Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando
The leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has blasted the ruling party for coming up ‘last ditch efforts’ aimed at keeping it in power. He however warned that potential joint effort between his party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change remains the only hope for this country.
The BCP leader said his party has always committed itself to cooperation with other opposition parties. He said they have in the past cooperated with formations such as the New Democratic Front, Botswana Alliance Movement and MELS, and some of the efforts culminated in a total merger.
He stated that when the Umbrella 1 talks collapsed, they restated their commitment to engage the other parties post 2014 elections. “Our membership recently mandated the leadership to engage the UDC.
“It must be understood that the mandate is for the BCP to negotiate a mutually acceptable cooperation arrangement between the two formations. Such cooperation may be of any form. It is wrong to conclude that the BCP is just on a mission to secure UDC membership. We need to allow those who will be mandated to lead the talks the space they need to broadly reflect on the possible options and persuade each other on the best steps to take in order for us to deliver a new viable and stable government in 2019.”
Saleshando said what is clear, is that only a joint effort between BCP and UDC will deliver a new government. He said once an agreement that is acceptable to the two parties is reached, the BDP would not be able to face the might of our combined efforts.
“I am however alive to the fact that there will be doubting Thomases within our ranks on the viability of opposition cooperation. It is in the nature of lively human beings that differences of opinion will always accompany new ideas. Only an organization domiciled in a graveyard can hope for total convergence of views on topical issues. We are an organization composed of divergent skills and viewpoints. It is this diversity that if well managed, will propel the BCP to greater heights,” said Saleshando. Parliament
Saleshando said losing his seat in the 2014 general elections was a setback for the BCP. He said it is always desirable that the party leader should be in Parliament to lead in articulating the views of the party.
“As they say, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud. My period outside Parliament accords me more time to focus on party specific issues. For the four years (2010 – 2014) that I served as both MP and party leader, the BCP was not as active as it used to be on extra parliamentary activities. Such activities are essential in a democracy as they reach out to the larger populace. The Democracy Alerts that used to be regular were informative and also brought international attention to issues that matter.”
Saleshando said he chooses not to comment on suggestions that his performance in Parliament was superior to the current crop of opposition MPs. He said there is need to allow more time for the new opposition MPs to prove themselves.
“They have been given a 5-year term and it is unfair that some people wrote them off in their first year. We all adapt differently to new assignments. There is no training school for one to pass as a good MP. A majority of the opposition MPs are in their first term and there are clear indications that some of them are already performing exceptionally well,” he observed. Emerging Issues
Saleshando observed that of late, the BDP structures have been haphazardly making a number of proposals that they have vehemently opposed in the past. He said they refused suggestions that Parliament seats be increased in the run up to the 2014 elections but they now want 40 additional seats.
“They argued in the past that the Proportional Representation gives rise to unstable governments but they now want the system introduced. They opposed public funding of political parties on the grounds that there were other national priorities but now support it when the economy has slowed down. They branded opposition party members lunatics for proposing that part of the reserves be invested in the economy but today they call the same idea a game changer,” he indicated.
According to the BCP leader, “What is clear is that the BDP is dead worried by 2019. For the first time since formation they represent the minority and have been rejected by the majority of the voters. They know that their days are numbered and their actions should be seen as desperate actions of a party that knows that it will have to face the political hang man in 2019.”
He said the ESP is the most dramatic of the BDP panic mode performances. Up to today, they have failed to deliver a clear detailed plan of how they will stimulate the economy, he stated.
“People are just being told to incorporate businesses as there will be mega bucks floating around for all to deposit to their business accounts. ESP may in the end prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the BDP as it is in essence being used to heighten expectations when there is no capacity to meet the expectations. I have no doubt in my mind that once the BDP has blown up the reserves that have been built over decades, unemployment will still be over the twenty percent mark, inequality will have worsened, poverty will not have been eradicated and the economy will still be dominated by foreigners. Batswana will then be told that their opportunity will come in 2036 when the new vision matures. Hopefully, a new government in 2019 will be ready to unveil a new beginning.”
Year 2015 for BCP
As far as his party is concerned, Saleshando said this was a year that followed a general election whose outcome was way below the standards they had set for themselves. He said the party was able to come out of the dark period and convene the biggest elective conference in recent history. He observed that the high turnout at the conference demonstrated that their members are optimistic about the future of the party.
He further stated it was during 2015 that they came back to capture a ward that they had never won in Mochudi (Bokone Ward) to demonstrate that they have what it takes to bounce back to winning ways.
“It was also in 2015 that we conducted regional meetings that allowed the leadership to touch base with all the administrative structures of the party country wide. Though some people who are not accustomed to the culture of the BCP label us as an overly consultative organization, we will continue to cherish the practice of internal debates and shun proposals for a more top down leadership style. Once the party membership has decided on the path that the party is to follow, the leadership is compelled to administer the organization in line with the wishes and aspirations of the majority,” explained Saleshando.
Commenting on the BCP new leadership that was elected in Kanye, Saleshando said it is a well-balanced team that comprises experience and youthful hands that have never served at the highest structure.
“Having been returned as the party leader unopposed is a source of great inspiration for me to do more for the BCP. In the coming year, the leadership will be busy galvanising the structures of the BCP countrywide. As in the past, we will once more invest more in training our cadres to make sure that we can boast a membership that is enlightened and able to articulate the alternative vision of the BCP,” he said.
Saleshando said more than any political party in Botswana, they have entrusted a high number of young people with leadership positions in the party. He observed that in the 2014 general elections the BCP fielded the highest number of young people as Parliamentary and Local Government candidates.
“Our constitution provides for affirmative action for youth and women. This bold decision comes with its own risks. Owing to the high unemployment rate in the country and the desperate economic situation that the youth are confronted with, our young leaders have become the target of the BDP recruitment machinery. They are promised a better life if they take up the BDP membership card. I remain convinced that the small number of our youthful members who are attracted by the BDP resources should not discourage us from investing further in the youth who make up a significant section of our membership.”
Saleshando indicated that they recently had some former BDP high profile members including a sitting councillor defecting to the BCP. He said as they approach 2019, they should expect more BDP members to see the light and ditch the party regardless of the prospects for personal enrichment that the party accords those who associate with it.
“The BCP will have to continue to demonstrate that it is a welcoming party and allow the new members to serve in the structures of the party. The party will have to once more invest in training the new and old members on the core values of the BCP,” he said.
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.