The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Working Committee has expressed displeasure at the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s handling of the Gomolemo Motswaledi commemoration event. Motswaledi was the BMD president and also Secretary General of the UDC.
At its meeting held on Wednesday this week, the BMD working committee composed of nine portfolio holders indicated that the UDC has taken over Motswaledi’s commemorations and has not bothered to engage the BMD, which was the late’s political home when he met his demise.
“We have only received an invitation letter to the Gomolemo Motswaledi commemorations. We have not been part of the process of planning for the commemorations. Yes it is true that the National Working Committee met and deliberated on a few topics which were dealt with expeditiously by the portfolio holders,” said the BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole who is also a Member of Parliament for Mochudi West.
According to Mangole the BMD will attend the Commemorations as per the invitation from the UDC but will immediately after the commemorations express their misgivings to the UDC leadership about the handling of the matter. “We cannot learn of this event about our former President through an invitation letter, we should have been involved more, consulted for that matter,” said Mangole.
The BMD secretary general stated that Motswaledi was secretary general of the UDC by virtue of being President of the BMD, “therefore MK Motswaledi was BMD first before being UDC. We feel that this is disrespect of the organisation that Motswaledi founded, and we will humbly request that in future these matters be dealt with according to processes that can agreed to be courteous,” he said. Mangole said they do not even know who is organising the event and what the program of the commemoration entails. “We are aware that we shared Motswaledi with the UDC but it is important that his true political home is not overlooked when anything that has to do with his name is organised,” said Mangole.
The UDC is organising commemorations that will focus on celebrating and remembering Gomolemo Motswaledi’s life. Motswaledi was a political giant killed by a car accident after forming the BMD along with others from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), who were either expelled from party or defecting in support of the BMD founding principles. Motswaledi was suspended by BDP leader, President Lt Gen Ian Khama, a decision that scuppered his ambition of contesting the Gaborone Central Parliamentary seat under the ruling party and chose to join the splinter BMD.
Asked about the composition of the Working Committee of the BMD, Mangole indicated that it is made up of nine members who are portfolio holders in the party. He said it must be noted that the President, Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi did not attend the working committee meeting held on Tuesday.
It is on record that Gaolathe and Mmolotsi are working parallel to some of the National Executive Committee members especially the secretary general and the party chairman, Nehemiah Modubule. The two camps are split on whether the party should call a special congress or not. A deliberation on the need for a Special Congress arose after the majority of the NEC voted to include Advocate Sydney Pilane in the list of BMD negotiators at the anticipated UDC talks which will include the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this time around. Gaolathe, Mmolotsi and a small section of the NEC is against Pilane being granted full membership of the party and have called into question the ability of the current NEC to run the affairs of the party.
Meanwhile Mangole told this publication that the Working Committee on Tuesday also noted 19 letters received from various constituencies requesting for a Special Congress. He said the letters were only noted and the final decision rests with the National Executive Committee which will meet on the 13th of August 2016. Gaolathe’s camp is confident that it has secured enough numbers to push for a Special Congress which is expected to change the composition of the current NEC by way of voting for new leaders. On the other hand Mangole and Modubule’s camp is against the special congress and had asked for reconciliation as they argue that a special congress is not the solution to BMD problems.
Sharing his observations, a political commentator, Dr Wazha Morapedi said the Motswaledi Commemorations and the perceived side-lining of some in the BMD is a further demonstration of the magnitude of the conflict within the BMD. He said it is clear that Gaolathe and Mmolotsi could be privy to the planning and organisation of the Motswaledi Commemoration while the majority of the BMD NEC is in the dark.
Morapedi said it is important for BMD to solve their differences because they have a potential to derail the UDC agenda. He observed that the BMD should not make a big deal over the invitation and rather focus on broad policy issues that could craft their path as a political organisation. “The problem with our politics is that our politicians fight over small and sometimes irrelevant issues,” he said.
Contacted for comment, the UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa indicated that all the UDC partners have been invited to the Motswaledi Commemoration. Answering to the accusation from the BMD that they were not involved in the planning, Mohwasa indicated that the BMD was involved through its leader Gaolathe who is also the secretary general of the UDC. Mohwasa observed that Motswaledi was a leader within the UDC and all partners should embrace any activity planned in his remembrance. He further said they have not yet received any formal complaint from the BMD in regard to the commemorations. He was optimistic that they will have a successful event and indicated that a number of speakers have been lined up to celebrate the icon’s life.
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.