead spiked, with some suspects mysteriously disappearing under police custody.

The fact that the president and his vice were retired army generals, both having headed the Botswana Defence Force, caused some degree of public apprehension that was largely driven by incessant warnings from the opposition (parties, media and unions) about the advent of a military dictatorship.  The appointment of a former soldier to head the newly formed DIS in some ways lent credence to the opposition allegations. It was against this backdrop that the public execution of Mr Kalafatis took place.  And instead of addressing a nation still in shock over the execution of Mr Kalafatis at the hands of state agents, in June 2012 President Khama comes up with another shocker and pardons and reemploys the convicted killers of Mr Kalafatis a few months into their jail term, without taking the nation into his confidence about the pardons. President Khama is yet to explain his actions, and the party is powerless to take him to task over them. The BDP’s failure to publicly condemn extra-judicial killings gave the electorate the distinct impression that the party just could not be bothered. The party’s inability to call Government to order over extra-judicial killings meant that it went into the 2014 general election with a huge albatross around its neck.

Because of this perceived indifferent attitude by the party and its president over extra-judicial killings, it was quite an easy task for the opposition to convince a sizeable section of the electorate that it was under siege from what was described as a heartless military regime. The UDC went further by concocting a hit list of opposition leaders that it said were to be assassinated by state agents in the run-up to the 2014 general election. The hit list claim was a master stroke because, as providence would have it, soon afterwards - merely three months before the election - Mr Gomolemo Motswaledi, president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and deputy president of the UDC, had a fatal car accident. And to the astonishment and chagrin of the BDP, an already malleable electorate was told by the UDC that Mr Motswaledi had been assassinated by state agents in accordance with the hit list.

Naturally, the UDC exploited Mr Motswaledi’s death to the fullest – sucking it dry for political mileage. A gullible University of Botswana student community swallowed the assassination claim whole - bait, hook and sinker - and on Election Day Mr Dumelang Saleshando did not know what hit him, as a UDC political novice unexpectedly found himself in parliament. Without the extra-judicial killings and the attendant blasé attitude, the UDC would not have pulled off this stunt, which helped the party increase its seats in parliament two and half-fold.

As earlier observed, the other notable form of government excess is corruption by public officials. However, this is more of a perception rather than proven conduct, as illustrated by incidents of cabinet ministers and top civil servants charged with corruption being routinely acquitted by the courts. The fact that cabinet ministers and other top public officials can be hauled before the courts on corruption charges had, on the whole, convinced the electorate that the BDP government does not tolerate corruption within its ranks nor is anyone above the law. The existence of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) also helped government parry corruption allegations levelled at it by the opposition. Consequently, opposition allegations of corruption on the part of the BDP government never found traction. Until Mr Isaac Kgosi and the DIS happened.

A DCEC docket on its investigation into Mr Kgosi’s alleged corrupt conduct somehow found its way into print media houses. And the revelations were stupefying. The allegations painted Mr Kgosi as an unscrupulous man who abused his position to unlawfully enrich himself with impunity. He was said to haul to the bank suitcases full with some of the loot for depositing. Some media reports even went to the extent of suggesting that he was willing to take out those who could implicate him in alleged corrupt dealings, citing his possible links to the brutal slaying of Mr Harry Tembo, a Malawian national who was alleged to be corruptly linked to Mr Kgosi and was about to be questioned by the DCEC as part of the agency’s investigations into Mr Kgosi.

The BDP was totally blindsided by the revelations, which surfaced just before the 2014 general election - it had no defence against the exposé. It was a total nightmare for the ruling party as it was also trying to deal with the aftermath of Mr Motswaledi’s death that the opposition blamed on the state security apparatus. For the anti-BDP newspapers, the expose was a wet dream; with the allegations and other perceived missteps by the DIS becoming the staple front page news until Election Day. The BDP faithful and election candidates could only watch helplessly as President Khama refused to yield to demands that he should suspend Mr Kgosi from duty pending the conclusion of the DCEC investigation and the subsequent judicial process in order to take the steam out of the opposition onslaught. 

In his refusal to suspend the DIS chief, President Khama cited people whose careers had been derailed after he suspended them from duty only for them to be later on cleared by the courts. The allegations against Mr Kgosi and President Khama’s refusal to suspend him from duty were seized upon by the opposition and sold to the electorate as proof of wide-spread corruption in the upper echelons of government and the condonation of corruption by the BDP. And as President Khama continued to stand by Mr Kgosi, the BDP continued to bleed until Election Day. The discussion on the shortcomings of the BDP will continue in the next instalment.

*Bugalo A. Chilume is a member of the BDP
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One thing is increasingly becoming clear at the beleaguered Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) - its political shenanigans are threatening to tear the party through the seams as the date for its elective congress approaches.

This week’s events at Tsholetsa House where key members of the party’s secretariat were dismissed from their work has been characterised by some within the ruling party as monkeyshine calculated to favour Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his quest to become Chairman of the party. Executive Secretary Sechele Sechele, Deputy Executive Secretary Lee Lesetedi, Political Officer Martha Keboletse and Finance Manager Osenotse Malela were this week informed that their services are no longer needed at the party. Said Lesetedi in an interview afterwards: “We were just informed verbally on Tuesday. We are expecting a formal communication in the form of written letters before the end of this week.”

The decision to execute the ruthless purge, which was taken at a Central Committee meeting on Monday, has been met with anger and disbelief by candidates for key positions at the party’s elective congress in July. Party insiders told the Botswana Guardian on Wednesday that the plan to remove specific cadres of the secretariat is being orchestrated by BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi, who is said to be a Masisi sympathiser and wants to bring people who will toe the line and promote the Masisi agenda. Candidates for the position of the chairmanship of the BDP are Masisi, Biggie Butale, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Moemedi Dijeng.

Running for party positions can be a serious matter, and the July 2015 congress that is slated for the BOMASE region is especially so. That is because it will be a prelude to a greater battle for the wider control of the political landscape, although it will not change the succession battle in the party significantly. Said a BDP member who requested anonymity: “These are very senior people who are now being sidelined. The biggest question is, who stands to benefit from this? And who is behind the process?” Accusing fingers are pointed at Balopi. “The only person in control is the Secretary General,” the anonymous member continued, as if to answer himself. But Balopi this week distanced himself from any shenanigans, saying the decision was taken by the Central Committee on Monday and that the decision was taken because the party has no money to pay staff. “The decision has nothing to do with the elections,” he said, adding that nobody is closing the BDP office. However, another BDP insider has dismissed Balopi’s denial, saying if the retrenchment is innocent, it could have waited until after the congress.

According to this insider, the decision will paralyse the party as the secretariat is responsible for all the logistics for the congress. “Who will do all this now, and are they credible?,” said a source who felt that Central Committee has gone a step too far.  A candidate has made it plain in an interview that he reads malice in the recent events. Some contenders for the hotly contested position of chairman were this week not amused by the latest turn of events. Ramadeluka Seretse said he was not privy to the reasons advanced to ‘purge’ members of the secretariat, but the former cabinet minister questioned the timing of the decision. “I am not saying I smell a rat, but it is rather surprising that it should be done now,” he said. “You will rather go through the congress and restructure after the big event.” 

With a sense of acquiescence, Seretse added that he hopes the decision was indeed made to improve efficiency within the party. For her part, Tebelelo Seretse said the timing is “very unfortunate” because the secretariat does all the logistics for the congress. “It is a concern,” she emphasised. “One wonders if things will go according to plan.” Tebelelo too said she was not aware of the reasons for the ‘purge.’
Some political commentators see the congress as singularly crucial because it will make or break Masisi’s ambitions. Masisi, who is being accused of namedropping on his campaign trail, told this publication last week that he entered the chairmanship race with his eye on the ultimate prize - the country’s presidency.

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Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe has declared his support for Tebelelo Seretse in the ongoing race for the position of party chairperson.

The BDP will hold its elective congress in Mmadinare this July. Member of Parliament Biggie Butale, former MPs Ramadeluka Seretse and Tebelelo Seretse, Moemedi Dijeng, Seteng Motalaote, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi are contesting for the hot seat. Masisi, the latest entrant in the race, is expected to automatically succeed President Khama as Head of State when the President retires in 2018.

His supporters argue that, doubling as chairman of the party would make him a better president of the party as he would be closer to the party structures. Kwelagobe disagrees. “That is a joke. What is needed is not somebody who will become chairperson to learn the goings-on of the party first but someone who goes in there to lead the party.” In an interview, Kwelagobe, spoke glowingly of Tebelelo Seretse.

“I support Tebelelo Seretse because of her long and meaningful activism in the party. She was in the BDP Youth Wing during her early days. I was in the leadership of the mother body myself from which I took note of her contribution to the BDP. She travelled the length and breadth of this country raising funds for the youth. As an adult, she led the BDP Women’s Wing. She has both been a Member of Parliament (MP) and of the Central Committee,” said the former MP for Molepolole South and former long serving party secretary general.

Ironically, Seretse challenged Kwelagobe at the Kanye congress in 2010 but lost. Back then, President Ian Khama, who publicly supported her against Kwelagobe, spoke in glowing terms about her. He described her as a selfless visionary while portraying Kwelagobe as a self-seeking individual who was also a spent force. The historically conscious Kwelagobe reminisced, “Only a few years ago, she was rightly portrayed by this country’s leadership as a visionary and quality leader. That still stands and if anything, she has become even better in terms of quality,” opined the man many say knows where all the bodies are buried with respect to the BDP.

It is widely speculated that Khama backs Masisi in the high stakes fight for the chairmanship of the party. Former party chairman, Guma Moyo has been quoted in the media declaring his support for Masisi for the position of chairmanship. Meanwhile, another BDP veteran, who is also a former Minister, Margaret Nasha, a close friend of Kwelagobe, decided to be diplomatic when asked to say who she supported.

“Let the best person, the most hard-working, approachable person who genuinely cares about the party and its members win. I know exactly who that person is. But I am not sharing that information with you,” wrote Nasha in an SMS in response to an enquiry. She also revealed that she had spoken to the person she supports and wished that person well. Is it Seretse, who happens to be a woman like herself? The gender activist replied, “Your suspicions could be true.”

Both Kwelagobe and Nasha do not share the concern by onlookers that the number of people contesting the chairmanship of the BDP is needlessly high. “Not only is this good for democracy. The party constitution gives everybody the right to vote and be voted for. It is easy for a two-way race to develop into factions,” said Kwelagobe without elaborating. He is happy that none of the contenders is circulating a lobby list. Expressing concern over allegations of vote-buying even in an internal party elections, he said that people should consider somebody for endorsement on the basis of the person’s abilities as well as what the person has done for the party. According to Nasha, “The number of candidates does not necessarily bring polarisation. Democrats deserve the right to choose. The more the merrier!”

Like Kwelagobe, her choice is, “Somebody who knows the party and works hard. Not an armchair leader.” Nasha, the immediate past Speaker of the National Assembly recently published a book casting aspersions on the party leadership especially Khama much to the chagrin of those concerned. For his part, former cabinet Minister, Peter Siele, said that he was not yet ready to share his voting habits. “To be honest, only one candidate, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has sought my support. As for the other candidates or their campaign teams, they are yet to talk to me,” said Siele adding that he had sat with Ramadeluka Seretse and Masisi in cabinet. Outgoing BDP chairman, who also doubled as Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe would not be drawn into discussing his preferred candidate either.

“My answer is that it has to be somebody who shows he has the welfare of the people at heart by creating necessary opportunities for them. It has to be somebody who can appreciate the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. It has to be someone who understands the demographic changes we face as a country. It has to be a selfless person who appreciates that the party is above self,” thundered Kedikilwe.

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The Mayor of Selebi-Phikwe, Amogelang Mojuta, has characterised trade unions as the most organized actors and articulate voices in society. Speaking at the commemoration of May Day in Selebi-Phikwe that was held at Adam’s Park last Friday, he said ”unions are built on values, ideals and visions of society in which workers’ rights are recognized”.

This year’s theme was “Striving for the Dignity and Worth of the Working Class in Botswana.” Mayor Mojuta said the mobilization capacity of unions was a unique asset because it was the backbone of their political influence that had helped to deliver successful outcomes in terms of equity and justice to workers all over the world.  “They (unions) are organized entities with significant social capital and shared values,” he noted, adding that Botswana’s unions had developed the right agenda of poverty eradication, full employment with workers’ rights and social cohesion.

He struck a chord with his audience that was made up mainly of workers and union leaders. As a member of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that is seen in some quarters as persuing a rightwing agenda in which unions are barely tolerated, he and the unions became unlikely bedfellows. “Unions are at the heart of empowerment; empowerment is capacity building, training and organizing,” he said to growing applause and chants of “Tsena Comrade Mojuta. Tsena!”

The Mayor credited workers with “impeccable credentials” for analysing and dealing with crisis situations. They had adopted the right method of empowerment of the people, particularly women. He noted that unions had decisively influenced the people’s struggles either to establish or to revive democratic institutions. Accordingly, trade unions should project their role as critical catalysts for the promotion of human rights and democratic institutions. Afterall, civil and political rights were an essential pre-condition for access to labour rights.  In the Mayor’s view, only liberal democracy can provide the right institutional background for the fulfillment of labour rights as human rights.

“In any society, the evolution of liberal democracy is an endogenous process which can never be short-circuited,” he said. “Unions can, however, accelerate the pace of this evolution through their sustained support and solidarity with the struggle for liberal democracy.”  Mayor Mojuta emphasised that building support for an agenda based on workers’ rights, employment creation, social protection and social dialogue meant a political struggle whose leadership ought to come from trade unions.

He encouraged Botswana’s unions to position themselves to put political power behind universal labour standards, in that way influencing the policies and programmes of multi-lateral institutions. Inspite of styling himself a liberal democrat, his speech was well received by an audience that  is fond of pussyfooting with socialism. One impressed worker was heard saying:  “We should identify Mojuta as a friend of workers. He speaks socialism as we speak it.”


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The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has not endorsed any candidate for the crucial elections to its central committee that will be the major item on the agenda of the ruling party’s congress in July in Mmadinare.

Deputy Administrative Secretary Lee Lesetedi has rubbished rumours that the party had endorsed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi as utter speculation. Nothing of the sort was agreed at a BDP meeting that was held in Palapye on Monday this week, Lesetedi said. The rumour was the result of a misunderstanding, he explained. When one councillor asked Masisi if he was standing for the chairmanship of the party at the Palapye meeting, Masisi’s response was that he would answer the question only if it was asked by the President.

In Lesetedi’s view, endorsement was neither right nor wrong because such a conclusion would depend on the motive. There would be nothing wrong with endorsing a person of the right calibre to take the party to greater heights, he said. He emphasized that any endorsement would have to be done carefully to avoid factions that may arise in the party as a result of people taking sides. According to Lesetedi, the BDP wants all the candidates to have the liberty and an equal opportunity to contest.

Asked why this time around the BDP was not endorsing any individual as former president Festus Mogae had done with Khama as chairman, he said that was not an option in today’s circumstances because the party had to be called to order after Mogae’s endorsement of Khama. “Remember that the endorsement of Khama was a remedy to BDP factions,” he said. “It was intended to stop divisions within the party. For us to endorse an individual, there has to be very good reasons, such as when the stability of the party is under threat.”

The endorsement of Khama during Mogae’s tenure was an attempt to neutralize factionalism in the BDP which was torn between the Merafhe-Nkate and Kedikilwe-Kwelagobe factions. Khama subsequently defeated Ponatshego Kedikilwe for the chairmanship of the BDP at a congress held in Ghanzi. Asked about the calibre of candidates that the party wants, Lesetedi said he could only comment once the party had consulted its members on what kind of candidate are wanted.

But can the BDP avoid situations where a successful candidate quits as a throwback to what happened after Guma Moyo defeated Pelonomi Venson-Motoi at a congress in Maun?
Biggie Butale, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tebelelo Seretse, Dithapelo Tshotlego, Seteng Motalaote and Moemedi Dijeng are in the race for the BDP chairmanship.

Published in Northren Extra

Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) is yet to assess the extent to which Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Members of Parliament have kept their promise regarding workers’ interests.

The two entered some form of relationship prior to last year’s general election, which led to the coalition’s electoral success and dismal performance of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which could only get 47 percent of the popular vote. The remaining 53 percent went to the opposition. This translated into 37 and 20 parliamentary seats respectively. Asked if UDC MPs have kept their side of the bargain since ascending to Parliament through the support of workers, BOFEPUSU deputy secretary general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa says: “We are yet to make a comprehensive evaluation of our relationship with UDC before we make a pronouncement on that.” He says their committee will sit down and look at “Our expectations regarding UDC MPs and measure them against the motions and questions asked by the UDC MPs raised in our name.”

But Wynter Mmolotsi, one of the UDC MPs, says BOFEPUSU should not and will never regret its decision to endorse the coalition. According to him, the workers supported the UDC because the coalition MPs always represented the interests of the workers even before the general election. “The first ever petition from the workers was presented by me,” says Mmolotsi. He believes that UDC MPs proved their understanding of the interest of the workers during both the State of the Nation address and Budget speech. “Time and again, when a labour-related matter is brought to parliament, we meet workers representatives to get their position on it. We have never missed an opportunity to be the voice of the workers,” he says in an interview. This year’s Labour Day (May Day) is the first one after the 2014 general elections in which government employees, particularly those under BOFEPUSU worked openly with the opposition to achieve a change of government after they were refused a 16 percent salary increment.

During the 2011 historic strike, the government workers under BOFEPUSU held public rallies which were patronised by leaders of the opposition eager to benefit from the thousands of angry workers who were annoyed by what they considered an intransigent government. BOFEPUSU leaders, hoping to help usher in a government friendly to the workers, also insisted on opposition party cooperation in return for votes from the 90, 000 or so workers in the 2014 general election. For their part, the opposition parties committed themselves to coming together in the form of a united opposition front ahead of the election. The twosome soon adopted ‘regime change’ as their agenda. In the event, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), due to disagreements with the other parties especially on the allocation of constituencies, fell by the wayside and was not part of the UDC by the time the election was held. BOFEPUSU later announced that the workers would de-campaign both the ruling BDP and the BCP but actively campaign for UDC candidates.

The labour union made a hit list of BDP and BCP candidates to be specially targeted for de-campaigning. Many prominent individuals in the two parties lost the election much to the delight of BOFEPUSU which gleefully let it be known that it was happy with the outcome of its project. It is common cause that the unprecedented open alignment with the opposition by BOFEPUSU, further strained the already fragile relationship between government and its workers. Predictably, there was instability in the federation as some individuals, especially those sympathetic to the BDP, were not eager to become party to the regime change bandwagon. BOPEU, an affiliate of BOFEPUSU publicly disagreed with the mother-body over the endorsement of the UDC. Several government employees, especially those listed under the category of essential service providers lost their jobs. A blame-game ensued as the federation failed to either have the workers reinstated or provided them with sustainable sustenance.

In the event, President Ian Khama continued to make unilateral decisions concerning the workers without regard to the bargaining council. Despite all the challenges faced by the workers as a result of their going on strike and openly supporting the UDC, Motshegwa believes that, “The 2011 historic mother of all strikes ushered in a paradigm shift by raising working class consciousness and seriousness in defending, advancing and deepening the rights of the workers.” However, he explains that the ‘regime’ is launching a response strategy of trying to divert the working class by infiltrating them by making some union leaders, including those in the leadership to betray the struggle by becoming agents of the regime. “This thus creates a struggle within a struggle when comrades abandon the agenda of the working class and resort to teaming up with the regime for personal gains which are short-term.”

Published in News
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 14:24

Disbanding parties could wreck UDC

Fireworks are expected at the Botswana National Front (BNF) conference that will be held during the President’s Day weekend in July. At the heart of the matter is whether or not the parties that comprise the coalition Umbrella For Democratic Change (UDC) should disband and form a single party.

The parties that make up the UDC are the BNF, the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana Movement for Democratic Change (BMD). Those against dissolution of the parties have accused BNF president Duma Boko of having designs to disband the party and turning the UDC into a single entity with a unitary identity. Some of them are so strongly against this that they have threatened to leave the UDC should the BNF be dissolved.

A prominent BNF member who once served on the party’s central committee has described such a move as suicidal. “We have worked hard for the party. Such a brand cannot be destroyed by an individual,” he told Northen Extra in an interview this week. “As a group, we are not against cooperation. What we are against is the killing of our brand,” he added.

Another highly placed source says the problem is that BNF members are kept in the dark. “During the formation of the Umbrella, comrades were not informed about the project. We heard a lot of issues with the BMD. This clearly demonstrates that BNF members are taken for granted,’’ the source says. He wants the BNF leadership to take the Sefhare leadership forum seriously. When it is brought to his attention that the Sefhare leadership forum is not binding, he returns that it informs the party about the mood of members.

Nevetheless, a view that is gaining currency is one that holds that Botswana should have two major political parties and that the UDC should become a single entity in order to present a credible alternative to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Proponents of this view believe that as a sinle entity, the UDC will still be led by the BNF because of the latter’s numeric strength in the coaltion. “We aim to form a government in 2019. If people still want to stick to old names, they will hold us back. We should take over in order to free the people from the yoke of oppression,” says a proponent of this view who wants to remain anonymous.

Prominent BNF theorist Elmon Tafa recently penned a newspaper article in which he critisised the current BNF leadership for its intention to form a single party, saying  the formation of UDC was on the mould of a united front as proposed by the founder of the BNF, the late Dr Kenneth Koma. Boko, who is president of both the BNF and the UDC, was soon attacking certain “educated individuals” at a political rally in Francistown, accusing them of writing articles about the Umbrella when they did not understand the project.

This was widely received as a thinly-veiled reference to Tafa.  Efforts to reach the Publicity Secretary of the BNF, Moeti Mohwasa, proved futile at the time of going to press. Reached for comment, Mohwasa’s counterpart at the BNF Youth League, Malatsi Mokhubame, criticised BNF members for always rushing to the media instead of channeling their grievances within party structure. He pointed to media reports quoting a BMD leader as saying the tripartite alliance that is the UDC had no intention of disbanding the individual parties..

Published in Northren Extra

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