The newly appointed Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) Eric Molale is currently the most sought after Cabinet Minister. The reason is plain and simple; he is by law and purpose expected to announce the final list of nominated councilors, usually the last hope of redemption for election losers and political enthusiasts.
The Minister is expected to announce appointment of at least 133 specially nominated councillors. It is expected that an overwhelming majority of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members who lost in the recent General Elections will make the cut. This week, WeekendPost has established that the issue of the councillors’ nomination was discussed at length by the ruling party, in their weekly meeting. There were concerns from various members including Minister Molale. The Minister’s peers demanded to know why it has taken this long for the Minister to have released the final list for the nominations.
It is said Molale, who enjoys power, kept calm and even raised his own queries. According to informants the Minister decried the fact that the Permanent Secretary (PS) from the same Ministry invited the interested players to submit their names for special nomination consideration. It is said the Minister wanted this to have been done after he was appointed to head the Ministry and suspected it was done to undermine him.
“There was confusion as to who directed the PS to do that because it should have been a directive from the Minister. So he was just raising that concern. This was after fellow legislators asked him what could be delaying the list of nominations and the confusion caused thereof as some interested parties were told a new saving-gram will circulate replacing the initial one,” an informant told this publication.
Molale’s concerns converge with that of Leader of Opposition (LOO) Dumelang Saleshando, who has questioned the decision to have specially nominated councillors applying for the post before the relevant Minister was appointed. Subsequent to the confusion, Molale issued a directive suspending the orientation of all councillors across the country. The orientations of almost 500 councillors were scheduled for this past week and it was stopped mid-way on Monday.
“Molale feels undermined. All along elected councillors do their orientation first then the specially elected do theirs later. But after the directive, both elected and nominated councillors will do the orientation at the same time. He just wants to wield the power he has,” one Councillor shared with WeekendPost. Molale could not comment on the matter, saying: “Please talk to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry.” The enquiries directed to the acting PS Col Duke Masilo, were also not efficiently responded to.
“The deadline for submission to the Minister was on the 20th of this month. The Minister then has to submit to his Principal, whereupon a final decision will be taken on nominations.” On the directive which cancelled orientation, Col Masilo said: “I am not fully aware of the stopped orientations but I will enquire and revert.”
The councillors however are crying foul that the current development has stalled progress, as they prepare to take on their duties. The councils have the responsibility of electing Council chairpersons, Mayors as well as Constituting Committees, a task which councillors want to deal with without delay.
BDP to reward party loyalists and activists
Special nomination of councillors has been a debatable matter over the years, with opposition politicians questioning its purpose and fairness. In the General Elections of 2014, of the 133 councilors nominated by the then Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane, only seven belonged to the opposition while the rest were BDP members and predominately preceding election losers.
There are reports that the trio of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his Vice-Slumber Tsogwane and Molale want to short circuit the process and mostly reward the party veterans who were assisting in the campaigns of the just ended elections. Secret meetings are said to be held even at the State House, to decide who will make the cut. This is another factor that has irked the MPs, who as per norm, are given the opportunity to pitch a name or two for nominations.
“But it seems like this time around the decision will be taken by these three, leaving key stakeholders [MPs] out,” highlighted a source on Thursday morning. As per the practice, each party represented in a council has the right to suggest names for the positions of nominated councillors which are routed through the District Commissioners for consideration by the Minister. Each constituency is entitled to two nominations which the Minister could decline or accept.
WeekendPost has it on good authority who those party activists are; those who worked hard during the campaigns and those who lost in the past General Elections. BDP is also said to be working on a plan that will ensure that nomination of councillors will be used to neutralize opposition in councils were BDP numbers fell short. Nominated Councillors have in the past helped the ruling party to balance power in Local Authorities. There are areas where the BDP was out-numbered by a small fraction and it used the dispensation to manipulate the scales.
After the October 23rd election, the ruling party has control of, Francistown City Council, Sowa Town, North East District Council, Chobe District Council, Southern District Council, and Lobatse Town Council, Jwaneng Town Council, South East, Kweneng, Kgatleng and Kgalagadi it however shares Ghanzi with UDC. The UDC is expected to control North West, Central District Council, and Selibe Phikwe.
Among the nominated names which raised eyebrows, was Alec Seametso who lost in the previous General Elections of 2014. Also nominated in 2014, was Oliphant Mfa, Andy Boatile and Shabir Kablay. This time around the names of Lotty Manyapedza and Mpho Kooreme are already hinted for nominations. The system has always been condemned by opposition MPs as they see it as a way of bringing back individuals who were rejected by voters, therefore going against the wishes of the electorates.
Even in the past BDP heavy weights like former Vice President, Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe have spoken against the practice. During the 9th Parliament, Kedikilwe tabled a motion in Parliament calling for the system to be scrapped, as it had diverted from its intended purpose and instead has been turned into a patronage exercise aimed at rewarding BDP activists.
The immediate past leader of opposition, Duma Boko has in the past revealed that his party planned to overhaul the legislation surrounding specially elected MPs and councilors. “I must record the indignant rage felt by us in the opposition and indeed the scornful resentment all reasonable citizens feel at this disgraceful conduct. There is nothing honorable about the conduct of the executive in this regard.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.