Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) this week rejected the name of party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane for Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) nomination at the party caucus, WeekendPost has learnt.
Instead the caucus culminated in the endorsement of two names which were selected by President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama being political heavyweight, Mephato Reatile as well as celebrated economist Bogolo Kenewendo. The duo, seen as Khama’s “darlings” were subsequently given a nod by the party caucus and later on by the esteemed National Assembly.
However Weekend Post has established that Ntuane’s name was also “mentioned” and “submitted” on the floor at the crucial party caucus. It is understood that Khama was physically present at the meeting – possibly to safeguard his interest of the desired SEMP and ensure their nomination. Nevertheless the non-conformist and heroic Francistown West legislator, Ignatious Moswaane together with Tonota North law maker who is now Assistant Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Fidelis Molao, recommended the name of the party Secretary General for the special nomination which was subsequently pondered on although the battle was lost.
The suggestion of Ntuane was easily brushed off as it was agreed that the party President, Khama already had his two picks that he was putting forward for endorsement at the caucus. “Yes it is true that some suggested Ntuane but he was rejected at the caucus as we believed that the elders know very well what they were looking for in the two already elected by the president and submitted before us so we just abode by the pronouncement and endorsed them without further questions,” a BDP legislator who preferred anonymity and was present at the caucus told Weekend Post on Thursday.
On his part when approached for comment by this publication, Ntuane insisted that he was not part of the caucus as he had excused himself of attending and however welcomed its decision. “I think people were just wishing me well. Caucus agreed on the names,” he told this reporter. The BDP SG stressed that: “They are now our MP’s; endorsed by our caucus and we think highly of them and look forward to their enriching contributions in parliament.” Why Khama preferred Reatile, Kenewendo
The BDP lawmaker explained that the assertion advanced at the BDP caucus to convince the party members to toe the line on Khama’s preferred names was that the nomination of Reatile was seen as essential to the party as he is a political strategist who is precisely solid on the ground. The former two time law maker for Ngwaketse West (now re-named Jwaneng/Mabutsane constituency), was praised as a strongman, a political hardwearing that campaigned vigorously for domkrag in the 2014 General Elections and in the subsequent bye-elections hence his being “rewarded.”
Reatile was a law maker from 2004 until 2014 under the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) and he later defected to the ruling BDP just before the 2014 General Elections but lost the election under the party. “We were told that even though he lost the parliamentary seat to opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s Shawn Ntlhaile, he achieved so much for the party and as he is a prodigious mobiliser,” the BDP MP continued. The other endorsed Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Kenewendo was acclaimed to be a world class economist who is very crucial at such economically uncertain contemporary times hence her nomination. Although wet behind the ears, “she was hailed as a top notch economist, highly learned from sophisticated overseas institutions”.
Having grown up in Motopi village in Boteti, the area legislator Slumber Tsogwane welcomed her nomination and was happy that she was chosen from a rural area falling under his constituency. “I am very happy for her nomination particularly because she is from my constituency, very young, talented and that she will add value to our area and by extension the country,” stated the Boteti West lawmaker who doubles as Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.
Prior to nomination, Kenewendo had just quit a job at Ghana where she worked as a Trade Economist in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Before leaving for the East African country she was employed as an economic consultant at Econsult Botswana.
She holds an MSc in International Economics from the University of Sussex in the UK, and was a recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship in 2012. She completed her BA in Economics at the University of Botswana. Kenewendo’s profile suggests that she has experience in consultancy, research and policy analysis. Her areas of expertise include (among others): macroeconomic policy, export development, regulatory frameworks, poverty alleviation, financial sector development, the economics of HIV, climate change, as well as business advocacy and project management.
The internationally trained economist has been an active advocate and adviser on socioeconomic issues, especially poverty and inequality, as well as youth and women participation in the labour market. As a policy analyst, she has led the execution of key projects and she chaired the youth sector of the President of Botswana’s High Level Consultative Council, addressing challenges faced by the private sector in Botswana. Kenewendo was one of two Botswana youth delegates who attended the 64th and 65th Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly and as part of this responsibility, she was nominated to present a statement about African youth to then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
What prompted the Special nomination? The nomination of two Specially Elected Members of Parliament were a result of constitutional amendment to a bill, named Bill No.3 of 2016 Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which was published on the 5th February 2016. The Bill which was later passed by parliament proposed to increase the number of Specially Elected Members of Parliament from 4 to 6. The Bill was presented by Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale. In addition to Reatile and Kenewendo, the other 4 specially elected legislators include Unity Dow, Kenneth Matambo, Kitso Mokaila and Eric Molale.
The decision to increase the SEMP was also hatched at the BDP caucus towards the end of last year. The Bill suggested that the economy of Botswana continues to grow in size and in complexity therefore the increase in number of Specially Elected Members of Parliament will provide a window of opportunity for the National Assembly, and by extension cabinet, to increase the number of members with the necessary expertise and skills to manage a modern and complex economy.
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.