Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators have unanimously advised President Mokgweetsi Masisi to call all those who were interested in the position of the Vice President for a ‘counselling’ session to avoid divisions and sabotage within the party, WeekendPost has established.
This week the party met at the Office of the President for their weekly meeting with two main points on the agenda – VP nomination and selection of cabinet. As it was somehow expected the name of Boteti West MP Slumber Tsogwane was suggested by the president.
Although it is said no one from the party opposed Tsogwane’s nomination and in fact all backed the president’s decision, some were also eyeing the position. The three other names, sources within the party say, were Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, Samson Moyo Guma and Nonofo Molefhi who were hoping to be appointed to the seat.
It is said after the nomination, Sadique Kebonang after accepting Tsogwane’s name pleaded with Masisi to organize a closed session meeting with those who had their eye on the Vice Presidency, but had their dreams shattered. This was agreed to by all MPs. Masisi was reportedly full of jokes at the meeting to make the seemingly uneasy legislators relax, he asked the democrats who wished to assist him to raise their hands, but no one obliged.
“No one raised hands though we knew those who harboured ambitions to become VP. It wouldn’t look good for them because the name was already out and it would appear like they were pulling to a different direction, and they instead chose to support Tsogwane,” said a BDP MP.
Another BDP legislator confirmed this, “Masisi was asked to talk to some of our members who had expectations to be VP to calm them down and to prevent them acting in a manner harmful to the party following the decision. This was spearheaded by Sadique and everyone agreed to that because it would curb possible infightings, divisions and sabotage which could work against the party in future. Mind you, those who had aspirations are party heavy weights that can influence the party structures if they are not engaged over this,” a source told this publication on Thursday this week.
While BDP MPs never had qualms with Tsogwane’s nomination, some had expected either Venson-Moitoi or Guma Moyo to be nominated for possible appointment as Vice President. “Considering how Moyo defended him at the Tonota congress we thought it was clear that he would nominate him as his Vice President. The same applies to Venson-Moitoi, she was second choice in our hearts, but luck was not on her side. As for Molefhi we didn’t expect much of him as VP because as you may recall they were enemies going to the last year’s congress,” stated another BDP source that was present at the Wednesday morning meeting.
As expected the cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday has also left the party divided with MPs questioning the criterion used for selection of Ministers. Prior to this, Masisi was cautioned by the party to be careful as to who assumes which ministerial post to avoid appointing persons linked to possible corruption and other questionable behaviours which could cost the party.
The removal of three ministers; Prince Maele, Edwin Batshu and Kebonang has left eyebrows raised within the party. While Batshu’s ejection is the one making noise it is said weeks before being sworn in as President, “Masisi asked everyone who wouldn’t want to be in the cabinet to clearly state that,” a source highlighted. All the while it was not clear as to whether this trio approached Masisi requesting not to be in the cabinet.
The BDP MPs are said to questioning the criterion used for cabinet selection. “It should be clear if it depends on the most senior in parliament, capability or the discretion of His Excellency. Molao has been assistant minister we thought he would ascend, but now Ngaka Ngaka has taken over, Goya (Moiseraele) has been assisting but now Bogolo [Kenewendo] has taken over.”
The MPs who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity went to question the appointment of Bagalatia Arone as Minister of Basic Education. “This will divide the party, he has just defected and he has been given the portfolio while some have been here defending the party but got nothing for their sweat. It is not like we are bitter or anything we are just stating the facts,” asserted one of the MPs.
The party Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay said the party remains very united and no one questioned the decision by the President. “We will support them to excel in the different Ministries including the VP because at the end of day the bigger picture is the party and Batswana.”
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.