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Celebrating our heroes and heroines: Dr. Margaret Nasha

Publishing Date : 26 September, 2017

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

For some in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), including President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, Dr. Margaret Nasha is not a heroine simply because she, especially when she was Speaker of the National Assembly, opposed some BDP policies.

To President Khama in particular, when she, in her autobiography, titled ‘Madam Speaker, Sir: Breaking The Glass Ceiling, One Woman’s Struggle’, condemned some of his leadership attributes she moved from heroine to zero. To some in the BDP, her opposition to the BDP’s plan to, after the 2014 general elections, introduce voting by show of hands as opposed to a secret ballot for the elections for the Vice President and Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly made her a villain.

To many in the BDP, her defection from the BDP to its nemesis the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was heresy unpardonable. It was a sin with the effect of erasing all the good she has done for the BDP and Botswana as a country. But, the truth is that Margaret Nnananyana Nasha is a heroine. Her birth on the 6th August 1947 in "Kanye, Botswana" Kanye was not in vain. It was indeed a blessing not only to her parents and BaNgwaketse, but also to Batswana as a people.

The relatives who sold their cattle to assist her mother educate her cannot regret their efforts. Theirs was a worthwhile investment. Her older sister, who supported her through her early childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, can only be thanked for tendering the black cow that would later feed many.

Following her primary education in Mmathethe and secondary education in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nasha studied at the University of Botswana (UB) from whence she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities, English and History.
Nasha has served her country diligently in the civil service. Her voice still echoes in the Radio Botswana studios, the studios in which she worked as political reporter and later as news reader. Those who used to listen to her say she was simply outstanding.

Her excellence in journalism, as a profession, and leadership in general was rewarded when she was appointed Director of the Department of Information and Broadcasting Services. Nasha’s working life was not to end in journalism though it appears to have been, no doubt, her passion. She also served her motherland in the diplomatic service. She served as Botswana's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), a position only entrusted on the best of the best considering the UK’s significance to Botswana.

After the October 1994 general elections, Nasha was nominated by President Sir Ketumile Masire as Specially Elected Member of Parliament following which she was elected as such by the National Assembly. During the 1999 general elections, Nasha won the Parliamentary elections for Gaborone Central constituency, defeating the then presidential candidate,  Michael Dingake of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). This was a significant victory considering the Opposition’s entrenchment in Gaborone.   

However, in the 2004 general elections Nasha was narrowly defeated by Dumelang Saleshando, another BCP candidate, but President Festus Mogae continued her tenure as Member of Parliament (MP) by giving her another lease of life as Specially Elected Member of Parliament. Nasha has served as cabinet minister under Presidents Masire, Mogae and Khama. She will go down in history as one of the most effective Ministers of Local Government, one of her most notable achievements being the enactment of a world class Childrens’ Act.

At a policy making level, Nasha has served her country as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Minister of Local Government and Minister of Lands and Housing. One of her notable legislative achievements is the enactment of the Abolition of Marital Power Act, which has gone a long way in reducing gender inequality. Her love for childrens’ rights and welfare saw her becoming one of the most outstanding patrons of the Masiela Trust Fund, a trust fund set up for the welfare and care of orphaned and vulnerable children.

After the 2009 general elections, Nasha was elected unopposed as the Speaker of the National Assembly, becoming the first female Speaker of the National Assembly. As Speaker, Nasha fought for the independence of the National Assembly,
During her tenure as Speaker, she took steps to strengthen separation of powers between the Executive and Legislature, refusing several orders from the Executive, something which alienated her from many in the BDP, including President Khama.
Reportedly, the hostility between president Khama and Nasha was so bad that in April 2014 Khama considered using a vote of no confidence to remove her as Speaker, but was dissuaded from so acting by his advisors who feared the vote of no confidence may fail, making her more popular.

Because of this acrimony when she, in 2014, stood for re-election for the position of Speaker, the BDP declined to nominate her. She was instead nominated by the Opposition. She would lose the elections to  Gladys Kokorwe, the current Speaker of the National Assembly. Nasha would, in January 2016, defect to the BMD, an affiliate of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), following which she went on a war path against the BDP and president Khama’s leadership. Given her leadership experience, she was appointed as Advisor to the key offices at the level of the UDC and at contracting party levels.

Of course some have said Nasha is no heroine, accusing her of having failed to comment on the BDP’s poor governance and maladministration when she was at the centre of power. In their view, the only reason Nasha is speaking against the BDP now is that she is bitter of having been dropped as Speaker of the National Assembly. But when she fought in defence of the independence of Parliament she was, as Speaker, at the center of power wasn’t she? Yet she sacrificed such a position for the principles she believed in. She fought for democracy at the risk of losing her position.

Nasha had demonstrated such a trait early in her life when she, together with such other gender activists as Dr. Gloria Somolekae, Dr. Athalia Molokomme and Ntombi Setshwaelo fought against subjugation of women. To the best of my knowledge, in all her years in the public service, Nasha has led by example. She has never been embroiled in corruption and maladministration or indeed any scandal. Even when she, in 2004, lost the Parliamentary elections for Gaborone Central constituency it was not because of corruption and maladministration.

Her detractors argue that during her tenure as Minister of Local Government she failed to restore calm in the chieftaincy, citing the time she went to the Molepolole Kgotla to deliver the news that Kgosi Kgosikwena Sebele should hand over the reins to Kgosi Kgari Sechele as the rightful heir of the Bakwena chieftainship. They also blame her for the controversial relocation of Basarwa from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) in the early 2000s, something which led to a protracted court battle between Basarwa led by Roy Sesana and the government and gained Botswana international notoriety in the protection of minority rights.

But, what the detractors do not mention is the fact that, as a cabinet Minister bound by the doctrine of collective responsibility, Nasha was merely implementing government’s decisions. She, as a minister appointed by the president and serving at the president’s pleasure, was acting on behalf of the president. It is for heroines like Nasha that our schools, roads and hospitals should be named after. It is for such people that a hero and heroines’ acre should be established for their burial. It is for such people that a Hall of Fame should be built for their names and contributions to be indelibly inscribed for future generations to learn from.



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