Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s supporters are breaking ranks with each other in the build up to the crucial Tonota Congress, as the country’s number two is advised to rise above emerging factions in the party.
Masisi is guaranteed succession to the presidency at the beginning of April next year when President Lt Gen. Ian Khama’s term comes to an end. However insiders have revealed that some of his supporters have advised Masisi to stay above party factions if he is to lead a united Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to the 2019 general elections.
“It is not prudent for Masisi to be seen as factional leader on the eve of his ascendancy. Is he saying he will lead only part of the party that back him?” an insider revealed. A section of Masisi’s supporters have contended that as incoming president, he does not necessarily need a lobby list owing to the enmity that may ensue within the party after congress, even if his camp strolls to victory in Tonota.
There has been a rift between Masisi supporters because some are feeling sidelined while some are worried that the party chairman is being used to create divisions that will be difficult to heal afterwards.
Another ally of Masisi, Albert Mbayi has declared that he will contest the position of party deputy treasurer, this is despite the fact that Jagdish Shah, who also belongs to the Masisi camp is contesting for the same position.
A few weeks ago, the BDP Treasurer had tried to persuade his allies in the Masisi camp to accept former cabinet minister Jacob Nkate back in the faction but his efforts were futile. Masisi is said to prefer Mpho Balopi over the former Botswana ambassador to Japan. According to sources, Masisi does not want Nkate back on the basis that he has presidential ambitions.
Nkate this week confirmed that he will contest as secretary general but not under any lobby list. Dada and Nkate were Central Committee colleagues for a long time before the latter left active politics in 2009. This publication understands that Dada believes Nkate’s availability in Masisi’s camp brought a necessary dimension because of Nkate’s experience, both in cabinet and the central committee.
Meanwhile on the other side, onetime BDP chairman, Guma Moyo prefers the incumbent Botsalo Ntuane for the position of the secretary general. Ntuane however has never been Masisi’s blue-eyed boy despite the former having been willing to work for him.
Not long ago, Ntuane offered to step down from the secretary general position to make way for Nonofho Molefhi if a compromise was reached to allow Masisi to retain the chairmanship unchallenged. The proposal has since been rejected by both parties.
Ntuane has also re-affirmed this week that he will be defending the position of the secretary general after reports indicated that he was bowing out. He also stated that he will not be contesting under any lobby list.
With only two months left before the July congress, Masisi’s lobby list has not been stable and it’s splitting his allies. Masisi’s decision to lead one faction creates a future problem post congress, even if he wins. The pro-Molefhi MPs are feared to be readying to give him a tough time in endorsing his choice for the vice presidency next year.
Meanwhile, President Ian Khama has detached himself from the current affairs preferring to keep his cool and allowing Masisi to fight his own wars. However, prior to his departure in 2007, President Festus Mogae tried to unite the party when factionalism was proving to be a troublesome issue. Back then, Mogae re-appointed Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe back to cabinet in a move seen as neutralising the then A-Team dominated cabinet.
Although Khama has publicly declared his support for Masisi he has done little to try to strike a compromise deal that will see him sailing through the presidency with little difficulty. Khama has forever preached for a compromise at the party National Council. Masisi is facing stern competition from Molefhi who is running for the position of the chairmanship. Molefhi is said to be ultimately eyeing the party presidency in 2019.
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.