A group of four Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) veterans; Daniel Kwelagobe, Charles Tibone, Satar Dada and Joseph Legwaila have emerged as power brokers in a move aimed at persuading former President Lt Gen Ian Khama to return to the ruling party.
According impeccable sources, the talks between the former President and the party stalwarts began three months ago, after party elders agreed amicably that the first reconciliation talks that were conducted by former President Festus Mogae, David Magang, Ray Molomo and Patrick Balopi collapsed — with no prospects of resuscitation. WeekendPost understands that the four BDP stalwarts have confided to Khama that they have not been sent by anyone but acting on their personal capacity as party elders.
“They are very much determined to see Khama abandon the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and retracing his steps to the ailing BDP,” a source said. Khama had in previous talks told them [party elders] that there is little that they can do, as he insisted that he preferred to meet President Masisi face-to-face to resolve the current stand-off. Masisi however rejected Khama’s proposal, maintaining that the two of them meet in the presence of party elders.
The deadlock have seen concerned party stalwarts initiating another talks to coax Khama to extend an olive branch to his successor. The talks are spearheaded by the party’s favourite son Kwelagobe. DK, as popularly known in the party spent 27 years as secretary general, and has served under four presidents. Kwelagobe and Khama, served for nearly 20 years together in the party Central Committee. The delegation also has BDP longest serving Central Committee member and Treasurer, Dada. Dada who has been BDP treasurer since 1995 is considered Khama’s close ally.
Adding to the delegation is leading businessman and former minister, Charles Tibone as well as Botswana's former ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and career Diplomat Joseph Manson Legwaila. This publication can confidently reveal that the four staunch members of the ruling party have been involved in talks with Khama for over three months. Tibone is however cagey, and has denied his involvement in reconciling former President Khama and his Masisi but has admitted to meeting the duo on different occasions.
“I personally do meet both leaders from time-to-time where we engage on various issues. They are both our leaders, why shouldn’t we relate and engage them,” Tibone told Weekend Post. The former Tati West legislator said he also met with both Dada and Kwelagobe because they are BDP veterans and they have also engaged on various topics. Tibone said recently Kwelagobe has been unwell and they met several times owing to his health and that that should not be viewed as an issue.
The BDP veteran said his wish is to see a positive solution to both leaders since the stand-off has the potential to harm the country’s economy, the political landscape as well as the country’s future. “If there is a solution, it would be best for the country,” said Charles Tibone. President Khama, when reached for comment, said he could not rule out the possibility of returning back to the BDP one day.Khama confirmed meeting Dada, Tibone, Legwaila and Kwelagobe several times over the past three months.
“We had discussion kind of where they still insists I should come back and re-unite with the party. I think they are concerned about the outcome of the general elections,” said Khama. According to him, this is still work in progress and he will continue to engage them further. Even though he hints at the possibility of coming back, Khama said that will not happen now while some within the party continue to insult him and his family. The former President said he however could not share the contents of the meetings implying that it is confidential. Khama maintained that the four elders cannot assure him of anything and insists that Masisi is the only one who can guarantee his return to BDP.
As the nation awaits President Mokgweetsi Masisi to announce the writ of the general elections which are expected in October this year, the BDP is reportedly pressing on panic buttons as their members are torn between their party and BPF which Khama is its patron. For the first time since Khama left BDP and joined opposition, President Masisi who is also party President announced at rally in Gaborone last week that BDP wants former President Khama back in the BDP fold.
Khama left the BDP unceremoniously few months back and later formed the BPF. Many of his loyalists within the ruling BDP left the party and followed him to the new party, and it is feared that his departure may result in BDP losing electoral support in the Central District, the party’s traditional stronghold where it is Khama’s sphere of influence. Khama and Masisi’s relationship broke down tremendously few months after Masisi took charge in a move which was observed by many as betraying his own master in Ian Khama.
The two men were involved in a number of public spats where they did not spare the rod for each other. Khama has now been going around the country and amassing support for his BPF and opposition in some instances. The BDP is now afraid of voter splitting that might give the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) an opportunity to romp to victory for the first time since 1965.
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.