In an effort to silently deal with former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama who is on a mission to fight back what he deems injustice against his person, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Government on the one hand appear to have devised a modus operandi to stop the marauding Khama.
Key to this method of push back against the former President is a move to deny him access to facilities that are under government control; while on the other hand the ruling party will not amplify his sentiments by responding to them. Khama and the BDP are on the war path with the former accusing the latter of breaching the constitution of the party and subverting democracy. Meanwhile the former President has numerous cases lined up in the courts where seeks to claim compensation from Government after he was denied services which he feels are legally recognized by the law.
Since handing over power to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, there has not been peace between the former President and his successor. This past week he made known his intentions to quit the ruling party and to support the opposition and various independent candidates. There is however a school of thought that the BDP will employ similar machinery with that used in the run up to Kang congress. “It is very important that the party’s veterans speak out against Khama. The current leadership does not need to fight back, but rather use respected veterans to put Khama in his place,” asserted a party senior official.
FORMER MPS BLAST KHAMA
BDP former Members of Parliament released a statement telling that Khama is not bigger than the party. “In its 57 years history, BDP has remained welded together by the selfless service of its members, and leaders alike. The desire to put the interest of the nation and party before those of individuals is the reason for its strong foundations. The recent events are foreign to our party and cannot be allowed to pass by without any counsel. We hereby offer this much needed counsel,” they wrote.
The 39 MPs stated that they hold the view that all are equal before the BDP constitution and that of the Country. We are convinced that our long and proud history is not the result of the labour of a select few, it is rather the product of the collective. “No person who holds, or who has held BDP membership nor who has had the privilege of office should lay sole claim to its illustrious governance and service delivery to the people. Successive generations have built their legacies on the foundations of past cadres. For this reason, we wish to caution those who may be made to believe the contrary.”
HOW THE BDP INTENDS TO DEAL WITH KHAMA
Ruling BDP top politburo has this week distanced themselves from commenting on the utterances that were made by both the party ex leader Ian Khama and some of his subjects at a Serowe meeting where he (Khama) was consulting them (tribe) on his intention to dump the party. Khama is the paramount chief of Ga-Mmangwato region in the Central District, the most populated region in the country and therefore possesses command and influence to sway elections in the region – which is a BDP stronghold.
At the meeting, the Ga-Mmangwato chief also emphasised that the area is a BDP iron grip and the party should therefore be mindful of that especially in light of the rift that still exists between Khama and the incumbent president Mokgweetsi Masisi. The rift has led to the Serowe meeting where Masisi and his administration was dismissed and the tribe vowed to follow Khama wherever he goes in his political trajectory. Khama and Bangwato accused Masisi and his government of sabotage, diminishing his legacy and generally not treating him well.
“We need to ask ourselves on whether the BDP has authority of that gathering addressed by a paramount chief (Khama) to his subjects/tribe. It was not a meeting of the BDP. So as a BDP SG, I cannot discuss the utterances made therein. I won’t even unpack the decisions of that kgotla. It is uncalled for,” Balopi told Weekend Post in an interview this week.
As BDP, Balopi stressed that they see the meeting of Serowe as more of a kgotla meeting, even though it was held at showgrounds, than a BDP political forum and hence their limitations in taking an official position on it. Balopi continued: “so, I cannot contest or protest what was said therein. As BDP re agela mahoko a kgosi mosako (which is translated to that the party respects the outcome of the kgotla meeting).
On behalf of the BDP high command the SG also stated that he “also have no appetite or energy to respond to the gathering of a kgotla system. Decisions of the kgotla are not something of public debate. I respect the sanctity of the place. As the Setswana saying mahoko a mantle otlhe meaning freedom of expression is also respected at the kgotla. According to Balopi, however he said the party, in respect to Khama, also hold in high regard Setswana maxim that susu ilela suswana gore suswana le ene a go ilele (loosely translated that elders should also respect the young ones for them to also return the gesture).
“The remarks were very unfortunate. But, as BDP we believe in a contestation of ideas where everyone can express themselves freely. We also believe in freedom of association. We want everyone to be able to articulate their voices without hindrance but without necessarily ridiculing others,” Balopi said. He continued: “we cannot stop anyone to criticise our party, but, our freedom of expression ends where the other one starts. And so, as a member of the BDP we should adhere to the party constitution as well as rules and regulations.”
As the BDP we have processes and procedures, he said adding that ga re iphetlhele batho kana ope hela (we don’t poke people without reason or any basis). “As BDP we respect our elders especially leaders who came before us. And so we are mindful that we deal with them on different, and various levels. We dealing with different people, and so we also employ different approaches.” Balopi confirmed that therefore they will not take any disciplinary action on Khama especially because it was not a party event but a kgotla function.
“For the fact that we say we respect him, even if he has said a lot of things against the party does not automatically equate to suggestions that are going around that we fear the man,” he told this publication. If it was the meeting of BDP, Balopi said they would have taken action because the party has processes and procedures in place. “So this was not the case.” On whether some BDP legislators Phillip Makgalemele, Ignatious Moswaane and Master Goya also faces an axe or disciplinary action he said: “I can safely say that is not true. It is news to me. We have never had anything of that sort.”
He continued to explain that the disciplinary procedure in the BDP is that, there have to be a complainant and a respondent but it has never been so with the law makers. “As a Secretary General and chief respondent, I have never received any report warranting any disciplinary action.” In terms of the BDP independents, he said they categorically state there is no independent candidates linked to BDP and that “it is either you are with us or against us.”
Independents, with regard to the law the Gaborone North aspirant said, are allowed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Act and so there is nothing wrong with those who want to contest as independent candidates. But the independents, he added also have to field in the 57 constituencies and come with their own manifestos and tell Batswana what they stand for. “But if a card carrying member of the ruling BDP goes independent then we will treat that person as opposition,” Balopi insisted.
The potential law maker stated that the opposition is allowed in Botswana and if one wants to join it they are free to do so. “It’s an open contest. We are ready for any form of opposition but we won’t allow opposition manifesting itself in the BDP. We don’t want to hurt ourselves from within,” Balopi concluded.
HOW GOV’T MACHINERY COMES IN
Former President Khama is involved in a number of charity events and he needs public facilities such as public halls and kgotla to hold such. Already Government has made its intentions known that it will deny the former president these facilities because they believe he is using them for political reasons. He was denied access to the Lady Khama Hall in Serowe for his controversial meeting where he announced his intention to exit the BDP. Although Government officials are coming up with creative excuses for denying Khama access to this facilities, it is very clear that there is a method to the madness.
To further buttress Government modus operandi on how they are likely to deal with former President Khama going forward, he was blocked from using the Khawa Kgotla for his infamous soup kitchen and he opted to host the event at the football grounds. Khama’s events are neither not supported by public servants, another move to slow the former President down.
On Thursday Khama clashed with Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) after they sidelined him from the event. The former President pitched his own event. This followed his removal as tourism ambassador after Minister Kitso Mokaila wrote him a letter indicating that the position is not recognized by statutes.
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.