President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is a man on a mission to convince Batswana that he needs a fresh mandate, and indeed last weekend’s BDP all candidates retreat chronicles the ambush that the party is plotting in an effort to white-wash the opposition in the general elections expected in four months’ time.
Records compiled at the recent closed door meeting of the BDP in Gaborone suggest that the ruling party goes into this election with doubts and has a deep-seated fear of the opposition. It is apparent from the evidence before this publication that the BDP is wary of the uncertainties they face in the upcoming elections. According to the compilation, some of the party’s foot soldiers bluntly said it before President Masisi that this year’s vote will not be an easy one for the BDP as he may think.
This fear has forced the party leadership to come up with a robust electioneering four months grand-plan ahead of the highly contested polls. The grand-plan covers a wide spectrum of national issues with a sharp focus on ‘problematic areas’ like availability of water, decentralization of health services, corruption, review of the constitution and the public perception of Masisi’s government amongst many others.
According to the party communique, the retreat was a chance for the candidates to not only bond, engage, debate, but also to share knowledge, ideas and skills. The National Strategy, Communication & International Relations (NSCSIR) team facilitated the session and also made some presentations to train and equip the Candidates with key strategic skills. Apart from all the 57 candidates, the party also invited veterans including Daniel Kwelagobe and former ministers; Kavis Kario and Jacob Nkate.
MASISI WANTS VOTERS PRIORITISED
The BDP strategic meeting exposed in order of chronology, the BDP’s fears going into this election and at the fore front is the servicing of voters. Masisi has pleaded with party members that with four months before elections candidates should sweat to ensure that electorates are pleased so the party could retain state power in October. “I have taken a decision to allow ministers to work with Batswana, I want politicians to work with the electorates, and we should service our people.
Same thing with me, I will also work three days in office as times goes on will take two. Everywhere I go I will be having my office, we have a very mobile presidency.” He said with ululations and whistles following him. Masisi said he will also visit the constituencies so that he can see how the members relate with voters and other party structures. “I will also visit your constituencies un-announced, and invite myself to relevant structures meetings so that I could audit. I want to remind you that you should obey party orders, no one is immune there are times where you have a choice and sometimes you don’t because it is a political formation after all.”
Shortages of drugs and medications in public clinics and hospitals which have been going on will have to be corrected four months before polls. This according to the president will call for the decentralization of management. “We are also about to decentralize the health system. We want to decentralize management of the health services, so that decision could be taken at a local level and they are capacitated by a budget.
So when we prepare for budget in July we are going to ensure that with my competent cabinet and it looks like they will agree with me.” He said there should be no shortages of medication as that tarnishes the BDP and it will be a thing of the past in the coming months. “Re rogakwa ke batho mo dintshong mo, gotwe ga gona dipilisi tsa high-blood, this should stop.”
INVESTORS WANT OPPOSITION WHITE-WASHED
In a startling revelation, Masisi told the candidates that he has been approaching the business community for possible funding and is glad to tell them that he has received a lump sum of cash from investors. “We have received pulas for campaign and we are going to test you. All who are here you will get something those who are not present won’t get anything. You must be disciplined. I don’t want to see the attitude of the past five years which has worsened now to an extent that you tell our rivals how we operate.”
Masisi said he is happy that the likes of party treasure Satar Dada, Indians and Chinese investors assisted the party. “If they got all the money legally like we now our treasure is doing and whoever you know it could be Koreans or Africans if it is clean then there is nothing wrong.” He further told the democrats that the BDP was broke. “This party was P50 million on the red. The banks are not willing to lend us money, we have to rely on being transparent. Dada gave us 60 cars, we would have not managed this if it was not Dada and use these cars wisely they are not yours they are for constituencies and for the party.”
Masisi who was closing down the retreat continued; “I want to inform you what the party has done for you. We are expecting before Vice President’s launch another trench of t shirts. Every constituency will have 10,000 t-shirts don’t worry about our visibility. Every constituency will also have 3000 umbrellas, there will be more umbrellas in BDP than in the Umbrella, deliberately so. Bandana for the youth and caps will be 2500 as well as flags. There is a lot we are getting from the goodwill,” he revealed.
It is pointed out that some of the donors prescribed the condition that the money be used to fight opposition-held constituencies; while the other said his money be used on marginal constituencies while the other gave the money with no conditions. Masisi further revealed that he is expecting more money around September, “so everyone will be receiving something to give you a boost and a push. So share the money amongst yourselves. All who are here will get something those who are not ba jelwe,” he said.
NO WATER RATIONING FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS PLEASE
Candidates have since last year been appealing to the leadership to suspend the electricity and water cuts as it has become a hot potato attracting the public’s wrath on the BDP. They said it has been among the opposition’s favorite subjects. Members requested that water cut should be suspended and maybe be brought back after the elections. Masisi promised them that leading to the elections that would be water under the bridge. The BDP will, if push comes to the shove amend Water Utilities (WUC) act and also engage council to pump and avail water to Batswana.
“We want to do the same (decentralization) for water, lea bokolla ka metsi mo go lebaneng. But we will be very sensitive to the budget implications. Because in reality part of failures with water, is procurement. PPADB act needs to and it is reviewed. Information is leaked; and this is corruption! What do you want to achieve when you leak information about the multimillion tender? That must stop! Some of you who leak this I know you. This will also not grow our private sector. We might amend WUC act to allow council to pump water so that we can have water in our taps, but you should know that water is a scarce resource”.
CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN TOURISM
The lament that locals are pushed to the woods when it comes to the meaningful participation of the economy is another matter that will be pushed and implemented before the October elections. “The BDP government is also concerned by the way Batswana are participating in tourism and will in July implement Citizen Empowerment law and Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) law”.
President Masisi says this is for the locals to be included in the economy of this country. We will have citizen participating in tourism economy and we will also push for economic diversification law, we want them to buy and sell what is produced locally. We cheat our fiscals by supporting people who are not helping the locals, VP (Slumber Tsogwane) note them this will be implemented in July”.
The retreat also saw Masisi revealing to candidates that as a party, plans are underway to revise the constitution as some quarters of the society have demanded. He asked candidates to tell voters that the constitution will soon be revised. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue and all the stuff.
The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.” He cited example of Ntlo ya Dikgosi saying some feel they are not included arguing that everyone should be equal. “The intention is not to break anyone but rather unite us as Batswana,” he said this amid thunder of applause from fellow democrats.
CORRUPTION MUST STOP
Masisi who has branded himself a man who has zero tolerance for corruption and respects the rule of law, wants to be remembered as such. “The other thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption” he specially told this to his cabinet ministers. “If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it.
Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work for, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospitals whilst you know you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), lenna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP),” he warned with passion.
THE JOB CREATION QUESTION
Masisi, from the records, says he is aware that some candidates want him to commit as to how many jobs he would have created in his first five year term if he could win. “I hear from the report that I received that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such. What do we do when South Africa stops our container import, what do we do? Wage bill going up without any returns coming in.”
President Masisi also went on record that he and businessman Strive Masiyiwa will sweat until at least 3000 youth are employed. This he says will be anchored on the ICT as it has proven that it is the only tool that could emancipate the youth from trenches on joblessness. “Before the next five years elapse Rwanda will be behind us. But we need political commitment and it should be Batswana running these ICT projects not underhand deals of tenders. We will have to involve them (youth) in town hall meetings just like we did with Masiyiwa some years back. Will be carrying out another one where we are expecting 6000 youths,” he said further reiterating that, “Government does not create jobs but rather create enabling environment. We want to open this economy and this needs us working together”.
NO LIVING WAGE FOR NOW
Unlike the main opposition, UDC, BDP President and his party are for now not considering minimum wage but maybe in the future when the economy is sustainable. “If you think we have money under UDC or BNF it will diminish because they want to pay P3000 without any productivity in the economy. We want sustainability and to grow the economy so we can actually pay even P5000, or even P10, 000, we don’t have any upper limit, we want affordability and sustainability,” he said. Masisi indicated that he is glad UDC publicized its manifesto, “but add them up and tell me if it’s sustainable. Rapid increases in wages lead to inflation like you have never seen and become uncontrollable like in Zimbabwe”.
MASISI SAYS EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REVAMPED
The deteriorating performance of students at schools is another matter that Masisi says deserves attention. However, unlike others, this will not be rushed to achieve results in the next four months but will be in the pipe line. “Are we getting value out of investment we make,” he asked rhetorically. He says a standard one pupil needs more time from a teacher than a standard seven student.
“In our education we have not responded to the way we should have especially to junior school students. We have created prisons which are not good for human development, this is my professional view.” Masisi disclosed that he will engage the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) to do school mapping. He also revealed that plans are underway to resume double shift. “Concentration of kids is not four hours it is too much. We will engage MOBE to commit to double shifting.”
MASISI LECTURES CANDIDATES ON POLITICS
With four months before elections, Masisi taught candidates on the tactics to win their constituencies. He told the members that victory in all the constituencies is possible but can only be achieved through hard work, prioritizing voters and unity. “Let’s make people happy, the BDP should make Batswana happy. There are many attributes to it. Let’s not shout, hate and critique people. You are not representing the party.
If you do that Le jelwe, he said. “Polotiki ga se maikgantsho, don’t come with your fancy car at rallies because it might depict you as motho yoo maikgantsho. Fancy cars belong somewhere. We are about people feeling good, not yourself. Many of you should become politicians”. Masisi who leads the party that performed dismally in the last elections amassing 47% of popular vote directed the members to brand BDP. “Some of you are averse with party colours, this thing must stop. It is not about putting on red merchandise, it’s about the brand. Even oppositions are better than us, it is embarrassing, and this should stop.”
He went on to advise candidates that with few months before the polls they should use P10 million for constituency fund to lure votes. “You have P570 million of constituency funds including opposition constituencies and what are you doing with the money? You should use it strategically so that you can show tangible results to voters. You should have charm so that people are happy. Campaign is like menstrual cycle.”
BOGOSI, MEDIA WILL NOT BE HARRASED
Masisi blames part of the dismal performance of the party in the last election to the relation with other institutions especially Bogosi and the media. “This party was not created to harass our tradition and we should ensure that Bogosi remains a strong foundation for us. If Dikgosi harass you in politics then don’t hit back, roll on with the punches. BDP is committed to deliver a stable government. We are not hunting anyone. “O Bolele mogoloo,” Masisi told Tshekedi Khama.
The president went on to reveal that he will not rest until he brings back Kgosi Kgafela in Botswana. “A lot of tribal leaders were also unhappy with us. The other even went to the extent of dumping Botswana for South Africa-Kgafela of Bakgatla. And we know very well that our country is not complete without our tribal leaders. We must accept this reality. I will not rest until Kgafela is back home, I will not.” He says the media should also be allowed to do its job without fear as they are the fourth estate. He says as a party they have taken a decision for the media to regulate itself.
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.