Incoming President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has promised to wipe the floor with opposition parties in the 2019 general election. Parading a host of celebrities and political activists from opposition parties, the outgoing Vice President salivated at the prospect of his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) winning back a good number of opposition held constituencies.
Masisi, who was unapologetic in his piercing jabs at the opposition, especially the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) presented the BDP as the most credible political formation in the country while also indicating that the opposition collective is in disarray and that “most of them in Parliament have confessed that they are scared of what will transpire in 2019.” He stated that there is no opposition party that is not talking to them (BDP), they are telling us about their discomforts at their political homes.
The BDP chairman had invited the press to come and bid them farewell as the chairman of the party. Masisi has been BDP chairman since July 2015. He used the opportunity to share the party’s accomplishments under his chairmanship which include his recruitment drive which has seen the party welcome a host of former opposition activists especially from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and to some extent from the UDC.
Masisi explained that their targeted recruitment has reaffirmed that they are the only growing party in the country. To demonstrate his claim, the incoming President zoomed into the results of the Ralekgetho ward bye-election which saw the BDP trounce the UDC and AP. BDP had a winning margin of 106 compared to a winning margin of 21 in the 2014 general election. The BDP attracted 339 votes while the UDC got 233 and the AP came distant with 45 votes. According to Masisi this is the true picture going into 2019, analysts and observers should expect a growing BDP appeal across the country, he confidently declared.
In 2014, BDP had won the ward with 291 votes against the combined votes of UDC and BCP of 488. In the recent bye election, BDP increased its vote to 339, against the 278 of the combined opposition. Masisi said the party’s targeted recruitment drive ensured that BDP retained the constituency. The BDP recruited the former ward councillor from the BNF and gave him the responsibility as the campaign manager.
The former Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration mocked the campaign strategies used by opposition parties in Ralekgetho during the bye-elections campaigns. He said the manner in which they tried to relay their messages were alien to the people of Ralekgetho, hence why they lost the ward.
With opposition embattled in splits and internal fights, Masisi has vowed to recruit several MPs from its ranks. He hinted that already, he has been in talks with numerous MPs across all political parties discussing the possibility of them joining the BDP. “Many across all parties have been talking to us about joining the BDP. Many are going to join, wait and see,” he said.
The Mochudi East bye-election is the next battle ground and Masisi has vowed to come out with guns blazing. He said they are not put off by the narrative that the coming together of the BCP and the Botswana National Front (BNF) automatically means that the numbers that voted for the two parties in 2014 add up. He said Ralekgetho has demonstrated that the dynamics have changed in the political landscape. He said they are presenting a credible candidate in Rev Mpho Mmachakga Moruakgomo.
“I am going to continue to work with the central committee to ensure that the party attracts more members through this targeted recruitment.” Masisi said as a trendy party, the BDP intends to woo more young people into its fold. He said they will be stepping up their campaign ahead of the 2019 general election hence make the opposition uncomfortable. “If they can’t take it they might as well fizzle away. This is my bowing out as party chairman but note that we are coming for the opposition in a big way. We are targeting their members,” said Masisi.
The incoming President shared that as the BDP they are more than willing to acknowledge blemishes in their rule while also attempting to correct them. According to Masisi the BDP is lowering the average age of its candidates at council and parliamentary level. He expressed confidence in the caliber that has so far indicated intention to contest elections under the BDP. He said he is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cabinet ministers. “The quality we have, you can’t find it at the UDC,” he said. Masisi said he has brilliant candidates contesting elections, “it is not just about degrees, some of our candidates who do not have those degrees are just brilliant,” he said.
Masisi will be inaugurated as the country fifth President on April 1st. He is expected to name his Vice President and new Cabinet on Wednesday next week. As he steps down as party chairman, the BDP central committee will meet on April 9th to elect a new party chairman of the party.
In his preamble Masisi promised that his administration will continue to cherish a free press. He said the press as an institution is one of the defining ethos of the ruling BDP. The incoming President said it is inconceivable that the BDP could curtail media freedom, “but you must be man enough to take criticism as much as write about us. We will continue to give you feedback on your work,” he said.
Masisi will succeed President Lt Gen Ian Khama as the country’s fifth president. The Moshupa/Manyana legislator, who takes over the reins at the party which suffered the worst electoral performance since independence at the last elections, is adamant that ever since becoming party chairman, the fortunes of the party are beginning to change.
“With the benefit of evidence as coming from the 2014 general elections results and the perception therein, the machinery and the tempo has completely turned in favour of the BDP. The BDP will become even more erect as times goes on,” said Masisi. For the first time since independence, BDP’s popular vote fell beyond 50 percent during the 2014 general elections, something which Masisi is determined to change.
Masisi said the BDP remains the only party which is confident of its process, as evidenced by the manner in which they have been conducting central committee elections. The BDP elections have been conducted by Democracy Research Project from the University of Botswana. The incoming President who rose to the position of Vice President after the 2014 general elections was elected party chairman, a position traditionally associated with the vice presidency in 2015 and defended the position against Nonofo Molefhi in 2017.
Masisi revealed that he is not worried or anxious about the appointment of his cabinet as well as his deputy. Masisi will appoint his cabinet on Wednesday next week, three days after being sworn in as president. WeekendPost has gathered that three names are currently dominating conversations within the ruling party’s central committee as favourites for the chairmanship namely Slumber Tsogwane, Tshekedi Khama, and Samson Guma Moyo. The BDP chairmanship is a ceremonial position but has so much weight attached to it. Vice President Masisi fought hard and smart to retain the position against Molefhi at the BDP Tonota elective congress last year July.
Over the course of time party loyalists have started to attach power to the position because it has been associated with the vice presidency since the days of Peter Mmusi – they believe this has added weight to the position of chairman of their party.â€¨â€¨In the current scenario, members of the BDP central committee will have the final say on who will take over as chairman when Vice President Masisi becomes president in April. It is expected that it should be a consensus or a majority split to decide on the next chairman.â€¨â€¨
Tsogwane is said to be commanding a strong lead as the lobbying intensifies. He was strongly behind Masisi in the run up to the Tonota congress. Some in the party point to his loyalty to the party and his position in Parliament as the longest serving Member of Parliament as complementary strengths that validate his pole position to succeed Masisi as chairman. Masisi will also automatically cease being Member of Parliament for his constituency when he becomes president on Sunday, necessitating an election run-off.
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.