By the time the curtain falls on 2017, President Lt Gen Ian Khama would have bid well to both his party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the presidency. He will only have a few months to clear up his desk at the country’s highest office.
This year, Khama will address BDP’s last congress as its leader, at a meeting in which a battle for power is anticipated. Khama’s imminent departure has seen a number of key figures in the party lining themselves up for succession, threatening the future of the apparent heir to the throne Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The succession plan is the brainchild of former President Ketumile Masire, who prior to his retirement led reforms which led to the amendment of the constitution. The new reforms diverted a potential perilous situation in the party in which BDP factional wars threatened the stability of the party and to some extend that of the country.
Festus Mogae and Khama ascended to the throne smoothly in 1998 and 2008 but the departure of the latter next year could lead to a different story. Unlike his predecessor, Khama has had three deputies, and there has been uncertainty regarding who he intends to leave the responsibility of the country and party to. Reports are rife that, although Khama has closely guarded his views; he is keen on opening up the succession. This has since attracted big fish such as Nonofo Molefhi, Tshekedi Khama and Jacob Nkate to challenge for the throne.
Khama’s biggest concern is to leave the BDP in a better position to prolong its stay in power beyond 2019 general elections, hence treading carefully with regards to the succession plan. Failure to manage the plan could spell doom for the party. With the opposition bloc uniting and BDP still trying to regain its claim following the dismal 2014 general elections, the party’s stay in power could be under serious threat for the first time since independence.
BDP’s revival mode is countered by a declining economy, marred by unprecedented rates of job losses and on other side, a hostile worker federation of unions, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPPPUSU).
KHAMA’S 2017 CALENDAR
Khama’s busy schedule which commenced in August 2015 will continue this year and this time around the party leader is approaching the finishing line, hence all assignments should be delivered. Since August 2015, according to party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, the president has been engaged in a series of mobilisation activities across the country. The activities include meetings with the Central Committee, regional tours, branch visits and other team building functions. Khama has addressed over 50 meetings since then.
The party will in the next seven months convene crucial gathering as all party organs; the youth league, women’s wing and the party itself meet for their elective congresses. According to observers, these three events will be heavily monitored as key figures eyeing the presidency are trying to win the support of those contesting.
As early as February this year, the party youth wing, currently led by Andy Boatile will go for its elective congress. There are some youth within the party who have defiantly started calling for reforms within the party and such activists could shape the agenda of the party if they emerge victorious.
The party will also meet for the Women’s Wing elective congress in March. The women’s wing currently led by Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcus Makgato remains, together with Youth Wing; a very influential structure in the party affairs. The battle for succession has been also been linked with the women’s wing.
Prior to the party congress, the party will also converge for the annual National Council where the party delegates scrutinise government and party polices and make some recommendations. A stage will be set when the party meets for its regular elective congress held every two years. The congress has generated much interest owing to its significance and impact of its outcome on the future of the party. The most eyed position will be that of party chairmanship, which currently is occupied by Masisi. The position has traditionally been associated with the vice presidency since the days of Peter Mmusi.
This publication has gathered that the position of the party chairmanship will be used as a starting point for consolidation of power as the party prepares for likely first party presidential elections. Since Masire’s departure the incumbent vice president has automatically ascended to the presidency and never been challenged during their presidency. Both Khama and Mogae concluded their two terms unchallenged at party level.
However, the BDP constitution states that when the party is in power, the President of the party shall be elected by secret ballot at a National Congress of the party called by the Central Committee during every general election.Ntuane has informed this publication that at this point in time it is too early for the party to reveal those who are interested in contesting party positions.
“Its early days, things will reveal themselves by February or March. There might be new faces we never heard about who want to go into the Central Committee,” said Ntuane, who also declined to comment on whether he will be defending his position or not.
KHAMA’S LEGACY AT STAKE
When President Mogae bypassed frontrunners for the second in command throne; David Magang and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, it was in the back of Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s recommendation. The Cape Town based political consultant was engaged by the party after 1994 general elections to offer prognosis of the party in the lead up to the 1999 general elections.
The 1994 general election had dealt BDP a heavy blow and had its leaders’ egos substantially bruised. For the first time in years, the prospects of losing power to opposition party became real. Schlemmer’s recommendation will exalt Khama from the army to the country’s number two position. The report had recommended that BDP, which was riven with factions, bring someone with a strong personality and appeal within its fold to help unite the part. At that time the description duly fit Ian Khama.
Almost 20 years since his grand fashion arrival in politics, a lot of questions are hovering around as to whether a man who was brought in as messiah has succeeded. By the time he leaves office next year, BDP would have hit its lowest popular vote in history, and also had an offspring—something which was peculiar to the ruling party and ubiquitous within opposition parties since independence.
The BDP split resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate in many years to come. BMD is part of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC), a coalition of opposition parties ready to battle power with BDP in 2019 in highly anticipated elections.
Khama will be looking at protecting his legacy and avoiding a situation where the party will lose power immediately after his leadership. The economy has stunted in the last few years and did not fully recover from the 2008 global economic crisis. Unemployment fuelled by job losses has added strain to Khama’s legacy and he has a very limited time to reverse the situation.
DID KHAMA HAVE SUCCESSION PLAN?
For the entire duration of his presidency Khama has closely guarded his plans and rarely let them leak to the public. He decisions have always been surprises. When Khama ascended to the presidency in 2008, it was generally expected that he will appoint his former boss Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe as his deputy. This was fulfilled. Few metres down the line, it became apparent that Merafhe will serve only one term. But it remained secret as to who would replace the former foreign affairs minister.
In the meantime, Jacob Nkate, a well-known Khama ally was left out of parliament after losing out in the 2009 general elections, and instead Khama opted for bureaucrats in the Specially Elected Members of Parliament dispensation. Nkate, the leader of Nkate-Merafhe faction, which rooted for Khama, was later sent abroad after expressing his desire to serve as BDP chairman. Nkate had earlier served as Botswana Export Development Investment Agency (BEDIA) now Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) Chief Executive Officer where he left under controversial circumstances.
Merafhe’s departure ahead of schedule in 2011 due to ill-health saw Khama diverting his attention to his former nemesis, Kedikilwe as his number two. Kedikilwe had already expressed that he will retire from politics at the end of his parliamentary term at the time of his appointment.
Reports were rife that former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse was in pole position for the second in command position. Kitso Mokaila also got the nod from observes as probably number two, given his relation with Khama. However, the 2013 BDP primary election and the subsequent general elections left destruction in its awake. Both Seretse and Mokaila were among the victims, effectively ruling them out of the contest for vice presidency as the per the constitution demands.
After the 2014 general elections, Khama, in a move which surprised many appointed Masisi as his deputy. Masisi is now a few months away from the presidential seat and will become the man who became president after serving the shortest time of all previous presidents before ascending to the throne. Masisi would have served 3 years and four months as vice president before assuming the throne.
However, Masisi’s fate lies at the upcoming party elective congress where it will be a make or break for those with presidential ambitions.
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.