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.”
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.