The war of relevance continues in the political stream, with Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) under the new leadership of Mokgweetsi Masisi determined to reach out to groups which were previously hostile to the ruling party.
Through his ‘policy of appeasement’ Masisi has started extending an olive branch to the troublesome trade unions, and has pledged to resuscitate All Party Conference among other things. Masisi’s latest gambit is his grit to garner votes from youth by promising a new deal for them.
Recently, Masisi, accompanied by a number of his cabinet ministers, addressed a student gathering held at Ba Isago University, at the invitation of student leader, Poloko Pitwane who is also the leader of self-styled Youth Need a Voice Movement (YNM). Prior to this event, Masisi has sanctioned allowance increment of tertiary education students, from P1420 to P1620.
Pitwane, who caught public eye in 2014 when he was expelled from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, and later entered parliamentary race for Gaborone Bonnington North— but dropped from the race at the eleventh hour to endorse Duma Boko— has been identified by the ruling party as a strategic ally.
The ruling party, under Masisi seem to have identified all the pitfalls that contribute to the party’s unpopularity in the urban areas, and is working to rectify that by appealing to young people as they constitute the highest number of opposition voters and addressing their frustrations and issues that were unattended to by the previous regime.
Though Pitwane may be considered a nonentity, he viewed, according to sources, as somebody who could be used to lure student votes on the side of the ruling party. There are over 30 000 government sponsored students in tertiary schools, a number which BDP is salivating for.
Gaborone has been a stronghold for opposition since 1984, with BDP having luck in 2009 general elections, when the ruling party took majority of parliamentary seats and control of the Gaborone City Council (GCC) for the first time. This control was however short-lived, with then resurgent Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) gaining majority seats in subsequent general elections.
UDC won all save one, parliamentary seats in 2014 and also won majority seats in the city council. UDC had benefited from endorsement from the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU). Owing to the animosity that existed between the government and public sector trade union in the wake the infamous 2011 public servants strike, BOFEPUSU took war to the ruling party.
The 2011 strike, dubbed ‘Mother of All Strikes” was nearly a three month industrial action by BOFEPUSU members in which several participants were victimised as a result. 700 employees were fired from work, while several ‘draconian laws’ were introduced to curb the freedoms of labour movements. One such contentious law was the Amendment of Trade Dispute Act which resulted in several cadres in public service being listed under the essential services category.
The watershed moment came last year, when the bargaining council collapsed, albeit with the aid of fellow union, Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU). Masisi, who was an instrumental figure during the reign of Khama as minister responsible for public service, and later as Vice President has moved to normalise relations with the trade unions.
He has already met the leadership of public sector unions and assured that ruling party will repeal all contentious legislations by end of July next year. Masisi has so far received a good will from the leadership of the trade unions. This has been helped by the fact that BOFEPUSU have fell out with UDC leadership following a crisis which led to split of the coalition.
Heading to next year’s general elections, it is highly unlikely that BOFEPUSU will endorse UDC. The BOFEPUSU Secretary General, Tobokani Rari has previously indicated that the federation’s support to UDC was not permanent and subject to review. Masisi has also moved on to warm up to the media and since assuming power. Masisi has addressed over five press conferences since taking over as BDP leader.
Recently, State dropped sedition charges against Outsa Mokone, the editor of Sunday Sunday, who was hauled before the courts during Khama’s reign. Khama presented himself as hostile to private media, at one point accusing them of being unpatriotic.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.