It will be an eventful year for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), apart from the much anticipated central committee elective congress slated for winter this year, the Youth Wing of the ruling party will in two weeks’ time elect a new National Youth Executive Committee (NYEC) in Tsabong.
Expected to be one of the highly contested youth elective congresses in the history of BDP youth politics, seven teams were initially assembled to battle it out for a place in the NYEC, however sources close to the BDP youth circles reveal that the teams have decreased to six. The teams, it is expected, will merge towards what is forecast to be a mouth watering contest, further reducing the number of contestants.
The Youth congress is expected to set the tone for the BDP 2017 calendar of events. Speaking to WeekendPost on Wednesday, Collin Mochoti confirmed to this publication that he has decided with his team to dismantle and seek NYEC positions under Thabo Autlwetse’s leadership, reducing the chairmanship contestants to six. The contestants for the chairmanship are Thabo King Autlwetse, Vuyo Notta, Foxx Segwai, Bruce Nkgakile, Ronald Kgathi and Simon Mavange.
“Yes I have taken the decision alongside a team of young democrats I initially assembled under my wing to merge with Thabo Autlwetse‘s team towards forming a formidable force to represent BDP youth,” he said. Mochoti ‘s compromise to settle for Committee Secretary General position under Autlwetse’s team leaves a 6 Man race at Tsabong to replace Andy Boatile who is said to be eyeing Shaw Kgathi’s Deputy Secretary General position come June/July this year.
A well know youth activist who attracts controversial critics at times told WeekendPost that he believes is the right man for the BDP NYEC Chairmanship. A business man in his own right, Nkgakile who announces on social media more often that his bank accounts seats at millions noted that he is not bending to any compromise that gives him a position less than that of Chairmanship.
“I am contesting for this position for 1 reason, to influence policy,” he said in an interview this publication. “I have exhausted all the levels of empowering young people, from business seminars, capacity building workshops, and so forth I am now taking this challenge to complete the job by running for a position that will enable me to influence national youth policy crafting,” said Nkgakile.
The commercial farmer and Former President Sir QKJ Masire’s Protégée argues that BDP needs revived party structures. “Right now it’s even difficult for us to campaign because there are no structures to engage at the ward and constituency levels, especially youth structures, those are some things that I intend to voice out and fix as the NYEC Chair,” he said.
Nkgakile who is the Mastermind behind Kgang-Tseleng Setswana Debate, Miss Africa amongst other impactful projects vowed to advocate for the return of Youth Parliament and engagement of youth in Job creation amongst other things. The former Silent Shout TV presenter rubs shoulders with national leaders and prides himself with doing business with South African Zulu Kingdom King Buthelezdi. Within BDP activism circles he enjoys backing from BDP diehard fans Selwana Kesebonye and legendary student politician and women empowerment advocate Thato Best Dineo.
Many believe it is his time after he suffered a marginal defeat at Masunga 2015 congress when Andy Boatile retained his chairmanship for a second term. Autlwetse confirmed to WeekendPost this week that he is confident of winning this time after roping in Collen Mochoti’s numbers who he claims is very a influential figure within BDP youth corridors. He noted he is more familiar with BDP culture and traditions than any other candidate.
“What separates me from others is that I rose through the BDP ranks from the grassroots cell structure through to regional and national structures. I understand the party and its traditions and any innovation I would implement would be without compromising the party's identity,” he said. The former NYEC information officer who also served as a secretary in the Gaborone Central region stipulates that BDP needs to have a clear grooming machinery and good leadership retention
“We need to groom and retain leaders and not continue developing leadership for the opposition. That requires a party man who has its ethos rooted in him,” he noted adding that the primary mandate of party structures is to further the party's political interests while also advising government within constitutional limits without playing a parallel government. “The risk of electing people without an understanding of the intricate relationship between party and government would be to create a conflict between the two. All democrats with an interest in NYEC Chairmanship are my competition; it takes a special bond between member and institution for one to volunteer themselves to serve, all who have thus far are worthy,” said Autlwetse.
Mavange is Secretary General of the outgoing National Youth Executive Committee. The Masunga born youngster is the oldest of the contestants, he portrays himself as the most experienced amongst the runners. Speaking to WeekendPost this week Mavange said amongst other things why young democrats must promote him to the committee chairmanship position is that as the General Secretary, he managed with his committee to convince party leadership to increase number of youth specially elected councillors from 23 to 43.
He added that the increase saw a number of BDP youngsters even elevating to Council Chairpersons. Mavange also argued that having successfully served as the deputy chairman of Botswana National Youth Council at some point leading the BDP youth won’t be a difficult job for him.
“I am the most experienced candidate and having served for the past two terms in the National Youth Executive Committee, and having influenced numerous positive changes it is ideal that young democrats elect me as their chairman,” he said. According to Mavange people who are elected into party structures must be put through workshops and oriented to be familiarized with party regulations, ethics and traditions.
“Currently we have a problem, people holding party leadership positions from ward level, constituency, regional and even national executive positions lack the capacity to carry out their mandates,” he said. He intends to put in place regular capacity building undertakings to empower young people and other leaders about party programs as well as government policies, should he win.
Notha is a former University of Botswana student Politician, currently serving as a specially elected councillor at Sowatown and a member of BDP national communications committee. As a very close ally to the corporate sector, he says citizen engagement will be his main focus as NYEC chair.
The philanthropist and social justice advocate who commands much respect amongst Serowe youth; particularly for his Vuyo Cup football and netball tournament says his leadership will be encored on engaging the people he serves. “We want to bring the corporate sector, spiritual and social leaders, and young people from the sports fraternity and entertainment industries to come onboard and revive the BDP vibe catering for all kinds of youngsters,” he said.
He further added that BDP as a national organization needs to appeal to all stakeholders of the economy and social development towards the empowerment of Batswana. “Trade unions, NGO’s and Non -State actors, business people, corporate Parastatals and the youth as the largest age group of our workforce need to take the front seat in crafting national policies and empowerment programs.” “Currently there are no platforms to engage youth and make them have a say in underwriting their own empowerment programs,” he observed.
A BDP foot soldier, Segwai is of the view that leadership is about representation and not positions. “I believe such a position is a position of representation not leadership, I do not become an aspirant because I want to, I become an aspirant because people and the youth are more than willing to work with me,” he remarked.
According to Segwai unemployment is a very critical matter, though he was economical with information about this campaign and candidature Segwai said the possibility of him merging with other teams cannot be thrown out. “I can’t disclose much on it now, I reassure You, I shall invite your publication to our team manifesto official launch soon, that is when I and my team will share much on it, it is not an individual affair, it requires brilliant minds to deal with, and I am certain my team has those minds,” he explained. “It is really not about me, but youth of the BDP in extension of Botswana. It is a necessity for us to protect the legacy of our forefathers, this nation and to do so BDP has to remain in power. I will share much on this one also at the lobby press conference.”
Bobirwa MP Shaw Kgathi’s son, Ronald has a vision for BDP youth and the Botswana youth at large. “My track record in the corporate sector and experience in business will complement my political energy to 1. Fundraise for the committee and promote accountability, integrity and delivery 2.Advocate for youth representation in leadership positions. 3. Revive youth committees across all the 14 regions 4. Fraternal relations and unlock business opportunities for youth 5. Recruitment and political education targeted at Senior & all tertiary institutions of higher learning,” said Kgathi
According to him, talks with other teams to reach a consensus towards forming a formidable National Youth Executive Committee are ongoing.” I cannot rule out the possibility of merging with other teams, we are still in talks and hopefully we will agree.”
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.