Voters in the Gaborone North constituency are geared up to cast their vote. Gaborone North with a population of 46 434 consists of six wards. The hotly contested constituency sees Haskins Nkaigwa (UDC), Thatayaone Molefhi (AP), Mpho Balopi (BDP), and Sidney Pilane (BMD) battling for a spot to represent the constituency.
At two of the five polling stations in the Marapoathutlwa ward, voting is going very well. Residing officer for Phillip Mosotle station, Thatayaone Sikwane tells this publication that 867 people registered, and that slightly above 300 people have cast their vote. Opposite Phillip Moshotle, voting at the Livingstone Kolobeng College polling station, everything is going smoothly.
Residing officer Onkemetse Sikwa explains that 486 people registered. "Half of that number has already voted," he says. He also explains that earlier during the day, the voters alerted them about a pregnant woman who appeared unwell. "They gave her a chance to skip the line so that she could be rushed to the clinic," he says.
Batswana should not allow their opponents to distract them by indicating that the coalition has a working relation with former President Ian Khama. Head of Communications for Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Moeti Mohwasa said the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is at the forefront of distorting facts regarding the relationship between UDC and Khama and his party Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
Mohwasa who was updating the media in Gaborone about his party’s preparations for the launch of its leader Duma Boko and running mate Dumelang Saleshando stated that the BDP is desperately distorting facts because it fears that it would lose elections.
Mohwasa explained that what is happening is that the BPF has called on electorates to vote for UDC where the BPF has not fielded any candidate.
“Why should we attack someone who wants eligible voters to cast their votes in our favour? Khama has made it clear that he wants the BDP led by Mokgweetsi Masisi to be voted out of power. “Now they want us to reject that. We cannot do that because we also want the BDP voted out of office because it has failed the people of this country in the past 53 years. “We do not have a working relationship with the BPF which is why we are competing in some of the constituencies and wards. It is interesting that the BDP had a long relationship with Khama and he was a saint and now that he has dumped their party, he is a bad person.
“The problem is not a person but the party and BDP should take responsibility as a collective on all wrongs committed by Khama,” said Mohwasa.The head of communications stated that there was still corruption and scandals even during the era of those BDP leaders who were at the helm of the party before Khama, but the perpetrators have not been brought to book. Mohwasa said the BDP is feeling the heat after its fallout with Khama. “If he is that bad why was President Masisi publicly indicating that they want him back into the party,” he asked adding that the BDP elders approached Khama to return to the BDP because they know the new party will be a contributing factor in the BDP performance.
“The BDP is rotting from inside. Masisi is a deployee of the BDP as was Khama during his time. We would hate or fight Masisi when he is no longer at the helm of the BDP. “Everyone that supports the UDC we will welcome such with open hands. Even our other competitors, the BDP and Alliance for Progressives when they support us, we will not reject them so the BDP should stop lying to Batswana and accept that their time is up and post October 23rd they will no longer be in power. “They know that the BDP is what it is because of the influence of the Khamas. So, they have to deal with the problem they have created and stop spreading falsehoods.”
Umbrella for Democratic Change President Advocate Duma Boko has admitted that there have been some flaws in the coalition leadership. “Leadership is not perfect. We made mistakes. At times we lost sight of certain responsibilities - the need to communicate better, for instance.
“But we believe strongly and have spread our commitment to certain values and principles, like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual”, he told a UDC Conference in Gaborone this week.
He added that the leadership of the UDC has one shared objective, which is to create decent lives for all Batswana, as defined by the party manifesto. Boko said the UDC has come under attack and that sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change.
The UDC leader indicated that more often the attack is manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep the UDC divided and keep “us angry and keep us cynical because that helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege.” He said their opponents fear their strength because they know their time has come. “They know this election will be our victory. We will stay steadfast and united. “This is a time of much inequality, of fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country: regional, tribal, religious.
“Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time. This has made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. However, we have bridged this divide. Which has instilled even more fear in our opponents,” he said. He told the conference that the coalition came together to answer the call of the people of Botswana in recognising that the country was in dire straits. The UDC, he said, was created in response to the will of the people. “While we were once different parties, we now share one objective – to unite for the good of the country and the growth of the country”, he stated.
“Today, together, we will take our campaign to win the October 2019 election to the next level. We are here because we understand the importance of this election, because our democracy depends upon it. “We can no longer sit around and wait for something to happen, to leave it to others to do something we have to lead this movement for ourselves. “We need to get involved, knock on doors and talk to our constituencies, our families, our friends. To argue with them, to convince them that with change, something powerful can happen. It’s time for the second republic! It’s not just possible but it is imperative”, said the UDC leader.
He explained that the UDC has adapted to a new economy, a 21st century economy. He said the coalition has worked hard to develop a clear and concise plan and they are committed to rebuild the country’s economy to create a better life for all.“Decent lives and decent jobs are our promises”. Boko who is also Leader of Opposition in Parliament said his party is committed to protect health and safety and fair competition, empowering workers and ensuring a living wage; investing in a stronger, diverse economy encouraging 100 000 new jobs and a more supported local SMME industry, developing new and maintaining existing infrastructure; strengthening the system of primary, secondary and tertiary education which ensures young people have a sustainable future. “We will ensure that our people will not be forced to seek work elsewhere. We will create the ability to be a hub of services for the entire SADC region.”
Former Members of Parliament have blasted former head of state Dr. Ian Khama accusing him of dividing the nation. The former MPs made a resolution during their Annual General Meeting on the 11th of this month during The Association of Former Members of the Botswana Parliament to condemn Dr Khama.
According to the former MPs there is national instability and anxiety created by the Former President emanating from his unfounded appeal for sympathy from across the nation. “We observe with regret that his sympathy seeking antics are fast turning into promotion of regionalism and tribalism. “Our collective view is that the Former President’s actions and utterances are uncalled for and must be rejected by all those who live in this beautiful country if we are to preserve our national peace and tranquility that we have enjoyed over the years and have become the envy of many a nation,” the MPs said.
The association was established on the 24th September 2018 under Section 6 (1) of the Registration of Societies Regulations of the Societies Act. It is a non-profit making and independent organisation whose membership is drawn from former members of the Botswana Parliament from various political parties. According to the association what Dr Khama is doing presents grave risk to the stability of the nation and its core values and principles.
The Association further called upon the Former President to desist from his divisive gatherings and statements and play his role as a statesman who has enjoyed the support and recognition of Batswana during his term of office. “Our plea is informed by the diligent job our other former Presidents did in their retirement. They did not only subordinate themselves and allowed space for their successors to run the affairs of the nation but also became ambassadors of Botswana across the globe through their noble peace-making efforts.
“We believe this immediate past Former President must do the same,” argues the association. The former MPs are further disturbed by the level of corruption which they say happened in the past ten (10) years. Dr Khama was the president of the country in the past ten (10) years.
The Association says like the nation at large it is alarmed by the high levels of corruption in the economy that is being reported in the media. Incidences of corruption according to the former MPs seems to have literally spiraled out of control during the past ten years.
“To this end, we call upon Batswana to embrace the fight against corruption in all its forms across the economy”.
The Association says its objectives are among others, to provide collective opinions or pronouncements on matters of national interest and importance and to advise Government, the nation at large or any other institution on any matter that may be within its competence.
Less than 900 000 people have registered for this year’s general elections in spite of efforts by stakeholders especially the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and political parties to mobilise at least 80 percent of the potential voters to register.
IEC Principal Public Relations Officer, Osupile Maroba is not satisfied with the figure. “We cannot really say we are happy with the figure,” said Maroba in an interview. Voter apathy is a concern to those who believe that representatives are under pressure to perform when they are elected by a large number of people.According to the Voter Apathy Report commissioned by the IEC and conducted by the Democracy Research Project (DRP) of the University of Botswana (UB) after the 1999 general elections, some of the respondents cited government corruption for their disillusionment with elections.
They were also not attracted to the opposition because the main opposition is underperforming hence not ready to form a government. The electorate who were interviewed also felt the opposition parties must unite. Some people do not vote because they lack political education. For example, an electorate may stay home because he feels that his vote does not matter. However, with some voter education the electorate will know that some wards or parliamentary seats have been decided by small margins. They could be casting the deciding vote!
Due to lack of political and civic education, some people do not vote because the person they voted for last time has not done them personal favours such as giving them a ride or even money. Voter apathy studies indicate that some people do not register to vote because of long queues and they hate waiting. In some jurisdictions, employers are required by law to give employees a break to register as well as to vote if they cannot partake in the process inside the hours of work.
Politicians are also accused of lacking the sophistication to market themselves properly. For example, they are accused of, among other things, using abusive language at rallies, addressing rallies in the English language, distorting facts and generally engaging in petty as opposed to issue based politics. When the campaign becomes rather vitriolic, people become cynical. Some voters are on record saying that they did
not see the need to register because some of their leaders were controversial and lacking in integrity. Strict election procedures such as the cut-off date for registration may deny some people the opportunity to register and vote. There have been suggestions that online registration should be allowed. It has also been suggested that people should be able to register for the election even on election-day when the hype is at its highest level. The chairman of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Communications Committee, Kagelelo Kentse, explained that as a stakeholder, the BDP mobilised voters to register for elections through rallies.
“We deployed vehicles to take people to the registration centres. We also did social media campaigns,” he said. UDC Head of Communications, Moeti Mohwasa, who feels there should be a second supplementary registration because of the low numbers of those who have registered, said that the UDC did its best to get people to register for the elections.
“For example, when our aircraft was down, our president was traversing the country to mobilise them to register. The other difficulty is that we do not have enough resources to get people to polling stations to register. “That is partly why there should be political funding,” said Mohwasa who emphasised the importance of a high turn-up of voters. “A good turn-up gives the winner legitimacy,” he added.
Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has rubbished claims by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) lawyers that they are delaying their expulsion case. Early this week UDC lawyers led by Dick Bayford accused the BMD for delaying the case which was supposed to have been heard by the high court on Monday this week.
Bayford also told the media that the BMD would not stop the current UDC to use its symbol during this year’s general elections. The standoff between the UDC and BMD could cast an ugly spectre for opposition and confusion among voters in the 2019 polls. The BMD has stood firm that should the matter not be completed before elections all UDC contracting partners would go solo. The party revealed on Wednesday that it is campaigning for its 13 constituencies allocated while still member of the UDC in two phases both as the BMD and as the BMD of the UDC.
The party argues that it should not be blamed for the delay of the case because it acted within the law since the inception of the case. BMD Acting Secretary General Tseleng Botlhole said the BMD acted perfectly reasonable throughout in terms of the Rules of the High Court. “Bayford lied when he said the BMD delayed in bringing the case. The BMD is not responsible for the delay that occurred. UDC and its leader Advocate Duma Boko are the only ones who are responsible for the delay, and the delays were deliberate. “The court papers were served to them in December 14th 2018.
They did nothing until 25th of February 2019. When the High Court allocated 2th April for the hearing of the case, Bayford wrote a letter saying that the date did not suit them. We were ready at that time for the case,” Botlhole told the media. She dismissed the claims by UDC attorneys that BMD President Advocate Sidney Pilane admitted to having delayed the case and begged the judges for a fresh date.“The BMD did not bring the case on urgency because there was nothing urgent about it. The case, having been brought in December 2018 could be heard and decided long before the elections, the only date that matters and is decisive.
“If the BMD had brought the case on urgency, it would have correctly been dismissed with costs as was Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s case incompetently brought by Bayford,” she said. Advocate Pilane said the judges had suggested the 11th and 12 of June this year but because the UDC was not ready they could not proceed. He expressed doubt that the UDC was ready for the case even a week before because “they are fond of lying. Even Bayford has joined them in lying as a lawyer.”The BMD leader pointed out that the UDC should be prepared for a fight. He promised to end the bragging that is always displayed by the UDC members and their leaders.
“The president of the country can call snap elections. He can call them even next month. When that happens, we will ensure that no member of the coalition will go to the polls using the UDC symbol. “BMD will contest on its own so will Botswana Congress Party, Botswana National Front and Botswana People’s Party. “We will act as necessary depending on what comes our way. We are going to humble them because we also know that we will win the court case,” said Advocate Pilane.
Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse came down hard on government like a tonne of bricks on Monday when 20 MPs voted against his Media Practitioners (Repeal) Bill of 2018. Only 14 MPs supported the repeal Bill. Government has for a long time refused to repeal the Act indicating that it is working on making some amendments to the Act.
Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi told Parliament that the process they started in 2015 for the amendment to the existing law was to improve it to take into consideration some of the views from their engagement with private practitioners where they can create a self-regulatory arrangement. The minister stated that at the end they will be able to create an apex organisation that would be the Media Ombudsman.
Responding to debates, Keorapetse stated that the challenge is “the moment you say that you are legislating on regulation that by itself is at odds with self-regulation”. He said it does not matter that government currently has some journalists “in your pockets”or that some adverts are skewed towards certain papers as opposed to others - statutory regulation is an anathema of self-regulation. Neither does it matter, he said that government is “enticing some journalists with all sorts of things”, as long as statutory regulation exists, the media can never be said to be free. He said that publishers, media practitioners and the Law Society made it clear that they subscribe to a principle of self-regulation and do not want any state involvement in their work because they have mechanisms in place.
“They may be inadequate and need to be improved, but the thing is that legislation now is at odds with the principle of self-regulation, that is why they are saying, there is a need to repeal this law. “That is why they say in the first place, there was no need to have this law in place. So, even if you try and panel beat it, it does not take away the argument that they subscribed to self-regulation,” he said.But Molefhi responded that it is not a total overhaul, but a significant portion that has to be amended to incorporate the concerns which were previously raised by the private practitioners.
“During the period of 2014/2015 when we undertook consultations, the private practitioners were heavily involved in the re-orientation of what was going to become the Media Council Bill. That is the discussion that we want to conclude, and ultimately go through to Cabinet,” Molefhi said.
Keorapetse argued that self-regulation means that the reason why the media is called the Fourth Estate is that the presupposition is that there are three independent arms of Government being; Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, and the fourth estate is the Media. Now, this media is not supposed to be subservient to any institution, it must be independent and be self-regulatory, he said.
“Why not leave them to self-regulate? Already there is a Press Council, Editors Forum, and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana, why do you need the state now to start regulating the media? “The media is called the fourth estate primarily because it must be independent. Not just independent in terms of independence, but it must also be seen to be independent.” Keorapetse said it is their responsibility as Parliament to guarantee the freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions without being encumbered, and to also explicitly legislate on freedom of the media. “That will be enough, we do not have to come up with any law to attempt to regulate the media,” he posited.
Umbrella for Democratic Change Parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Bonnington South says he is standing for political office to pursue the agenda of the working class and the poor who are marginalised in the economy. Ketlhalefile Motshegwa a renowned trade unionist is currently Secretary General for BLLAWU and Deputy Secretary for Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU).
He was recently criticised for having failed to disclose his interest in political office. In an interview with Botswana Guardian this week Motshegwa said that after being approached by the UDC he made consultations and has now arrived at a decision to contest for parliamentary election in Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. This is the constituency that he stayed at for some time and voted at in 2014. “Upfront I indicate my respect for those I will be contesting with. They are my fellow citizens whom together we are creating diversity of choice for our people and for functionality and nurturing of our democracy.
“Democracy is about competition, and nobody should be faulted or persecuted for merely availing themselves for democratic process such as elections in a Republican set up. “In our team, in advancing my candidature and those of council candidates, we will be conducting a clean, mature, ethical, progressive and issue-based campaign. We are focused on the elections, and our ideas to the people to solve their problems. This country so much yearns for solution-oriented leaders,” he explained.
He believes issues that have to be dealt with unapologetically and with vigour are those of ideological and policy orientation. He argued that there is need to dismantle a system that protects the power and privilege of the few against the interests and needs of the many.
This needs a radical shift on policy framework hinged on ideological orientation, he stated adding that policies should talk about the workers, the poor, youth, women and disabled people.Motshegwa said he would focus on review of the constitution and efforts for enhancement of the country’s democracy. He believes that the economic gains of this country must benefit all Batswana and that in modern times advocacy should be for the socio-economic, political and psychological independence from those neo-colonial mentality.
“Focus must be on the struggle of the working class and the peasants. The working class or labouring class are the people employed for wages, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. This class has nothing to sell but their labour power and skills and they have a challenge of access to economic resources. “That is even worse for the poor who are living in sorrows, agony and some having lost hope to the extent of wishing death upon themselves daily. So far, we have been walking around, having chats with the people in Gaborone Bonnington South.
“They share stories that touch the heart, with feeling and meaning. Some of those are the most beautiful stories to hear as they are moving and inspirational. On the other hand, some are stories of agony and despair arising from abject poverty. The stories of people who have lost hope and are only seeking death a solution to depart from this earth. When I see their tears, I can’t help but shed my own,” posited Motshegwa.
According to the aspiring legislator the “Motshegwa For Gaborone Bonnington South campaign” is driven by principles of respect of human rights and premised on human centered development. “Our campaign is to go and revolutionise parliament to bring about radical legal and policy shift to care for the workers, the poor, youth, the disabled, the old people, and robustly push for effective citizenship economic empowerment,” he argues.
Motshegwa explained that his team understands very well that they have a responsibility to cleanse our politics and ensure that people respect politics and politicians, in order to do away with bad notions attached to politics as a dirty vocation. He said politics should be about listening to and serving people, creating ideas as solutions to socio-economic and political predicaments of the country.
“We want a great Botswana where the economy benefits all and human rights are respected and nurtured. We will be fearless, uncompromising and unapologetic in demanding economic independence for the people of this country’s people and social justice. “We cannot afford to have a rich country with poor people, this we are moving to stop”.
The country’s long time rulling party, Botswana Democratic Party is expected to win the upcoming general elections albeit without an outright majority. This is according to a fresh report coming from Africa’s leading bank by assets, Standard Bank.
The report, which covers politics and economics of countries where the banking group has operations such as Botswana, was made public last week. BDP, which has ruled the landlocked country since independence more than 50 years ago, is likely to enter the general elections a highly divided lot. This is largely due to the standoff between President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor, Dr Ian Khama. A former army commander, Khama is backing Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi for the BDP Presidency ahead of the party’s elective congress expected in July.
“Despite the dispute between Ian Khama and Masisi, we still expect BDP to win the general elections in October 19, though perhaps not by an outright majority. “Chances of the UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) coalition strengthening before the 2019 general elections are slim, not while tensions about the constituencies persist,” said the report titled African Markets Revealed. BDP won 37 of the total 57 constituencies in the last general elections held in October 2014. Following the results of the 2014 general election the BDP leadership was concerned by its declining popular vote as the party only managed 47 per cent of the popular vote, the party’s weakest performance since 1966.
The report further noted that, ‘lack of cooperation between the main opposition parties may provide some safe haven for the ruling party’. ‘Hence, if UDC coalition was to unite amid BDP weakness, it may lead to the ruling party losing the general election to UDC’. However, it appears the opposition parties are also divided post the 2014 general election where they made inroads into BDP constituencies. Botswana Guardian last month reported that Alliance for Progressives, a splinter party from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), has outrightly rejected advances from UDC to join them ahead of the highly anticipated elections.
AP is led by Ndaba Gaolathe, son to former finance minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, who was a BDP member. Previously, there were reports that BDP is courting Gaolathe junior. Meanwhile, Standard Bank which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has made it clear the current political turbulence as impermanent. “We view the current political turmoil as temporary; we expect no significant deviation from the current economic policy, even if the BDP lost the election,” said the report in part.
Prospects of a possible working relationship between Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change for 2019 general elections are gradually fading, Botswana Guardian has established.
This follows a response letter by AP to the UDC on possibilities of working together after UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved to invite the AP. AP has now put UDC in a tight corner in its response letter. According to a highly placed source within the AP executive, demands put forward are highly likely to see the two formations contesting the general elections on opposing camps. According to the source, AP has categorically told UDC that formal engagements must include conveners of the initial coalition negotiations that took place before the 2014 general elections. The AP also has pointed out that it can only engage the UDC after the coalition has resolved its internal problems more importantly the pending legal suit by its expelled contracting member- Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
BMD was expelled from the UDC last year and the party consequently launched a legal suit for the reversal of the expulsion. AP has for a long time stood resolute that it would only engage in talks with like-minded organisations and those amenable to the engagement of original conveners of cooperation talks.
It is yet to be seen if UDC will agree to this condition since the coalition has maintained that the conveners have now been absorbed into the UDC NEC. When the UDC approached the AP last year it expressed hope that they would respond favourably to the advances. However, this publication has gathered that Tuesday’s response letter has shattered UDC’s hopes. According to observers the only way out is for the UDC to agree for negotiations to be handled by original conveners.The UDC will also have to vigorously engage the AP and convince the less than a year-old political movement that the court case against BMD would not have any impact on their working relations.
AP split from the BMD following a bloodbath elective congress in Bobonong last year July. The case between BMD and UDC has not yet been given a date and speculations are that it could drag for far too long possibly beyond the general election. The case will be heard through normal court route and the applicants – BMD - have indicated that they are in no hurry to have the matter heard by court. AP Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale confirmed that they have responded to the UDC letter. Dr Butale who is also Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central would however not be drawn into discussing contents of the letter.
“We are jealously guarding against this process and would not want it to fall in wrong hands where our intentions by both parties would be compromised,” said Dr Butale. UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa also confirmed Dr Butale’s assertions. He would also not be drawn into discussing the matter saying it is internal and the UDC leadership would soon meet to deliberate on it. He said information would be shared with the media and the public at the appropriate time and platform.