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Khama didn’t like my father- Ndaba

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General and Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe, has finally shared insights on his family’s relationship with President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

While there have been reports of a fall out between former Minister of Finance and Development Planning (now Finance and Economic Development) the late Baledzi Gaolathe and president Khama, Ndaba this week shared details of how, prior to his demise, his father and Khama were not on good terms with one another.

Ndaba revealed this at the launch of a book titled “The Boko Factor,” authored by Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) President, Richard Khumoekae, about the UDC president.  In eulogising Duma Boko, the BNF and UDC President, Ndaba also gave credit to Boko’s mother, who was in attendance, and said she has helped shape the UDC president’s character.

Incidentally, his narration of how mothers shape their kids characters, Ndaba ended up opening up about events that unfolded between president Khama and his own mother following his father’s passing. “The man who lives at State House wanted to see my mother, but she said, no!” he revealed.  “When I was busy making some preparations (for father’s funeral) like collecting fire wood, I received calls from my siblings pleading with me to talk to my mother to accept the president’s request to see her. I pleaded with her but she insisted.”

In Ndaba’s words, his late mother, Isabella Gaolathe said: “I do not want to live a life of pretence. The gentleman who lives at State House does not like my son and my husband. I do not want him to come here and pretend to like my son and husband.” According to reports, Baledzi fell out with Khama after the latter ascended to presidency in 2008, following introductions of economic policies which Gaolathe greatly differed with and saw as populist. This include among others, the introduction of the controversial constituency tournament, a fully government sponsored tournament.

Following the 2009 general elections, Khama removed Baledzi from Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and moved him to Ministry of Trade and Industry. Baledzi had served as minister of Finance for 10 years, having being brought to parliament after the 1999 general elections by then President Festus Mogae as Specially Elected legislator. He was replaced by the incumbent minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo.  

There was discontent with how president Khama treated Baledzi prior to his passing in 2010. After Baledzi fell sick, Khama dropped him from his cabinet, and the bad news was delivered at Milpark Hospital in South Africa, where he was on his sick bed. Baledzi never recovered from his ailment and died in hospital before long after the incident.

While Khama’s office stated that the agreement was reached between the president and Baledzi to relief the latter of his duties on account of health, it later turned out that Khama arrived at the decision without consulting him. Dorcus Malesu, who was then Baledzi’s understudy, ascended to the position as substantive minister.

Three months after his father was dropped from cabinet, Ndaba resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), and he was among many who went to form Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which currently has majority of opposition Members of Parliament under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which is a unity party between three opposition parties. UDC is currently the country’s main opposition party.

The ascendance of Khama to presidency was also not a happy beginning for him and Ndaba. After the killing of John Kalafitis in 2009, Ndaba publicly condemned government for its hand in the brutality and for exercising an extra-judicial killing. The relationship between Khama and Ndaba was not helped by the fact that, a few months down the line, while serving as campaign manager for Gaborone Central, the constituency candidate, Gomolemo Motswaledi was suspended and barred from contesting general elections by President Khama.

Ndaba became the first person in the BDP to publicly release a statement condemning the suspension of Motswaledi, saying that the decision was not taken in good faith and was not in line with the party’s democratic ideals. The Gaolathe family had enjoyed a close relationship with the presidency during President Sir Ketumile Quett Masire’s tenure and later during the presidency of Mogae.  Baledzi spent four decades of his life in the public service, and has headed most of the country’s prestigious institutions such as Debswana and Bank of Botswana.

Meanwhile, Masire had credited Baledzi as one of the architects of Botswana’s economy and singled out him as one of the people, together with Mogae who drilled him in the basics of economics.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021

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.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou


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.

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