With the current Maun West legislator who is also the Paramount Chief of Batawana, Kgosi Tawana Moremi II hanging his political microphones and returning back to Bogosi, political candidates in his constituency are scrambling for his attention and licking their lips hoping for endorsements from Kgosi.
Tawana joined Ntlo ya Dikgosi in 1995 until 2008 where he actively joined politics, winning elections for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2009. However he ditched the party in 2011 to join the then newly formed Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) after being an independent MP for some few months. Just like any paramount chief, the soft spoken Kgosi commands high respect from his tribesmen and has aggressively advocated for improvement of their lives.
Now, since he is not contesting for political office, those who want to succeed him are eyeing possible endorsement. Sources close to him however say, “Tawana is an independent person who is not influenced by anyone or anything. He is clear that he will make his opinion at the right time and we are also waiting to hear that. Remember he never consults anyone when he takes a decision,” a source close to the royal family told Weekendpost.
With Tawana now expected to make endorsement at the ‘right time’, those tussling for his constituency relishes that opportunity. Maun West constituency has so far attracted three names; Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Dumelang Saleshando, BDP- Reaboka Mbulawa, as well as Alliance for Progressive’s (AP) Moalosi Sebati. Initially, Tawana anointed Sebati’s candidature and withdrew his endorsement when the candidate defected from BMD to AP.
In an interview with Weekendpost, Tawana’s rival in 2014, Mbulawa says they have a cordial relationship with Kgosi and they are from the same blood line. “We have always had a good relationship even after I lost the elections to him in 2014. We are related. His uncles are also my uncles so the relation is deep. We dine together but I don’t know his intentions, but I will respect any decision he takes. But I will be glad if he could push me to go to parliament. This is not to say I am forcing him to, I don’t need anyone to send me there but looking at his popularity you cannot deny that.”
In 2014 UDC’s Tawana won Maun West comfortably after garnering 7271, with Mbulawa getting 5335 and BCP‘s George Lubinda managing 2359. The pendulum before Saleshando’s arrival was swinging in favour of Mbulawa in the absence of Kgosi Tawana, but now it could be an insurmountable mountain for the BDP’s money man-Mbulawa and Sebati.
On the other hand Saleshando, who is not new in the area through origins, also does not mind being endorsed by Kgosi Kgolo. “We have always had a good relationship, even now we do talk. I have heard people saying he is endorsing me because of the positives he shared about me on social media. Well, if that is what endorsement means is fine. But I would like that to be made publicly. As to who he endorses it’s up to him or you can just ask him. No doubt he is an influential figure especially in the constituency we are vying for,” he said in an interview.
ALSO CONSPIRE AGAINST MASISI ON HUNTING BAN LIFT
The candidates apart from ‘seeking’ endorsement from Tawana also wants President Mokgweetsi Masisi to quickly lift the hunting ban as it compound the human/wildlife conflict. “This is the government sponsored conflict by not erecting the fence. This hunting ban is a BDP thing and Masisi should act and stop playing to the gallery, we have always maintained that the hunting ban should be lifted and that is what they should do,” said Saleshando.
Masisi’s party member Mbulawa also concurs with Saleshando on the matter. “We need policies that would harmonize the conflict. The lifting of the hunting ban is one of those, remember when the ban was implemented it automatically killed the Problem Animal Control (PAC) which was very key in managing the wild animals and it should be resuscitated when the ban is lifted. This should be done quickly because the conflict is real,” he said.
Another candidate in the area Sebati says it is high time the government implement curling especially on elephant populations which statistics says it has more than doubled. Botswana is home to 154,000 elephants, a third of Africa's total elephant population. “I think lifting of the ban is the right move because in the past there was hunting and they never got extinct but now with this numbers they are even impoverishing the locals as they destroy their source of income and kills people. So we should curl them and have a quota, the population is overcrowded and government seems to be prioritizing them than our people.”
The elephants matter is so serious that an elephants summit comprising of SADC nations was held in Kasane to see how best to manage these mammals. Masisi after the summit is expected to reveal whether hunting ban will be lifted. He was handed a report about possibilities of lifting the ban early this year and he is yet to reveal what’s next.
Not only is hunting ban a challenge, but the candidates including Maun East ‘s Goretetse Kekgonegile of UDC are of the view that with North West district being one of the leading contributors of the GDP through tourism, government must do something. At the top of their grievances is poor infrastructure especially road networks, poverty as a result of unemployment and availability of basic services like water.
“There is need for a total paradigm shift because there is erosion of our indigenous means because the BDP allows the spread of Foot and Mouth which at the end see farmers struggling to make ends meet due to unpalatable cattle at BMC. This is one area that should really be worked on if we are serious about electorates,” stated Kekgonegile.
The politicians also unanimously agree that it is high time the locals have a lion’s share in the tourism sector which from time immemorial has been on the hands of the foreigners. “The delta is given to the foreigners while Batswana are holding non-influential positions and it is clear that Masisi does not have a reverse strategy, yet he is talking about ‘Batswana ba Sekei,” added Saleshando.
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.