The newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP) is lurking in the shadows for disgruntled Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members who are not amused by the ascendance of Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi to the highest office in the land.
This is according to Nehemiah Modubule, the chairman of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). He theorises that Ndaba Gaolathe, Wynter Mmolotsi and company were never into the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) project. “It is common knowledge that the Ndaba group was against joining UDC in 2011 as their argument was that we needed to grow our party first. The other reason they advanced then was that BMD should not join forces with the BNF as that would jeopardise maBDP who wanted BMD to be their next home if things go wrong in the BDP.
This group was worried that by joining hands with leftist organisations like the BNF madokrag won’t join us,” narrates Modubule, who further claimed to have evidence to the meetings that captured the sentiments of Gaolathe and his team. He says they at the BMD are not surprised by the decision of AP leaders to bolt out of the UDC, “they never wanted to be part of UDC they were just bound by a majority decision supported by Gomolemo Motswaledi (MHSRIP) then,” he adds.
Modubule continues, “All one can read from what AP is doing now is to open a window for maDomkrag; they have been captured by MaDomkrag who are not happy with Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi becoming the Head of State in April next year. The blunder they make is to forget that Daniel Kwelagobe their Godfather had promised them to come over once BMD was formed but that never came to be. I wonder what makes them to think that this time maDomkrag ba ba ba reelang will join them.”
The BMD chairman is not amused by what he terms “propaganda being peddled by AP leadership against the BMD”. He stated that the truth of the matter is that some in the AP are from families who used to run this country and accumulated a lot of wealth allegedly under dubious circumstances. “The fact that we are about to take over government makes them uncomfortable and fear that their inherited properties may not be save under the UDC leadership. Remember UDC promised Batswana that once we assume the state power we are going to investigate as to how some people acquired their many properties,” says Modubule.
He said some in the AP leadership are living in fear hence their break away from BMD by extension UDC so as to try and split the opposition vote and “secure their inheritance”. Modubule said: “this is the only reason why our colleagues have decided to form a party at the eleventh hour.”
AP WAS FORMED BEFORE THE UDC VERDICT
According to Modubule when the BMD went for the Bobonong congress those who recently formed Alliance for Progressives were busy setting up structures parallel to those of the BMD, “little did we know that they were indeed setting up structures for their new party.” Modubule said the structures that they set up prior to Bobonong are the ones they used to hold a congress at Bobonong Junior Secondary School ignoring the properly constituted congress at Matshekge. “This is the place where Ndaba Gaolathe, Wynter Mmolotsi, Phenyo Butale and others were elected to lead the new party. There is no doubt that they went to Bobonong prepared for their own congress, just as they went to UDC with a certificate in their pocket,” he observes.
According to the BMD chairman, “it was a waste of time for UDC and BMD of the UDC to go into pains of trying to find a way of bringing some sanity in the BMD as Ndaba and company had already decided on forming a new party that would accommodate madomkrag as initially planned. I should mention here and now that I do not want to see a situation where we replace BDP with another BDP. My argument is simple I would prefer a mixture of some former BDPs and long-time serving opposition parties.”
THE SIDNEY PILANE QUESTION
Modubule says Sidney Pilane’s name is being used as scapegoat because “the truth of the matter is that Wynter Mmolotsi is a man allergic to the truth. I believe deep down in his heart Mmolotsi knows that Pilane has done absolutely nothing that warrants such hatred against him.” The BMD chairman insists that Mmolotsi started “the propaganda ya letlhoo mo go Sidney Pilane after the Gantsi Congress.”
“Comparing Sidney to Wynter one would go for Pilane as Wynter is only a propagandist who has nothing to offer to the organisation. Just imagine a whole Vice President failing to honour a congress resolution. In Gantsi a resolution was passed that all MP’s should contribute P1000.00 monthly towards running of the organisation and he failed to contribute even once. Only three MP’S contributed, that is, Ndaba Gaolathe, Gilbert Mangole and Dr. Tlamelo Mmatli,” says Modubule.
Modubule explains the Pilane contribution to BMD politics, “Pilane resigned from the BMD, though not a member of the BMD he continued to assist the movement and that is how the BMD survived for many years. At the inception of the organisation it was Guma Moyo and Sidney Pilane and to some extent Lindelwa Maripe who were footing the bill of the organisation. When Guma left, Sidney Pilane continued to assist the movement to this date.”
In his view, it is therefore illogical to say Pilane is on a mission to destroy the BMD and then target the UDC. “The man has helped in making sure that the BMD is sustained. Other people are just busy doing everything in their power to discredit Pilane while he is busy assisting the organisation to grow.” Modubule says if Pilane was sent to destroy the Party in order to weaken the opposition it means it was a mission agreed upon by all who left the BDP at the time of inception of the movement that includes the Vice President of the AP.
“How on earth would a man whose mission is to destroy use his resources to help build a movement whose sole aim is to unseat the ruling party? In the Goodhope- Mabule by elections Pilane contributed P20,000 plus food for our foot soldiers by so doing he was assisting the UDC to grow. The Vice President of AP should not think that we will buy his hatred for Pilane to be our hatred too. NO.”
Modubule says they have asked Mmolotsi on several occasions to inform them what wrong Pilane has done which could indicate that indeed he was an agent of the BDP but he has failed to do so. He says they have since concluded that his was just hatred towards Pilane. “Pilane is not an angel, he is human and like all other human beings he is bound to have flaws but you cannot compare him to AP Vice President. I am not even sure as to how Mmolotsi got the position of Vice President when the party has not yet held a congress but he is already a Vice President,” observes Modubule.
WILL UDC ASSUME STATE POWER IN 2019?
“I have no doubt that the UDC will assume state power in 2019 as it stands for the liberation of our people and it is a progressive movement. I wonder whether by naming some organisation progressive when its actions are regressive will make it progressive,” Modubule’s view point. He says the BMD is here to stay and they are not going to be intimidated. “We are a party in our own right le ha gone bangwe ba utsule maloko a rona. We shall re-build our beloved organisation. Call us sekgapha or moitlobo at your own risk.
Kgang ya moitlobo was used so much by the late Dr Kenneth Koma when launching NDF. He said ‘party e ile go setse moitlobo hela’. What happened; the party is no longer visible moitlobo is now the party. BMD ke molatswana o tshela mo molapong wa UDC,” says Modubule. Modubule assured BMD members that their party is alive and kicking hence no need to panic. He says they should relax and just concentrate on rebuilding the movement.
MODUBULE THE TROUBLE MAKER?
“I can confidently tell you that I am not like that. All that you read being said by Wynter is just not true. As far as I am concerned I always stay on the side of the constitution and not a person. In 2008 when I was expelled from the BNF it was again a hot debate between me and Cde Otsweletse Moupo. The argument was on the interpretation of the BNF constitution. We (Temporary Platform) argued that 2008 was supposed to be a congress year as the last ordinary congress was held in 2005.The BNF, as some of you might know goes for its national congress after every three years.”
Modubule continues to narrate his ‘rebellious’ journey: “In 2007 comrade Moupo called a special congress and it was an elective congress. His argument was that we cannot hold the ordinary congress because we held a special congress the previous year. Our view was that the special congress does not replace a mandatory congress which was due in 2008.
The fact that we held a special congress did not automatically mean replacement of a mandatory congress. We maintained that position and it was picked by the media and we were then asked to refrain from influencing other comrades to adopt our position and that we should not discuss our position with the media. We refused to budge and we were suspended and ultimately expelled from the party for insubordination. It is surprising that some people are using this example as go tshwenya game. I was not acting as a lone wolf. I was with the likes of Elmon Tafa, Monageng Mogalakwe, Akanyang Magama, Lebogang Letsie and others.”
Modubule continues, “I served the BNF for 27 years and held a number of portfolio responsibilities including that of the National Chairman. I also lead an organisation called United Socialist Party (PUSO) formed in 1994 which joined BNF as a group member in 1998. It means PUSO existed as a standalone party for four (4) years. I was requested by the late Dr Kenneth Koma along with Lemogang Ntime and others to re-join the BNF. I do not believe that I was a trouble maker otherwise how would they request a trouble maker to come and help revive the BNF.
It was tough when eleven members of Parliament resigned from the party along with scores of councillors. We addressed series of rallies explaining to Batswana as to what happened and comforting them.” “Those who say I was a trouble maker in the BNF know very little or nothing at all as to what was happening in the BNF then.” Modubule ended the interview with words of one of the great philosophers of the world when he said ’’He who has not investigated has no right to speak’’.
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.