The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) date for the Special Congress billed for Kang is fast approaching. This is no ordinary congress, for the first time the ruling party’s Electoral College will be subjected to a unique task of voting for the president of the party.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is certainly defending his position, and so far Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has declared interest in the position and is contesting pending nomination at congress. But the situation is so tense to the extent that there are now assassination claims; and some have fled the country and are reported to be seeking asylum in neighbouring countries.
Venson-Moitoi’s chief campaigner Samson Guma Moyo has fled the country amid claims that he has been tipped of a plot to assassinate him by security agents. The opposing camp has dismissed Moyo’s utterances as a stunt meant to win sympathy because he is well aware that “Kang is going to be very hot” and he will be defeated.
With the final branch congresses expected this week, at this stage the two camps are now crunching the numbers to see where they stand in this historical vote. As the final touches to the campaigns are being galvanized, the BDP enthusiasts are waiting for the 5th April 2019 to go and fulfil the one agenda item – Vote the President of the BDP. Political careers are at stake in this contest and the camp that loses this contest may be forced to humble itself before the other for the sake of unity in the party. Or the winning camp may be forced to be “the bigger man” and soberly celebrate the victory.
President Masisi’s camp has won almost all 14 regions and has made sure of “endorsements” which guarantee nomination for the position of President at the Special Congress. The chairman and the Secretary of every region is a delegate, that is to say every regional structure has two votes. Therefore the 14 regions will contribute 28 votes at the Special Congress should it proceed to voting.
Each constituency will bring 10 delegates to Kang. This is how the delegates are selected. First there is a congress at cell level to elect 10 members who will attend a ward congress, at this ward congress 10 delegates are voted so that they attend the branch congress. There will be 10 delegates from each ward who will vote 8 delegates who will attend the Special Congress that will elect the BDP president. On top of the eight delegates, the chairman and the secretary of the branch are automatically delegates by virtue of their positions which makes it 10 delegates.
This is where the real battle is because this means that each constituency through the branch brings 10 delegates. Because there are 57 constituencies, this makes it 570 delegates from around the country. This is the segment of the BDP Electoral College that is expected to have a heavy load of the party work horses and the Trojans.
They will prove very key in this battle for the control of the ruling party. The BDP has about 352 Councillors country wide with 192 belonging to the Central District Council (CDC). All Councillors do vote at the Special Congress by virtue of their position. Councillors are seen as a critical part of both campaign teams because of their influence in the communities they serve. They also have the power to influence delegates.
President Masisi organized a dinner for CDC Councillors this week where he told them they should choose whether they want to go back to the days of “Rra Gaone, Rra Nametso, or the days of the immediate former President.” He also made it clear that the BDP constitution states that he will continue as party leader even if he loses the Kang vote. But President Masisi appears confident of victory and is rest assured. On the other hand Venson-Moitoi has stated that she works better than she talks, and has vowed to overcome all odds and win.
MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
The BDP currently has 44 Members of Parliament. They are all eligible to vote. They have in the past complained about the date of the Special Congress and the venue. They pointed out that the date clashes with scheduled Parliamentary business hence they wanted the vote to be postponed. BDP legislators had also complained about the venue, Kang because of the distance and lack of accommodation.
But they have been ignored and the vote goes on. Already 12 Members of Parliament have threatened to quit the BDP, an indication that they are not on President Masisi’s side. The President is most definitely aware of this because he even mentions it in his campaign sojourns at regional congresses. But MPs are also a critical voting group. Their influence to delegates from constituencies cannot be undermined.
WOMEN’S AND YOUTH WINGS
Both these structures have pledged to vote President Dr Masisi. They have 8 votes each at the Special Congress. With the Youth Wing, its Vice Chairman has been suspended from the party and he is one of the staunch supporters of Venson-Moitoi. This means only 7 members of the Youth Wing will vote in Kang.
The Central Committee is the governing structure of the party and it headed by the President. It has 18 votes at the Special Congress. Most of the votes belong to President Dr Masisi in this structure. This is the structure that will affect the number of votes at MPs level because there a few Legislators who also double as members of the central committee such as Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, Minister Tshekedi Khama, Minister Dorcas Makgato, Minister Botlogile Tshireletso, and Member of Parliament Guma Moyo, who is said to be on the run. This obviously lowers the number of votes expected because they cannot vote twice or three times in the case of Minister Makgato who is also chairperson of the Women’s Wing.
THE 1000 DELEGATES
The BDP Special Congress, a one day event, with one agenda item is expecting approximately 1000 delegates to vote its President. Whoever is elected President at this congress will be the party’s 2019 Presidential candidate. He will carry the aspirations of the reported 600 000 registered BDP members.
There are fears that the Kang vote could split the BDP into two because the many incidents during the campaign trail have signaled a point of no return in the battle. But the adage, there are no permanent enemies in politics may come in handy. However those close to the events say there is too much at stake both in terms of commerce and power hence one camp has to be annihilated altogether.
President Masisi is the third beneficiary of automatic succession constitutional dispensation – he took over when Khama left office last year April. Dr Masisi has made it clear that the transition was not smooth. But still his succession was not be a breeze in the park. First he has to ward-off the challenge from Nonofho Molefhi who was vying for the chairmanship and now he battling to remain in the party presidency ahead of 2019 elections. Neither Festus Mogae nor Khama were challenged for the throne when they ascended.
Masisi is not only battling Venson-Moitoi, he is also in the trenches against the then Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander and popular chief of Bangwato, Ian Khama. His arrival in the BDP was expected to galvanise and restore BDP’s popularity. The famous “Khama Magic” was the aura and charisma which Khama used in appealing to the masses and rallying votes for the BDP banner. But since taking over from Khama, President Masisi has reversed the script, bringing his own style, and this has irked some of his party colleagues.
â€¨The watershed moment for opposition parties was 2010, the in which BDP split, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD); in that particularly year, Human Rights lawyer Duma Boko assumed the leadership of BNF while Dumelang Saleshando succeeded his father as leader of Botswana Congress Party (BCP). However, with opposition evidently gaining popularity at the expense of the ruling party, the BDP has remained antagonistic to prospects of introducing countering reforms.
Masisi has vowed to reverse all these with a series of sweeping changes that antagonize the practices of the then Khama administration. He has introduced new pay structures for the armed forces as the latest of his interventions and he hopes to woo votes for October. It remains to be seen if Kang will give Masisi a chance to be BDP’s poster “boy” come October 2019 or the party will choose a woman President for the first time in history. This will squarely be on the shoulders of an Electoral College made of 1000 men and women of the BDP. In Setswana, the Kang date will signify that moment at a funeral, “Tiro e boela baruting”. The facebook politicking and campaigns swings will come to a halt.
The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.
According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.
BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.
BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.
Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.
However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.
BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.
AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.
AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.
AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024. To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.
“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.
UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.
When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.
It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.
In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.
The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body. This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.
When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.
“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.
Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.
Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”
Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.
It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.
But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.
Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.
The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.
ILO Director-General elections events lineup…
At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:
1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures 1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session 14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings 25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General 1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.
Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues.
This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”
“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.
The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.
“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.
The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.
The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.
“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.
In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.
“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.
The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.
“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.
It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.
But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.
“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says. Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.