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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President Dr. Ian Khama’s government has come under heavy criticism for its deafening silence over the Panama leaks which continue to link local businesspeople to involvement in offshore accounts.

The scathing attacks were made by the former Speaker of Parliament Dr. Margaret Nasha recently in Francistown. Nasha, who dumped Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in favour of its offspring Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) said that since the Panama leaks, Khama has preferred remained tight lipped even though some local businessmen have been fingered in the alleged dirty tax evasion deal.  She pointed out that while other countries have taken measures against their citizens’ involvement in Panama, Khama’s regime has preferred to remain mum in the process leaving the public with more questions than answers.

“The British Prime Minister David Cameron was at one point under pressure as citizens wanted him to step down since he benefited from the Panama offshore accounts held by his father. This is a clear sign that the country’s powers that be are gravely concerned to the extent of knowing the truth about these offshore accounts. Khama’s silence on this issue is questionable as it leaves a lot of questions than answers,” she explained.

Her sentiments follow hard on recent revelations that President of the Court of Appeal Ian Kirby and Farouk Ismail, a major shareholder in Choppies, are also linked to the Panama leaks. Nasha said that people should start asking themselves questions as to why Khama is silent this time around. She suspects that a good number of influential figures of the country are connected to the leaks.

“Go ka se didimalwe jaana. Tjingwenyana tji yapo,” she added in Kalanga to the amusement of the crowd. Nasha is also disappointed that the current government is run without a National Development Plan which she said is like a budget. Her other worry is that running a country without a budget breeds fertile ground for money laundering by leaders.

“Corruption cases involving high ranking government officers are not brought before the court and this a laughable matter as these guys are hiding something. When rot was smelt at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), we advised that an investigation be carried out to salvage the BMC only for the president to refuse until BMC went on its knees. When we tried to investigate Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) on their glass manufacturing plant in Palapye, Khama refused until the project collapsed and it will never stand up again. We have plenty of salt but the president doesn’t see the need to package it locally in the process creating employment,” she added.

Published in Northren Extra
Thursday, 24 September 2015 15:39

BCP dissidents join ruling party

Former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) activists who were suspended from the party pending disciplinary hearing have all joined the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

BCP suspended its Youth League Secretary General Thato Osupile, Oganne Mazwigwila, former BCPYL President Lotty Manyapetsa and Virginia Masole in July this year from the party for allegedly recruiting BCP members to join the BDP. They are said to have also met and received money from some of the BDP senior members, but they refute these claims.

Osupile and Mazwigwila joined the BDP last month while Manyapetsa and Masole were paraded before the media on Wednesday this week in Gaborone. The duo dumped the party early this month after the party twice postponed their disciplinary hearing. They have now acquired life memberships of the BDP.  A fortnight ago BCP President Dumelang Saleshando stated that events will prove that the party was right in its suspicions about the activists.

In an interview this week Masole said she only decided to join the party after carefully assessing all the political parties. She said choosing BDP was not influenced by anyone. Manyapetsa said his loyalty now is with the BDP and will be among those who will ensure that the party retains power in 2019. He dismissed claims that joining the BDP is the end of his political career.

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Monday, 14 September 2015 09:51

Chiefs and politics: time will tell

Nostalgia can be an intoxicant. In worst case scenarios it can be an aphrodisiac, stimulating our desires and activating impulses safely tucked away in the distant past of our memories.

And yet this is the state our nation is gradually falling into, as it navigates its desire – by any means necessary, or so it would seem - for a change of leadership to help it deal with the realities of its body politic. The feeling is palpable. You sense it all over. The air is pregnant with expectation. It’s as if we are sitting on the verge of a major breakthrough. Yet on careful consideration it becomes apparent that it’s all anticipation. Thankfully, such condition breeds innovation. Academics, theorists and men of letters attempt to decode, decipher and break down the mental impulses into a tangible work plan. One on which the spontaneous thoughts and actions, however skewed they may be, could be harnessed into a potent force for change. Hence the current disposition – however fallacious - that diKgosi (traditional chiefs) may hold answers to the political stagnation besieging our beloved nation.

First things first! DiKgosi – the great architects of our nation state – have played their part and continue to do so in various guises, notwithstanding the gradual erosion of their powers. The modern nation state has driven them to the periphery of power. And it was a deliberate maneuver masterminded by politicians in which diKgosi became accessories and ‘silent’ partners. Although unwilling to let go of their powers, the tide of change was such that they either swam or sunk. History teaches us that they sunk at the might of the powerful colonialists and their subsequent proxies, remnants of which currently lord it over diKgosi in the executive arms of government and at the legislatures and judicature. This explains why in that power game diKgosi relented to pressure and acquiesced to political overtures, whose objective was to have Ntlo ya DiKgosi play second fiddle to Parliament and the Executive.

In all fairness, chieftainship has been in crisis since the advent of colonialisation. It could not withstand the winds of change brought about by foreign concepts of neo-liberalism, which made way for the age of reason, in which man’s worth was no longer measured by accumulation of wealth (land and livestock) but by the contents of his brain. This freed the political space to commoners, provided they were educated. Feudalism and bigotry had to make way! As an institution - notwithstanding such pious declarations contained in some of our dictums, such as ‘Kgosi ke kgosi ka batho’ – Bogosi is inherently autocratic. It is a kingdom handed down from generation to generation, although some skeptics have denounced the system as an ‘accident of birth,’ that lends itself to manipulation by pretenders to the throne. They say it has no place in modern societies.

Why then do we still cling to this system whenever we feel that foreign ideologies of governance that we adopted at Independence have failed us? It’s precisely because diKgosi have always been the nerve-centres of human existence, as custodians of people’s traditions, customs and cultures in their journey from primitive war-mongering tribal groupings that thrived on the Law of the Jungle to the contemporary disparate families that wade through the complex maze of the Information Age. The feeling is mutual. Just as the umbilical cord connects the baby to the mother, so does the tribe to the Kgosi. We defer to him. He is the law giver and dispenser of justice and he is Providence in times of hunger. He summons the rains and the people go to farm their lands pleased in the knowledge that their divine protector will not forsake them. And he feeds the hungry, cares for the orphans and the widows. It’s not surprising therefore that all diKgosi that have stood for political office under the current political dispensation have managed to get to Parliament some even attaining the very zenith of power.

It would be a cardinal sin for a tribe to denounce its Kgosi notwithstanding that they do and often abdicate from their thrones! Some do this literally while others abnegate their duties, neglecting their call and leaving their tribes under the tutelage of regents or at worst to its own devices. We have seen this with Kgosi Seretse Khama when he founded the Botswana Democratic Party and the unwavering support he received from his tribe and lately with his son- Ian Khama. The same was true for Kgosi Bathoen Gaseitsiwe when he joined the opposition Botswana National Front and went on to overcome Quett Ketumile Masire despite the enormous resources at the latter’s disposal. It has equally been true for Kgosi Tawana Moremi who joined the BDP and later defected to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy and it certainly hasn’t changed with the recent ascension of Kgosi Lotlamoreng II of Barolong to Parliament under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket.

Yet the question remains: to what extent will diKgosi respect inner party democracy? Will they contest primary elections against commoners? Or will their political parties create a special dispensation for them? What really motivates diKgosi to run for political office? Is it to regain the powers usurped by politics and return the nation state to tribal territories or is it for personal profit? It is doubtful whether any political system would want to reverse the strides and gains made in the areas of governance, respect for rule of law, human rights and economic management by returning to chieftainship rule.

In any case, Botswana is not a homogenous society like for example, Swaziland, which has endured Constitutional Monarchy all this time. We are cosmopolitan – that is, multi-cultural and comprising many ethnic groups. If all the diKgosi of these ethnic groups were sent to Parliament it could engender outright tribal conflicts, some of which have remained dormant for time immemorial. Differences over tribal boundaries would immediately rear their ugly head and blow out into the open. Although such tensions already exist, such conflicts have been suppressed by a political system that has centralised power in the executive branch of government away from the local authorities. That’s why Parliament has made it so easy for Land Boards to acquire tribal land from communities without so much of a flinch as to the social or economic implications involved.

Demographics would also come into play- for example, the distribution of one ethnic group over a particular territory, as well as that ethnic group’s claim to the territory (integrity); the extent of its representation in all organs of government- executive, legislature and judiciary – and its control over wealth (natural resources and other factors of production) relative to other tribal groupings. No doubt, these vexing matters would require careful consideration by any political system hoping to maintain social cohesion and harmony among the country’s citizenry.  Could the UDC stand the heat? The late Dr Kenneth Koma’s resolution of this matter was to abolish the Ntlo ya Dikgosi under BNF rule and in its stead create a House of Representatives. Would the other constituent members of the UDC – Botswana Movement for Democracy and Botswana Peoples Party – accept this resolution? Only time will tell.

Published in News
Monday, 07 September 2015 11:31

No end in diKgosi, BDP brinkmanship

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Chiefs in this country may be heading for an unprecedented showdown with far-reaching political consequences for the ruling party.

A number of chiefs recently met in Mahalapye where they discussed their conditions of work including their relevance in modern Botswana, decrying the continued erosion of their powers. Names of chiefs allegedly joining politics are being thrown about in the aftermath of Kgosi Lotlamoreng II’s electoral victory in the recent Goodhope-Mabule by-election. When contacted for comment, the national coordinator of the Bogosi Association, Kgosi Modise of Sefhare confirmed that indeed his association met in Mahalapye but denied claims that chiefs want to jump onto the political bandwagon. “That certainly is not the view of my association.

Joining politics is not the solution. Rather, we believe that issues concerning our powers, which we admit have been eroded, can better be addressed through dialogue by all stakeholders,” he said. The uneasy relationship between chiefs and government has existed both during colonial rule and post-independence. However, the decision by Kgosi Lotlamoreng II of Barolong to take leave of absence from his traditional duties in favour of political office when he contested on the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket has allegedly rekindled the animosity between the two powers. Before colonial rule, chieftainship was a very potent institution with full judicial and legislative powers.

According to Gloria Somolekae and Mogopodi Lekorwe of the University of Botswana (UB), the chief was both the law-giver and judge. He also regulated the allocation of land, the annual cycle of agricultural tasks, and several other economic activities, including external trade. Between them, the protectorate and post-independence government in this country promulgated a series of laws such as the Order-in-Council, the Native Administration Proclamation Act, the Native Tribunal Proclamation, the Tribal Land Act, the Matimela Act, the Chieftainship Act, the Chieftainship Amendment Act among others. These spelt the end of the powers of the chiefs. For instance, the high commissioner had to recognise somebody for that person to be chief. The high commissioner could censor a chief by way of reprimanding, suspension, expulsion or even banishment. The situation opened up the possibility of puppets to be installed as chiefs. By the same token, the post-colonial regime continued to reduce the powers of the chiefs. The traditional leaders became servants of the colonial government.

After independence, chiefs continued to be reduced to become paid low level civil servants whose status diminished while that of politicians increased. Just like before independence, chiefs in post-independent Botswana also have to be recognised by government. Also, government has the power to remove a chief from office even if the action is not popular with the concerned chief’s subjects. Chiefs lost a lot of privileges including over taxes and stray livestock. Contrary to chiefs’ expectations, when the House of Chiefs was formed after independence, its powers were limited to that of an advisory body in the same way that African Advisory Council was to the protectorate government. Government had made Chiefs to feel that their powers would be restored under the new political dispensation. They had envisaged a House of Chiefs that had legislative powers like the House of Lords in Britain. The founding president of Botswana and leader of the BDP, Seretse Khama, the Paramount Chief of the Bangwato tribe, did not want to alienate chiefs because he was aware that they were and remain very influential among their people.

The opposition Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) was led by common men who had no respect for chieftainship, according to Professor Maundeni (Botswana: Politics and Society). “The BPP explicitly stated that chiefs could not be members of the party,” writes Maundeni. Emasculated by the ruling BDP and isolated by the BPP, chiefs got attracted to the Botswana National Front (BNF) which promised, if elected, to establish a house of representatives with legislative powers. Although some chiefs were attracted to the BNF policies regarding chieftainship, the fact that the party was not popular nationally and therefore not likely to win power in the near future, became a disincentive to many of them to join it.

However, Kgosi Bathoen Gasietsewe of Bangwaketse took the risk and joined the BNF, contested the Kanye constituency and beat the then Vice President, Quett Masire. After independence, many African countries had abolished chieftainship arguing that the traditional institution had no relevance in modern society. Says Proctor as quoted by Gloria Somolekae and Mogopodi Lekorwe, “..a chiefly character in a bicameral legislature would seriously impede the modernisation which was seriously needed...and chiefs were too conservative, too interested in preserving their autocratic position and committed to the interests of their tribes rather than those of the nation.”

Cynics argue that the BDP government kept the institution only for political gain due to the influence the traditional leaders had over their subjects. According to Kgosinkwe Moesi, Seretse did everything to avoid war with the chiefs while at the same time infiltrating the institution by appointing to the House of Chiefs people who were sympathetic to the ruling party. Moesi, as quoted by Maundeni says, “...the choice faced by government was whether to meet chiefs head-on or neutralise them quietly. Sir Seretse, a calm, shrewd tactician, ate the young chiefs raw. He appointed BDP loyalists, Mokgacha Mokgadi and Monare Gaborone, de facto ‘paramount’ chiefs who easily dominated the House of Chiefs. Linchwe was sent to Washington DC as ambassador.” Besides having declared lack of interest in the traditional office in favour of the political one, Khama never shied away from telling his tribesmen and women whenever he addressed political rallies that he was their chief.

There is renewed talk that chiefs, just like the workers have been emboldened by the possibility of a change of government following the electoral success achieved by the opposition in the general election last year, are ready to fight for the restoration of their powers by way of joining opposition politics. But social commentator, Ndulamo Morima does not think it realistic for chiefs to envisage a situation where they are completely independent from politicians. “Even in more liberal democracies like South Africa, the President has got the ultimate powers to take action against a chief.

Even the Judicial Service Commission in Botswana can only recommend an individual to be appointed Judge but the final decision resides with the President. He also has the powers to remove a Judge from office,” said Morima. Instead he advocates security of tenure as well as better remuneration for chiefs. “They should, just like the judges, be protected from arbitrary dismissals and any forms of abuse. They should be paid well,” he said adding that, it would be difficult for the opposition, should they assume power, to restore the chiefs the powers they wish for. Efforts to speak to a chief proved futile by press time. While Kgosi Maruje II of North East and Kgosi Galebonwe of Jamataka said they were constrained to discuss the subject, Kgosi Modise of Sefhare did not answer his phone.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:34

BDP failed to read the people’s mood

Did the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) see this one coming? This seems to be a question asked by many following the party’s failure to snatch one of its stronghold constituencies, Goodhope/Mabule from the opposition.

BDP had expressed confidence that it’d reclaim the constituency it had lost to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in last year’s general election during last weekend by-election. UDC’s candidate, Barolong Paramount Chief Lotlamoreng II retained the seat with 6 152 votes followed by BDP’s Eric Molale with 4372 votes and Botswana Congress Party’s (BCP) 385 votes.BDP went into the by-election faced with some obstacles, among them convincing disgruntled members who supported some of the candidates who lost to Molale during the party’s primary elections held only a week before the by-election. The losing candidates even though they publicly declared their support for Molale, are alleged to have rallied behind the UDC candidate. Another uphill battle was the alleged rivalry between Molale and the public service unions.

After being announced the BDP candidate, Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) launched an onslaught on Molale. The federation called on public servants and their families in the constituency not to vote for Molale. The federation believes Molale has largely contributed in paralysing the public service especially the unions. He was labelled an ‘enemy of the public servants’. The fact that he was also up against a Kgosi, observers believe, contributed to his defeat. Some BDP members in the constituency are said to have been frustrated by the party leadership’s decision to allow Molale to contest even though he was already an MP, having been handpicked by President Ian Khama as Specially Elected MP. This is said to have caused even the party loyalists to opt for Lotlamoreng. The latter increased the margin from last year’s general election from around 600 to over 1 600.

During the run-up to the by-election, BOFEPUSU blamed the state of paralysis that the civil service currently finds itself in on Molale. Meanwhile Molale’s Campaign Manager, Anderson Kambimba said they had prepared well and managed to convince constituents about Molale’s candidature. “Just like any other party in the by-election we had a strong belief that we will win the constituency. This loss will not despair us, BDP is still a relevant party to Batswana,” he said adding that the impact of civil servants in their loss was insignificant. Kambimba said what BOFEPUSU was doing was just propaganda. “Those unions have our members who I believe did not listen to them,” he said adding that there is no way BOFEPUSU could have contributed to their loss.

He believes that electorate voted for their preferred candidate without the influence of anyone. On allegations that some of the candidates who lost to Molale during the primary election were inactive in the constituency, Kambimba dismissed the allegation as baseless. He stated that all the five members who lost to Molale during Bulela-Ditswe were active and some were leading the campaign. “They owned the campaign just like us. Some were front foot soldiers in various wards,” said Kambimba. Meanwhile a BDP Councillor at Ramatlabama ward, Boniface Lesomo believes that their loss could be attributed to lack of developments in the constituency.  “Barolong are currently frustrated at what has been happening in the area. The constituency has been lagging behind in terms of developments. I guess they are just punishing us for failing them for the years the constituency has been under our fold.” Politcal Analyst Anthony Morima is of the view that Molale has no track record with Barolong even though he originates from Borolong. “Currently there are Barolong Ba Baikuedi who want to be removed from Ngwaketse territory.

They have been fighting over this issue and they believe he has failed to use his position as the Permanent Secretary to the President to solve it,” he said. During Molale’s launch in Pitshane-Molopo, the leader of the group, Hussein Pandor, popularly known as ‘Matlhola a dibona’ accused Molale of orchestrating the plan to leave them under the rule of Ngwaketsi tribe. Pandor said that the ruling party has failed to resolve the issue of Barolong Ba Baikuedi. The Barolong who do not fall under Kgosi Lotlamoreng’s rule argue that since the government wants them to remain under Ngwaketsi rule they will not vote for the BDP candidate. However, Pandor said Lotlamoreng II should be voted in by virtue of his tribal leadership as a chief. He said Lotlamoreng II will be able to articulate issues that are of concern to Barolong Ba Baikuedi and the population in Borolong.

According to Pandor, Lotlamoreng II as a chief deserves to be voted into a political position like other Tswana speaking tribes have done in the past. Pandor claimed that even President Ian Khama has failed to resolve their concern despite approaching him on several occasions. Morima further pointed to lack of developments in the constituency as another factor that cost the BDP the vote. He however expressed that it is too early to conclude that this could mean the BDP is losing its touch with Batswana.  Morima said the other factor could be that some disgruntled members who supported those who lost against Molale in the primaries did not vote for the party in the by-election.

Published in News
Friday, 21 August 2015 16:13

Pitsane BDP councillor quits, joins UDC

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party councillor for Pitsane ward in the Goodhope-Mabule constituency has dumped the party to the join the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF). 

Lazarus Ncube dumped the party this week to join BNF a contracting member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) just five days after the party won a parliamentary by-election in the area. Ncube was welcomed to the BNF by party president Duma Boko on Friday. The councillor told a press conference he decided to leave the BDP because he was being accused of not supporting the BDP candidate Eric Molale during the by-election.

He said together with some councillors worked hard for the BDP but they were blamed for the party’s dismal performance.  He stated that the BDP failed to win the constituency because Molale was not appealing to the electorates. “It was as if Kgosi Lotlamoreng went it all alone. The electorates did not want him so there was nothing we could do to force them to vote for him. Now what angered me is that after devoting my time and energy, I am labelled the culprit”.

Ncube said more members of the BDP will soon follow him to the UDC among them councillors. He said the party members in the constituency are disgruntled at the way the affairs of the party are run. BDP now has seven councillors while the UDC has two. During the weekend by-election UDC retained the seat represented by Barolong Paramount Chief, Lotlaamoreng II with 6152, BDP’s Molale came second with 4372 and Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s Comfort Maruping got 385 while there were 130 spoilt votes.

BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane said it is unfortunate that the party lost one of its members to the opposition. “Everyone in the party is important, whether a councillor, a chairperson or an ordinary member so losing them hurts the party. This could be the manifestation of the past weekend bye-election. We are however evaluating our performance at the bye-lection and urge all BDP members to remain calm and resolute because this is part of our journey to 2019”.

 

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For the over 16 000 voters expected to make long queues at this weekend’s Goodhope-Mabule by-election, the reality is, a good number of them are struggling with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on government handouts.

This is a sign of a deteriorating economic security and government’s failure to find a permanent solution to the problem of unemployment. Goodhope-Mabule is a compact constituency; covering an area of 2735 square kilometres with a population of around 34 000 people. According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of that population only 16900 registered to vote in last year’s general election. IEC spokesperson Osupile Maroba told Botswana Guardian Wednesday that all those registered to vote in last year’s general election will be allowed to vote this Saturday. Polling stations will be opened at 0630hrs and close at 7pm in the evening to allow for the voters to choose their next area MP following the resignation of James Mathokgwane. However there is likelihood that some of them will be queuing in this long winding queues on empty stomachs or not knowing where their next meal will come from. Available records from Statistics Botswana indicate that in Barolong District where the Goodhope-Mabule constituency is housed, 4103 Batswana aged between 15 and above are unemployed.

1846 of them are female while 2257 are male. Census figures provide an official measure of poverty - a snapshot that does not really capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. A report of Statistics Botswana in collaboration with the World Bank’s Mapping Poverty in Botswana 2010 makes for a painful reading as it puts the poverty situation in the area into a clearer perspective. Three villages from the constituency; Lejwana, Tswaaneng and Sekhutlane feature in the top 20 villages in Botswana with the highest poverty rates. To understand the poverty situation in the constituency one has to study figures from each village. In Sekhutlane for instance 488 of the 736 people are estimated to be poor. This means more than half of the population in the village are poor. In Bethel 49 people are considered poor out of a population of 316. The poverty situation in other villages is not making for a better reading either. In Goodhope where 36 years Maureen Tadubana works as street vendor 570 of the villagers out of an estimated population of 4224 are said to be poor.

This is the same village where Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II representing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in the weekend by-election resides. Tadubana counts herself among the poor. Selling sweets and other small groceries near the main road the hawker says she doesn’t make much profit from her business. “It depends,” she quips, when asked about the profit she makes in a month. “I can make a profit of P200.00 a month, but this is not helpful because I have to spend money on transport when I travel to Lobatse to buy stuff to sell,” she stated. Her business, which she described as stagnant, experiences little growth because Goodhope has little developments. Lack of water and electricity has become a permanent feature in the village. Residents of the village have to occasionally travel to Lobatse for their daily or monthly shopping needs. With no bank, no major shops, it is increasingly becoming taxing for small business owners like Tadubana to make ends meet. “There is no water and electricity,” she says dejectedly. She adds that before the campaigns for the by-election started, they could go for months without water but now that the election is near things have improved a bit. Such shenanigans by those who have been vested with power to provide services are the main reasons why Tadubana and many others don’t trust politicians. “I don’t trust politicians. They make promises which they don’t keep,” she said.

As she speaks campaigns in the Goodhope-Mabule parliamentary by-election have entered the homestretch with the three main candidates making door-to-door visits and hosting mega rallies to woo voters. Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II will face Eric Molale of the BDP and Comfort Maruping of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) for the leadership of the constituency, which was abandoned by UDC’s James Mathokgwane. As Tadubana sat inside her stall on Saturday waiting for the next customer to buy sweets, truckloads of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party faithful were being ferried to Phitshane-Molopo where Molale was being launched. On the other hand the BCP cadres were busy canvassing for support for their candidate Maruping in Pitsane. In Musi, 53-year-old Gabootlwelwe Kgadisa sat near a makeshift kitchen preparing food for her two grandchildren oblivious of the loudspeaker campaigns going on in Phitshane-Molopo and Pitsane.

“Are you saying the MP has left,” she queried before adding, “So who is going to replace him?” The unemployed Kgadisa says her only source of income was from the government programme-Ipelegeng; a short-term job creation programme. She was only employed for a few months and she had to make way for others. “I am now unemployed, because we are employed on rotational basis,” she said. The mother of four children said she was earning about P540 per month, which according to her was not enough to cater for her daily needs. But it is not all gloom and doom as the Goodhope-Phitshane-Molopo road is littered with big farming fields owned by well-off individuals, and thus the constituency presents a tricky political test for politicians trying to win the hearts of the poor and the rich alike. Botswana is an upper middle income country one of only six in sub-Saharan Africa, but disparities between the haves and the have-nots is startling and growing. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures show that the country’s Gini-coefficient (statistical measure of inequality) remains at 0.6, suggesting radical differences between the landlords and the landless.

What do candidates hold?
The candidates are promising to do things differently to address the problems facing Goodhope-Mabule. What is not clear is whether the poor voters who make up the constituency will have their lives changed or not after all is done and dusted. Tadubana says she will vote for the ruling party but she does not expect things to change for her. “I don’t have any issues with the BDP. I grew up in the party. But I don’t trust politicians,” says Tadubana as she stands up to sell a cigarette to a customer. Her only worry for now is her sick goat. Because of lack of developments in Goodhope, she will have to spend P21.00 for transport to Lobatse to buy medicine for the goat. Meanwhile, IEC’s Maroba says his organisation is ready for the by-election. “The election material is ready and we will soon be sending it to the polling districts,” he said Wednesday.

Published in News
Monday, 10 August 2015 16:09

BPP Youth vow to rebrand their party

The newly-elected president of the Botswana People’s Party Youth League (BPPYL) Mbaakanyi Smart has vowed to work hard with his team to revive the party. Smart promised to come up with a robust approach and structures that will lead BPP to the 2019 general election. He said one of their resolutions is to rebrand BPP towards 2019.

Smart said they were given six constituencies under the allocation of 2014 general election by the UDC because it was believed that the northern part of the country is their stronghold. However, out of all the six constituencies being Nata-Gweta, Shashe West, Nkange, Francistown West, Tati East and Tati West, they did not win any one of them. “Phase one of our project entails going to all the six constituencies that we were allocated to talk to our members so that we revive what has been lost in BPP. We will ask them where we need to improve so that we create a better future for the party because for now even the members of the party have lost interest so I think it is high time we engage them on the way forward,” Smart said.

According to him the second phase will entail registration of members and verification of membership list. He said it is important to know how many members they have so that the 2019 general election finds them prepared.They will also target other constituencies in their recruitment drive for members. Smart said the BPP youth supports cooperation between the UDC and BPP and that one of their resolutions was to work closely with other youths of different parties to share ideas in their efforts to rebrand the party. “We have never had a BPPYL, we just had an interim chairperson as far back as 1999. We worked hard to have a youth league so we need guidance from parties that have been having youth committees for a longer time. We are happy with our chairperson in the interim committee, Gerald Dubani; he worked hard for us to be here,” Smart said.

For his part the former chairperson Dubani encouraged Smart to work hard and benchmark from well-established organisations for them to get there sooner than later. Dubani said that it is an open secret that their competitors happen to perform better than them in every election as a result of well-established youth league structures.

Published in Northren Extra
Monday, 10 August 2015 15:32

BCP divided over opposition cooperation

The intention by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to engage other opposition parties for a possible cooperation seems to be sinking the party’s political ship. Inside sources have revealed that the party is currently divided over the decision by the leadership to engage the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) for cooperation talks. “

A solid decision was not taken at the Kanye congress last month regarding cooperation talks with the UDC. BCP members are still divided on this issue. For the leadership of the party to now start talking about the cooperation while we did not make a resolution to that effect, our party is heading for a disaster”, said a source who did not want to be named. At the congress BCP President Dumelang Saleshando indicated that they will engage the UDC to initiate cooperation talks. Saleshando said they will sit down with the UDC and find ways of best working together to take power from the BDP. BCP Secretary General Kentse Rammidi was the first party insider to indicate that BCP needs other opposition parties. This week the BCP Youth League President, Tumiso Rakgare called on the party leadership to move swiftly to initiate the cooperation talks.

However, information reaching Botswana Guardian is that some of the BCP members feel hard done by these utterances by the leadership. It is alleged that the current leadership which was elected at the Kanye congress is putting their interest before that of the general membership, hence the interest in the cooperation talks. It is also said that the party has not had enough time to deliberate on this issue. Another source said, “This issue was not debated enough for the leadership to now publicly speak about it as if an agreement was reached. We were supposed to have at least discussed the best model that would also benefit us. As things stand now we do not have bargaining power, so the issue of constituency allocation might emerge and we would find ourselves in the same situation as in 2011”. UDC is made up of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana People's Party (BPP).

It was formed in 2012 after protracted negotiations for the cooperation with the aim of avoiding vote splitting so as to oust the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power. BCP pulled out of the talks in 2011 after the negotiating parties could not reach an agreement on allocation of constituencies. Now the party is said to be headed for a crunch time as more disgruntled members among them councillors and key activists are said to have threatened to ditch the party effective this week. There is also a tape recording making rounds in the social media allegedly involving the BCPYL Secretary General Thato Osupile who explains that the party is divided over opposition cooperation. Osupile resigned from the party this week on Tuesday. This week former BCPYL President and long time party activist, Lotty Manyapedza revealed that the party is divided. He said BCP members are not happy following the Kanye congress.

Manyapedza who has been suspended from the party with three others for alleged misconduct, argues that if the issue is not dealt with carefully, chances of BCP working with other opposition parties in 2019 look bleak. He said he supports cooperation that is based on ideologies and policies. BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse said they have everything under control. He said the party is not in trouble adding that “people do leave parties each and every day and based on that you cannot say the party is in turmoil. We also welcome people from other political parties but no one has said those organisations are in trouble. Having different views about certain issues does not mean there is chaos. The BCP is intact and our structures are firm and active”.

Published in News
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