Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers in parliament appear to have usurped the role of the opposition in the left of the political spectrum, going against both the grain of BDP tradition and desires of the establishment, by tabling a salvo of left leaning motions.
When parliament resumes for the third session in November, it will debate motions left behind from the previous session. Most of them, from BDP legislators such as the likes of Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata-Gweta, Polson Majaga are poised to rattle BDP establishment to the core. Majaga has tabled a motion calling for government to carry out a referendum for the direct election of the president.
Botswana uses the first-past-the-post electoral system and the sitting Vice President automatically succeeds to Presidency once the presidential seat is vacant. Majaga explained that in his eyes there seems to be a fault line in the country’s system which confers a raft of sweeping powers on an individual who is not directly elected by the people.
Majaga contends that, that is not his idea of a democratic dispensation and that the country has already been surpassed by its neighbours including Zambia, where he recently was an election observer when Edgar Lungu was elected directly by Zambians.
The next motion in parliamentary order paper, still by Majaga asks government to make provisions that will see the president of the republic appointing cabinet ministers from individuals who are not sitting parliamentarians to allow them more time to do administrative work.
In regards to disentangling MP’s from ministerial posts, Majaga said that the arrangement he proposes will stem situations where ministers’ treat visits to constituencies as favours to fellow friends in cabinet. He explained that ministers currently exchange visits to one another’s constituency, leaving ordinary MP’s out in the cold.
“MP’s should be MPs and ministers should be ministers.” said Majaga.
He further said that this will also encourage the spirit of accountability as currently ministers are either busy or claim to be busy when it comes to expediting visits to Batswana.
Majaga said that his motions have not yet passed through BDP caucus but he remains hopeful.
Another raft of ‘disloyal’ motions on the BDP is by Tati West MP, Biggie Butale.
Butale has noticed a motion calling for an introduction of other indigenous languages in the education curriculum. Butale had tabled the same motion in parliament early last year before his party went for the Mmadinare elective congress in which he was candidate for the chairmanship and the motion never saw the light of day.
The proposal to introduce other indigenous languages in the education curriculum has previously been rejected in the ruling party quarters, with BDP head honchos crushing it as a divisive, costly and impractical move.
The current Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi once described the idea as akin to the reintroduction of a Bantu form of education, as he shot down the motion then tabled by former Selibi Phikwe West MP, Gilson Saleshando.
Before the 2014 general election, the now BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane constantly waded into the contentious topic. Speaking at former party strong man, Daniel Kelagobe’s candidacy launch in Molepolole, Ntuane who described himself as a nationalist, shot down the idea, labelling it as a plot to divide the country along tribal lines. He had also spoken about it three weeks earlier at Odirile Motlhale’s candidacy launch in Ramotswa.
In Molepolole, he was quoted as saying: “We are just two years away from celebrating our golden jubilee and are we going to allow some people to divide us along tribal lines? We should identify ourselves first as Batswana and not along any ethnic grouping.”
Butale has also tabled another motion even more despised in ruling party quarters. He has tabled a motion calling for the establishment of community radio and television stations. Previously, BDP MP’s have also trashed the idea, advancing reasoning that the same have fuelled ethnic divisions in Rwanda. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi shot down the idea on that basis when she was still Minister for Communications, Science and Technology.
Butale said this week that it does not mean that if the ruling party rejected similar motions in the past, it will continue to do the same at other times.
“Times change, it doesn’t mean that they will continue to reject them”
He further said that he continues to bring them up because he feels these are motions that can help the needy Batswana. He further said that he is confident that the motions will pass because BDP parliamentary caucus has already given them its blessings.
Butale further said that the motions are not in any way pro-opposition but serve to demonstrate that BDP is responsible to the needs of the larger population.
Another of his motion which will be received possibly with mixed reactions in the sluggish quarters of the ruling party concerns citizen economic empowerment.
While younger generations of Batswana appear unanimous on a citizen economic empowerment deal that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana in businesses, President Khama seem to hold a divergent view.
At BDP’s first special congress in October 2015, Khama broke ranks with party SG Botsalo Ntuane concerning a law that forces foreign joint ventures with Batswana. Ntuane advocated before the BDP faithful that there should be a law that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana as the foreigners immediately repatriate profits in chunks, offshore without leaving any major benefits for the natives.
Moments after Ntuane received a rapturous applause, Khama immediately moved to crush his argument stating that he does not want Batswana to be “cry-babies and piggy back on foreign companies.”
However, Ntuane warned this week that: “You cannot be a BDP MP only when it suits you and not when it doesn’t. In BDP we work as collective.”
He said that party policy is that all motions have to go to the caucus which will halt or green light the concerned motions.
Butale is a known liberal among conservatives who once advocated for increased media freedom, declaration of assets, closer ties with the labour movement, devolution of powers from central to local government and political party funding among others; topics that the ruling party has continuously shied away from.
He also at some point noticed a motion in parliament calling for the immortalisation of late Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi through naming one major government institution in his honour, but was stopped in his tracks by his party as the move would have amounted to an immense propaganda coup for the opposition.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.