The ongoing opposition talks are far from over, but there are certain elements of the discussion that are not contestable or have been agreed upon at the moment.
With an all inclusive name of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC+) having been adopted, the criteria for constituency allocation has made it easy for partners to spread constituencies evenly safe for two being Lentsweletau-Mmopane and Lerala-Maunatlala. However, the adopted criterion presents a dilemma for one of the negotiating partners, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Before his shock loss to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)’s Dr Phenyo Butale in the 2014 general election, BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando had represented Gaborone Central as Member of Parliament for two terms – 2004-2009 and 2009 – 2014. Now he finds himself without a constituency.
The BCP is said to have decided to demonstrate commitment to the talks by not contesting or putting pressure on other partners to secure at least one constituency in Gaborone for its president – something that they had wanted. Insiders point out that the BCP knew from the onset that the criteria will not favour them in Gaborone constituencies where they were convincingly vanquished in the 2014 general election. “But we had assumed that Dumelang Saleshando as President of the negotiating partner could be given a special treatment and negotiate a package for him in Gaborone, but it was never to be,” said an insider.
Indications are that the BCP had also tried to lobby for Gaborone South which is currently under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), but they lost out because the Botswana National Front (BNF) had come out second best in that constituency in the 2014 general election. The criteria is very clear, negotiating teams consider incumbency – which favours the BMD of the UDC+ in Gaborone Central; and second best performing party – which favours the BNF of the UDC+ in Gaborone South.
“As the BCP, we are not going to allow this to distract us from the main goal, that is opposition unity because that is the only way we can wrestle power from the ruling BDP,” said a BCP insider. The BCP is currently searching for a constituency for Dumelang Saleshando. This publication gathers that it is going to be a long process because it will involve reaching a compromise with party members who have been contesting in the constituency to be identified. “We are determined to make sure that our President goes to Parliament,” the BCP elder said.
Weekend Post has been informed that the BCP fears are also grounded on the fact that a Vice President of the country must have a constituency according to the constitution. Although the BMD is opposed to the BCP being given the Vice Presidency, the BCP is said to be fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Saleshando gets a constituency and wins it in 2019.
It is understood that Selibe Phikwe East, which is currently held by Nonofo Molefhi of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) appears to be the most likely constituency that will welcome Saleshando. BCP came second in the 2014 general election through Kgoberego Nkawana who polled 3134 votes to BDP’s 3376. The UDC attracted 979 votes through Dimpho Mashaba while an Independent candidate, Oarabile Tshenyego was voted by 818 people. Selibe Phikwe East is one of the 17 constituencies that the BCP hopes to clinch based on the agreed criteria of the ongoing negotiating teams.
Saleshando is not a stranger to Selibe Phikwe because his family is domiciled in the mining town and he grew up there. The ongoing challenges facing Seilbe Phikwe also present a fertile campaign platform for the opposition to denounce the ruling party and its representatives. This week at a Panel Discussion organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) at Masa Centre, BCP deputy leader responsible for policy, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang told the audience that “we are in a situation of urgency, something must be done to wrestle the BDP out of power, the urgency we are talking about supersedes any other factors.
We made a mistake by not being part of the Umbrella in the 2014 general election,” he said. While he pointed out directly that his party had more solid policy positions and a well structured manifesto, the UDC appealed more to the emotions of the voters. “It was not much about the mind in 2014, it was about the heart. In 2019, it should be about the mind and the heart,” he said.
The only two constituencies that are currently on the table for further negotiations is Lentsweletau-Mmopane and Lerala-Maunatlala. The BCP wants Lentsweletau-Mmopane because they came out second best to the BDP. Phagenyana Phage was voted by 3150 people against Vincent Seretse’s 7170 votes. Moeng Pheto, an independent candidate than attracted 3120 votes while the UDC got 2999 voters.
The BMD also wants a cut because their recruit who came after contesting the general election as an independent, Moeng Pheto got good numbers. Another independent candidate from the 2014 general election in the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency, Setlhabelo Modukanele, has since joined the BMD and he had 4115 votes against Prince Maele’s 6356 votes. The BMD’s argument of second best performing is being questioned by other partners. The BCP represented by Montwedi Mokhurutshe was voted by 1147.
Weekend Post is informed that the BCP is concerned that factors are conspiring against their president – first the Vice Presidency is hotly contested; and then he has no chance to stand for elections in the capital city.
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.