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.
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.
The indefinite strike at Botswana Unified Revenue Services has now descended into an all-out war between the Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the tax agency. After BOPEU changed its tactics on the strike to make the employer feel its effects, BURS has now resorted to serving the striking employees the same medicine. This has forced BOPEU to approach the Industrial Court for intervention as a matter of urgency.
The case has been set for next week Tuesday for arguments. BOPEU changed the tactics a fortnight ago after the 14 days of strike elapsed. A new agreement on how the strike will continue has been agreed between BOPEU and BURS management in terms of Section 39 of the Trade Dispute Act. BOPEU was represented by Andrew Motsamai while BURS was represented by Commissioner General Keneilwe Morris. BURS employees who are BOPEU members will engage in a go slow followed by a sit in and a work to rule approach every day and there will be a total withdraw of labour twice a month and the strike will still be indefinite.
The strategy according to BOPEU was to ensure that the employer cannot replace labour because under the labour law if employees go on strike for more than 14 days, the employer can replace labour. Following this BURS then issued binding forms to those who wish to return to work. The employer would later lock out the employees. A letter from BURS Director of Human Resources Ms Pelaleo informs those wishing to voluntarily return to work to sign a form with the undertaking; “I confirm that I wish to voluntarily approach management with a view to return to work.
I accept that BURS will only allow me back to under the following conditions, that; I shall not be seen in any manner to be participating in a go slow during working hours; my access to BURS facilities shall be reinstated; I shall not interfere with the security of BURS facilities either electronically or others; the BURS General Conditions of Service shall continue to apply to me and I advise that I understand the above conditions and accept to be bound by them in full.”The BOPEU attorneys in a letter dated August 5th 2015 said the contents of the letter are unlawful as BOPEU has on many past occasions implored BURS management not to deal directly with the union members. BOPEU argues in its court papers that the decision by BURS to require written undertaking from employees is unlawful and invalid. The union also states that the lock out notice is untoward and unlawful. The union wants these decisions to be declared unlawful and nullified by the court. However BURS Commissioner General, Keneilwe Morris says the written undertaking by the employees is lawful, valid and enforceable in this circumstance. Morris stated in court papers that there is nothing untoward with the timing of the issuing of the lock out notice.
Morris says BURS is entitled by operation of law to opt for a lock out provided that such lock out is in accordance with the provision of the Trade Dispute Act. “The respondent has now exercised its rights under the Act by issuing the appropriate notice. Such notice meets all the requirements of Section 39. Nothing in the Act requires any justification or reason for an employer to resort to a lock out provided that a dispute which was subject to a mediation process in terms of Section 39 could not be resolved in terms thereof and a certificate issued by the mediator to that effect. Once the above is satisfied and other requirements of the section are met, then BURS was entitled to issue the notice”, states the Commissioner General.Morris further denied that the alleged dispute between BURS and BOPEU has any impact in the BURS’ ability or right to issue a lock out notice.
He said neither do the Strike Rules prevent the issuing of the lock out notice provided, “It satisfied the requirements of the Act, which I submit it did. The Dispute which led to the issuing of the certificate by the mediator is one of interest and once that is established, then the respondent is entitled to pursue a lock out subject to satisfying other requirements set out in section 39”. BOPEU has since met with the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) on the salary negotiation deadlock. UDC has since called on government to listen to the employees to agree on an amicable solution. BDP allegedly approached President Ian Khama for intervention but this was dismissed by BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane, in an interview with Botswana Guardian.
Ntuane said the BDP Labour Committee met with both BOPEU and BURS last week. “We are going to meet BOPEU again because it is an ongoing process. It is not true that we were turned down by President Khama on the issue let alone met him. We are trying to organise a meeting with BOPEU again and until we have concluded the matter we cannot divulge what was discussed with the concerned parties because the issue is still confidential,” said Ntuane. BURS employees engaged in an industrial action late last month after BOPEU and the employer reached a deadlock in their salary increment negotiations. BOPEU has proposed an 11 percent increment while BURS stays unmoved at 6 percent. The employer has reiterated that it is aligning its increment with that of the rest of the public service. The Parastatal has been established to asses and collect taxes on behalf of government.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Lebang Mpotokwane is happy that Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has resolved at its congress in Kanye that it is ready to enter into cooperation talks with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). Mpotokwane is the convenor of the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the UDC ahead of the 2014 general election. “This is good news. It offers hope that what we had originally wanted will materialise,” he said in an interview.
UDC comprises of Botswana People's Party (BPP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Movement for Democratic (BMD). Mpotokwane and his committee are worried that, although opposition parties have always existed in this country, they have always been too weak to offer themselves as a serious alternative to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been in power since 1966. For starters, the BDP won 37 constituencies to the opposition’s total of 20 seats in the 2014 general elections. With the total number of constituencies standing at 57, the opposition needed only an additional nine (9) seats to achieve the minimum requirement of the 29 seats to dethrone the BDP.
Significantly, it occurred after the election that, had there not been vote splitting between the UDC and the BCP, 13 more parliamentary seats could have been won by the opposition. After the general election the spectre of vote-splitting encouraged opinion makers to pile more pressure on the BCP to consider working with the other opposition parties. The party was accused of having saved the BDP from losing power by staying out of the Umbrella 2 talks following the collapse of the Umbrella 1 talks. Equally unhappy were some members of the BCP who even threatened to decamp should their party not embrace opposition cooperation. It was argued that the poor performance at the polls by the BCP was a statement by the voters that they did not approve of the BCP stance regarding opposition cooperation.
The hitherto fastest growing party lost five of its total of eight parliamentary seats at the polls last year. Opinion is divided over whether the BCP resolution at its congress in Kanye recently was anything opposition cooperation enthusiasts should celebrate. In 2010, the party made a similar resolution at its congress held in Maun only for the talks, dubbed Umbrella 1, to collapse due to disagreements with the other partners especially on the allocation of constituencies. Following the decision to go it alone by the BCP ahead of last year’s polls, a long season of acrimonious accusations and counter-accusations ensued between the UDC and the BCP much to the chagrin of those who considered a fragmented opposition as a liability to the country’s democracy.
Although many applaud the BCP for responding to the demands of the voters as the party president Dumelang Saleshando implied in his speech to the delegates in Kanye, many fear that not much will come out of the envisaged Umbrella 3 talks. They are convinced that this time around, the stakes are much higher making the negotiations even harder.
The composition of the central committee of the new look UDC as well as the allocation of constituencies, are likely to be the deal-breakers. Anthony Morima, a social commentator observed in an interview that because the possibility of attaining power by the opposition is more real than in 2014, there is likely to be more fighting for constituencies and wards in Umbrella 3. The problem is likely to be compounded by the fact that the respective influences of the BCP and the UDC have altered significantly after the election. The parties were almost at par in terms of parliamentary representation before the election last year but with the BCP down to three seats and the UDC at 17 seats, the negotiations are likely to be poisoned by emotions of bitterness and arrogance.
The UDC might, perhaps mistakenly, refuse to consider the BCP as an equal partner.
Some members of the UDC hold the view that with or without the BCP, not only can they retain the 17 seats they have but win 12 more constituencies in the next election to achieve the target of 29 seats. “Several things need to happen for the talks to succeed. One of them is for the BCP to acknowledge their being a junior partner. They lost it in 2014 when they had more credibility. On the other hand, the UDC must show maturity and not let their main opposition status go to their head. Should this happen, the public might shift its sympathy and support to the BCP,” observed Morima who however thinks the BCP could have done better to go it alone again and serve as a third option. Although the BCP performed dismally in 2014, it came second after the BDP in 17 constituencies while the UDC got second position to the BDP in 20 constituencies. Besides, the party maintained its 2009 popular vote of 140 000 votes doing better that the UDC in a total of 20 constituencies.
According to Lawrence Ookeditse, the BCP resolution in Kanye is really nothing new. “The announcement on its own is nothing new because we have had such expressions of intent before especially after an election. It might actually be a survival tactic by the beleaguered party,” said the academic. Asked whether it will be possible for the two entities to trust each other and negotiate in good faith especially considering the bad blood that has existed between them when they went through an acrimonious period of finger-pointing before and after the election, he said. “Forget about trust. The two can cooperate even if they do not trust each other. It is called realism. They know they need each other,” he opined. In his view, even if the BCP declaration was genuine, like Morima, he believes that the devil is in the details.
Ookeditse contends that the biggest challenge for the opposition camps remains the model of cooperation. “For example, the BCP might not want to join the UDC in the present structure but propose alterations which might not be attractive to the current affiliates of the UDC. The BCP might propose for a new party altogether although I believe that would be ill-advised. Perhaps the best way forward would be for the BCP to not create more problems for themselves and their potential partners by allowing for the UDC to remain as it is currently provided they get some slots in the UDC executive and central committees,” added Ookeditse.
His take is that the project has got both opportunities and risks in equal measure. “There is no doubt that cooperation brings with it a lot of opportunities for the parties concerned. But imagine what would happen if they lose the 2019 general election even after cooperating,” he wondered. In his view, that possibility requires the BCP to think hard before joining the bandwagon. “Joining the Umbrella by the BCP would certainly produce a much bigger coalition but if the entity loses the election in 2019, there will be serious recriminations,” warned Ookeditse. While cooperation could help the parties to win power, there is also the problem of loss of identity. “The challenge of loss of identity is real especially if eventually the Umbrella becomes unsustainable causing the parties to go their separate ways. The smaller parties would suffer the most because, right now, executive positions are held by the leaders of the bigger parties in the UDC. This state of affairs reduces the visibility of the leaders of the smaller parties such that, should the Umbrella break, they will be starting from scratch.
The visibility and spread of smaller parties are also limited when constituencies are allocated to the cooperating parties,” explained Ookeditse who added that cooperation may reduce even the bigger partners to regional entities. Ookeditse said that there was always the potential for talks to fail especially when the other party feels that its values, principles and strategic interests are undermined. Instead of joining the UDC, he said the BCP has another choice. “The BCP could instead offer itself as a third choice by going it alone again. The BCP could choose to be the tie-breaker between the UDC and BDP in the next general election and avoid the risks associated with committing to opposition cooperation,” observed the political scientist. Should the cooperation talks fail and the BCP lose the propaganda war again, chances are that it would sink further into political oblivion. One of the challenges of opposition cooperation is that it causes instability in some if not all the parties.
Indications are that members of the BCP who were recently suspended were preparing to leave their party in favour of the BDP because they were irked by the congress resolution for the party to explore cooperation with the UDC. It is reported that the Southern regions of the BCP are less welcoming to the cooperation project than the northern region. Said a source, “In many cases, personal interests are at play. If the BCP joins the Umbrella and the 2014 general election results are used as a guide, many BCP activists would have to give way to the UDC because in many constituencies and wards in the south, the UDC did better than the BCP.” To this, Ookeditse said, “All should be acutely aware of the sacrifices that will have to be made at council, parliamentary and leadership levels that come with 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”.
The unexpected resignation of Member of Parliament for Goodhope –Mabule constituency, James Mathokgwane who resigned with immediate effect on Wednesday as the MP has left more questions than answers. The resignation comes just seven months after being elected into office.
Contacted for comment on Wednesday, Mathokgwane said, “I have resigned as MP to pursue my other interests in life. These things come at any time, mme legale go tla siama, gago nke go senyegela ruri” (all will be well.’) He said he remained a “loyal member of the Botswana National Front, the UDC,” adding that they had arranged for a press conference on the subject on Thursday at 3pm. Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe said Mathokgwane’s resignation letter was in one line and that he did not state reasons for his resignation. “Some would indicate that they are going for greener pastures but his did not state. I have since accepted it and responded in a letter which he is yet to receive.
I do appreciate his time that he has been with us and the contribution he has made so far in Parliament,” Kokorwe said. During his tenure as MP, Mathokgwane served as a member in the following parliamentary portfolio committees and inter parliamentary body; Labour and Home Affairs; Health and HIV/AIDS; Governance and Oversight; and Southern African Development Community-Parliamentary Forum. Kokorwe said that Mathokgwane did not attend the ongoing SADC-PF standing committee meetings at Phakalane which he sits in. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa said Mathokgwane’s reasons for resigning are personal. “As the UDC, we respect his decision and the reasons advanced. Cde Mathokgwane’s reasons for resigning are personal and therefore private. We believe that Cde Mathokgwane’s right to privacy should be respected,” said the party spin-doctor.
Mohwasa said that Mathokgwane has served the UDC, particularly the Botswana National Front (BNF) in different capacities. “It is this confidence that people had in him as a result of his service to the party and the nation that he won the GoodHope/ Mabule seat under the UDC. The party wishes Cde Mathokgwane well in his future endeavors and has no doubt that he will continue with the struggle for the emancipation of our people in other capacities,” he said. UDC President Duma Boko said Mathokgwane’s resignation has nothing to do with the party. “He cited personal reasons and decided to resign. We have lost a great representative. He was at least one of the able and articulate MPs in the present Parliament. We appreciate his capability as a leader. We know he faced challenges in his personal space which had compelled him to take the decision he has taken which we respect and should not detract from the passion and commitment that he has shown for his constituency and his people, and trust that the people of the constituency will appreciate the contribution that he has made within a short period,” Boko said in his tribute.
Asked if they will contest the by-election in the constituency, which will be occasioned by the resignation, Botswana Congress Party president Dumelang Saleshando said: “Our standing resolution is that as and when vacancies arise and by-elections are called, we will decide whether or not to contest depending on the realities of each constituency or ward. So we will be consulting our structures and we will decide on the way forward. But, I must stress that where we decide not to contest, we support the UDC if they contest.” Political analyst Prof. Zibani Maundeni said it is very sad that a young MP who won election a few months ago could resign so early, even before his contribution could be felt in Parliament. “This leaves the UDC very vulnerable, and could easily be accused of absconding. What guarantee is there that another of their party member would not also resign if elected?” asked the University of Botswana lecturer.
Mathokgwane’s resignation gives the former MP for the area Kitso Mokaila an opportunity to win back the constituency for the BDP, which currently has 37 elected MPs. UDC has been reduced to 16 MPs while minority opposition BCP remains with its three MPs. It was not clear at the time of writing when the Independent Electoral Commission would call the by-election. Mathokgwane made it to Parliament in the 2104 general election after defeating the current Minister of Minerals Energy and Water Resources, Kitso Mokaila with 6712 votes to 6101. BCP’s Lesego Gatogang was crawling behind with 717 votes. Mathokgwane’s resignation means that parties will have to go for a by-election in the constituency.