Former cabinet Minister, Jacob Nkate, has said he still have presidential ambitions ahead of 2019 general election despite chickening out of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) July Congress chairmanship race.
Nkate who had initially declared that he will contest the chairmanship in Tonota has resorted to the secretary general position where he will face the incumbent, Botsalo Ntuane and Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemele. In his own view, the secretary general position is more prestigious as compared to the chairmanship since the former will put him at the helm of the party and its structures.
“I decided after getting here than I can make better contribution to party in the position of secretary general as opposed to the chairman,” he told this publication in an exclusive interview this week. “It is because the secretary general is the melting pot of all issues in the BDP; you get to travel around the country to help the structures, form the structures and supervise them. I think that is something I am good at. I have done it before.”
Nkate who served as party secretary general from 2007-2009 remark that the position of the secretary general is a much more challenging position in terms of making the party a success, as compared to that of chairman. He said although he support Masisi for the chairmanship at the upcoming congress, the two of them did not reach any deal to offer Masisi free passage to the top in exchange for the vice president position in 2019.
“The idea that I have a deal with Masisi and that he will make me vice president is not true. No deal like that exists,’ he denied and added that, “Upon arriving in a country from Japan, I thought let me hear what the situation is on the ground and my conclusion was that maybe I should support him so that I do not cause too much disruptions in my party. And then we can take it from there. If between now and 2019, me and Masisi do not agree, my rights are on the table. All the options are on the table.”
Nkate stated that he decide not to challenge Masisi because his priority is 2019 but between now and 2019 he will look at the situation if the need arises for him to compete, he will compete. He said although he had made a decision not to challenge Masisi for the chairmanship, it is a good thing that they are others who have expressed interest in contesting for the chairmanship.
“It is their constitutional right, it is a good thing and it is always a good thing when an organisation of the size of the BDP goes to congress for people to express their views. The fact that I am not standing against Masisi is a personal choice and I am not going to criticise anyone for standing,” he stated. Nkate said it is impossible for a party of BDP’s size to have people agreeing all the time, noting that it is a normal thing for people to hold different views and such should be embraced.
“The BDP has 580 000 registered members in the whole country. You want all 580 000 members to agree? We will never agree. If Botsalo [Ntuane] happens to be on the other side and I am on the other side, I think it is a healthy conversation. He is a very intelligent man and I am happy to engage him,” he said confidently.
“People who say they do not want factions, they themselves are a faction. People make look bad if I disagree with others, they say I should follow blindly. It’s not going to happen. The idea that someone like me should be quiet is wrong. I am a voice and this voice must be heard,” Nkate further stated.
ON BDP DECLINING POPULARITY
The former Minister of Education is of the view that the BDP has detached itself from the citizens, something he attributes to the declining popularity of the party. The 2014 general elections dealt BDP a blow, losing unprecedented 20 seats to opposition parties and gaining a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence.
‘I think the BDP needs to reconnect with the people; to have a message that resonates with the people. I do not think people are hearing us, we need to re-message and recalibrate. We need to understand what the biggest concern of the people is. We need to hear the people and people should hear us,” he noted.
“Unemployment: huge problem, we must be able to say to people what we are doing. Health; in a lot of hospitals in Botswana, people are sleeping on the floor and in passages. I am not criticising my party. I am saying let us talk about these issues.” Nkate said the entire government machinery is engulfed with problems which people are not happy about, something which he said BDP should swiftly move to address if it is to endear itself to the voters again.
“35 percent pass rate at secondary junior level is bad, people are not happy about these. We are not a corrupt country, we do not believe in corruption but there is a perception that people can do whatever they like without anything done to them. These are the issues I want my party to engage with the people about,” he remarked.
The former A-Team faction leader insists that BDP has to find its connection with the people, and for them to do that they have to allow the people to talk to them, and to believe that they are being heard: “You do that by opening your ears, opening your eyes, opening your heart. It’s all about running an effective government.”
ON GOVERNMENT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORKERS
Nkate opined that the government have got it wrong; the manner in which it has been handling issues regarding workers and their unions. Since the infamous 2011 public servants strike, government have had an acrimonious relationship with the unions. Botswana Federation of Public Servant Union (BOFEPUSU) resolved in 2014 for the first time to endorse opposition in the general elections. BOFEPUSU itself was instrumental in the formation of the opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which now encompasses all opposition parties with representation in parliament.
“The workers of these countries are the creators of the wealth. They are the creators of the wealth that drives the country forward,” he observed. “A government that sits and sulks for five years against the workers of the country is not going to succeed, because if the workers themselves sulk the same way, then the government is not going to go forward.” The onetime BDP Youth Wing leader said that the workers are in fact the driver of the vehicle that is Botswana.
“I want a good honest conversation to take place between the government and the workers,” he said. He said during his absence from active politics as an ambassador, he was not able to advise the party because he made a point of separating himself from politics.
ON FORMATION OF BMD
Despite being at the helm of faction in the run up to Kanye, Nkate never imagined that such would lead to a sad ending. The victory of Barataphathi at Kanye Congress in 2009 set in motion a chain of events which led to the splitting of the party, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which forms part of the UDC coalition.
“Any split, whether is in the family, in a political party, in a company, is not a good thing. Yes it hurt us,” he admitted. “I did say when Rammidi left us in Mahalapye: bad thing, I say today that was a bad thing, the formation of BMD: bad thing. One of my most important goals should I succeed as secretary general of the BDP is to bring our people back. Because I know that their philosophy is the same as mine. You cannot take that away.”Nkate admits that BDP should have handled the matter differently to avoid the split.
CRITICISM OF BCL SALE
Nkate has expressed his displeasure with the way BCL liquidation and sale was handled. “I have a criticism on the way BCL liquidation process and the alleged purchase by Arab group is being handled. I am saying, where is the information? I am also aware that government cannot negotiate on the radio or newspapers but I think the government should give us information that will let us know that there is good and honest process,” he said. “That good process should lead to positive results. I support privatisation in some circumstances and I am not suggesting that BCL deal is a bad deal because I do not know. That is the problem.”
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.