Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare
The Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare has broken ranks with the rest of opposition politicians and spoken highly about the country’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
In a candid interview this week with FRANCINAH BAAITSE at his residence in Gaborone, Rakgare revealed that Masisi is a clean man who would give opposition a serious contest ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Rakgare further revealed that as BCP engages the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over unity talks, the Presidents of the Coalition parties must contests for the leadership positions and be directly elected by the masses.
Rakgare wants BNF to come out clean and account for the saga surrounding the forensic report of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader who died in a car crush a few months before the last general elections. Below is how the interview was captured.
The BCP is readying to join opposition unity ahead of 2019 general elections. Tell us about it. Are you prepared for it?
I have not been mandated by the youth league to share my views on this matter. I have my personal views. However there is always a thin line between views of leaders on personal capacity and that of the position they hold.
There has to be some form of criterion between the coalition parties. Most of the time coalitions do not work out because parties do not understand each other in terms of culture and structures. You talk of behaviour of the general membership of the BCP; how we relate among ourselves, how does the leadership operate; how are decisions taken! For instance BCP uses the “bottom up” policy whereby the leadership implements decisions made by the general membership. That has been a culture in our party. I would not want that to die. I would not want Dumelang to take decisions on behalf of the general BCP membership without prior consultation. I do not want him to act like the former BNF leader, Dr Kenneth Koma who would say, “I am BNF and BNF is me,”
So you do not support the coalition?
I want the cooperation and almost everybody in the BCP wants it, but there are certain outstanding issues that still need to be ironed out. You will recall that when we went for the BCP youth congress last year I was clear that the UDC must come out and tell us the truth.
Remember the Motswaledi report? We need accountability. We submitted a proposal on the Memorandum of Understanding in regards to by-elections to the UDC. We have written to the UDC and it has not responded. Like I was saying to you these issues stands unresolved. We need accountability because we are a government in waiting. Another issue is about what happened in 2011. When the cooperation talks collapsed, Gomolemo Motswaledi, may his soul rest in peace, then representing BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) signed, Dumelang Saleshando representing BCP signed and Duma Boko representing BNF (Botswana National Front) also signed. They all agreed that the talks have collapsed and so it was not good when the BNF membership went around accusing Saleshando of betrayal and that he pulled out from the talks.
Saleshando is going back to the negotiation table with UDC over unity talks, what should we expect?
We are going into fresh negotiations and we are going to thoroughly debate the issue and the youth league has already started. Their thinking as well as mine is that in a progressive democracy there has to be a contest. There has to be primary elections in every constituency. The people should be allowed to select their favoured candidate.
So you are not in favour of constituency allocation as per the old umbrella model?
Personally I think constituency allocation is fine but I disagree where primary elections are prohibited. Remember general membership would not participate or have a direct say on the kind of cooperation model to be adopted, but they can take part in voting for their preferred representatives. People should be allowed to directly elect the President, a person who would lead the coalition government. The BDP is going to fight hard to retain power and we need somebody who is very strong to combat their efforts.
Among the four opposition leaders, Boko of BNF, Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana People’s Party (BPP), Ndaba Gaolathe of BMD and Saleshando of BCP who would you want to lead the combined opposition to the 2019 general elections?
Personally I do not care who takes the party to the general elections. I do not think any elections would be as interesting as those of 2019. Let us put aside party affiliation and understand that this is about regime change. There are capable people who should be allowed the chance to contest and lead the coalition to victory. This project belongs to Batswana. Let us not worry much about individuals but rather about the structure. The Presidency is a very powerful position. The President controls almost all arms of government including the Judiciary, Parliament and even has powers to hang people to death.
We need to have an agreement in place that whoever takes over the Presidency in 2019 would support constitution amendment because the Presidential powers have to be reduced. We need an independent Parliament, independent Judiciary and independent oversight bodies.
What do you think of the current Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi whom the Opposition would have to contend with ahead of the 2019 polls? Is he a potentially strong Presidential Candidate?
Masisi is a nice man. He is a bit cleaner in as far as corruption is involved. He has a very strong character. We need somebody who can match him. If we do not have somebody who is grounded like him, who relates well with the people, we will kiss government goodbye. Masisi connects well with the poor, the ordinary Motswana out there. That alone is a threat to the opposition; that is why we need a character that will match him.
Surely, the opposition is not going to be happy with this statement!
I do not care. This is the truth. This man would pose a serious threat to the opposition should the BDP elect him to lead it into the 2019 general elections. If we fail to oppose him with a strong opposition leader, then we will be in serious trouble.
Do you think Saleshando stands a chance in leading the cooperation?
BCP membership has shown great support for him. They demonstrated that he remains their trusted leader when they re-elected him the party President during the last congress even though he had not achieved all he had wanted to achieve during the 2014 general elections. Dumelang will always be my best ever MP (member of Parliament). As a young person in Parliament he represented me, spoke a lot on things that affect the youth. For tax to be exempted for first home owners, it was because of him. Some of the commodities we buy are excluded from VAT because Saleshando spoke for the people. He has done his best. The party membership believes in him, they trust his leadership skills. They see him as the next President of the country and he must accede to that. If he is to relegate himself to something else, then he would have wronged them. The people should be given a chance to vote him as the leader of the coalition. If many people believe that Boko should lead the coalition, then let the people decide and vote who they believe is the best.
Now about your political future, are you still interested in taking another chance in contesting for a Parliamentary seat in the next general elections?
I am not so sure because we are now talking coalition and possible constituency allocations. Mogoditshane could end up being allocated to another party other than mine. Besides I am very broke at the moment. Campaign is expensive. Politics do not have a thank you when you lose. You struggle on your own. I used family money for campaigns and when you lose nobody gives you back that money. When I was fired from my old job at Duma FM I cared less because I thought, when I win, I would have little money to feed my family and survive. But I lost and I have been sitting home for the past 2 years without a job. I have a wife, a son and extended family to support. Back home in Thamage they look up to me for financial support. I am the bread winner and now that I am in opposition politics it is close to impossible to get my proposals looked at by even the private sector. I have sent out business proposals, but none of them have been successful. I know I had good ideas, but I am being punished because I am an opposition politician.
Is it that bad?
Yes, truth has to be told. Some officers have told me that they cannot help me because “elders” are watching. I am struggling financially. I know some would say I am shaming my family, but my wife has been supporting me through all these difficult times. She even gives me fuel money so that I can attend party meetings.
You are the youth leader, why can’t the party finance official trips?
We are broke, BCP is broke and it always have been broke!
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.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.