A Professor of Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada Amy Poteete says opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) should go for congress re-run as first option. Poteete has spent her better time in Botswana observing the political landscape and dynamics.
BMD is currently embroiled in bitter internal rivalry that gave birth to a parallel leadership emanating from the disputed separate congresses from Bobonong recently. BMD has two National Executive Committees (NEC), one led by Gaolathe Ndaba while Sidney Pilane leads the other. Professor Poteete pointed out in an interview with WeekendPost this week that “since the two BMD factions held separate congresses in Bobonong, the group led by Ndaba Gaolathe has publicly recognized and debated three options for dealing with the impasse with Sidney Pilane’s group. These, however, are not the only possibilities,” she highlighted.
According to the Canadian Professor, whose research focuses on state interventions in natural resource sectors and electoral politics in Africa, particularly in Botswana and Senegal, there are many options to consider and she presented six options available to Ndaba’s group and considers their likelihood and political implications. Firstly, according to her fresh elections offer the most democratic way to resolve conflicts adding that his option would only settle the conflict if both factions could agree on the designation of delegates, which is far from certain even if an outside body supervised the process.
However, she said the more immediate obstacle, is that Pilane's group cannot be forced to participate in fresh elections and shows no interest in doing so. “What will the other members of UDC do if (when) Pilane's group officially refuses to go along? It is possible – but far from certain – that, after Pilane’s group officially rejects the proposal for fresh elections, the other members of UDC will decide to recognize Ndaba's group because they proposed a democratic resolution to the conflict,” she observed. She also hinted that even that decision, however, would not give Ndaba's group legal claim to the BMD name, symbol, etc. And it certainly would not reunite the BMD. “So, at best (from the perspective of Ndaba’s group), putting forward this proposal offers a partial solution, and that more likely, it only delays a move to one of the other options.” The second option, Professor Poteete said it is for BMD to go to court. This, she mentioned is the only way to have a chance of keeping the BMD name and symbol in the absence of fresh elections. “BMD members have a very intense identification with their party and, understandably, many want to fight to keep the name, colours, and symbol,” she justified while adding that going to court is costly and the outcome uncertain. However, she highlighted that “winning rights to the BMD name and symbol will not reunite the party. The political logic of opposition cooperation means that the UDC will still need to figure out how to deal with both groups, regardless of which one holds legal rights to the BMD name and symbol. “So, this is no more than a partial solution.” The next option, which might be a bitter pill to swallow for the Ndaba led committee is to eventually form a new party. Poteete explained that this option “keeps” Ndaba's group together as a corporate entity and, given the low prospects of fresh elections and the costs and uncertainty of the legal route, is emerging as the most likely option. “The formation of a new party would provide a new legally constituted organizational home for Ndaba’s group, but would not solve other political problems and presents new challenges. The start-up costs are high. Further, this strategy reinforces rather than resolves the divisions between the Ndaba and Pilane groups and fragments the party system when the supposed goal is opposition unity.” According to the renowned Professor, the new party would need to negotiate entry into the UDC, the ease of which will depend on how UDC deals with Pilane's group. If Ndaba's group forms a new party and cannot negotiate mutually agreeable terms for re-entering UDC, it could go its own way (or, perhaps, team up with BPP), she said. But, she added that its survival in the 2019 elections may depend on being in UDC, and, its areas of strength, based on the location of incumbents, are in the north and in Gaborone and vicinity. The northern constituencies, she continued, overlap with the BCP’s areas of strength and the constituencies in Gaborone and vicinity are extremely competitive. Ndaba's group needs to cooperate with BCP and BNF to avoid mutual destruction through vote splitting, according to Poteete, who received the Dudley Seers Memorial Prize for best article in volume 45 of the Journal of Development Studies for her article, “Is Development Path Dependent or Political? A Reinterpretation of Mineral-Dependent Development in Botswana” in April 2009. She also said the Ndaba led group can also consider as some of its options, to form a compromise BMD NEC with representation from each of the two factions. Although, it is not one of the options promoted by Ndaba's group, the professor said she has seen it being floated here and there, and that a resolution of differences backed by mutual trust and a commitment to a common project would offer the most sustainable solution for the long term. “There may thus be a temptation to push this option, particularly on the part of the UDC and others who are outside the BMD but supportive of opposition cooperation. The conditions seem unfavorable for that sort of conflict resolution in the short term, however, given the depth of the divisions, the demonstrated unwillingness to negotiate, and the electoral time table. There is an obvious deficit of mutual trust. My sense is that the lack of trust gives raise to some uncertainty about whether the two groups in fact share a common project.” But she cautioned: “Thus, I view this strategy as unlikely, unstable if pursued in the absence of a real resolution of differences and thus unpromising prior to the 2019 elections.” In addition, she said that people have not been discussing would be for Ndaba's group to join one of the existing parties within UDC. “Joining an existing party would avoid the start-up costs of forming a new party and fragmentation of the party system. But this strategy presents obvious challenges. As noted above, BMD members have an intense identification with their party and activists may resist joining an existing party.” According to the Canadian Professor, the merger of Ndaba’s group into the UDC member parties would not avoid the need to re-open negotiations over the terms of participation in the UDC and the UDC would still need to figure out how to deal with both Ndaba’s group and Pilane’s group. Nonetheless, she said this option should at least be recognized and contemplated rather than dismissed out of hand. Another option would be for Ndaba’s group to join the UDC as individual members. “I realize that few activists would find this option very attractive as it means giving up their subgroup identity. It is not just a matter of affective attachment.” Although the UDC constitution allows for individual membership, Professor Poteete said affiliation with one of the member parties has been the basis for negotiating constituency allocation within the UDC. She added that indeed, one of the challenges associated with allocating constituencies to parties through negotiations rather than a primary involving all members is that it reinforces both party divisions within the UDC and the regional nature of the member parties. But he said that is a challenge for another day, a day after the UDC and the two parts of the BMD figure out whether and how to work together.
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.