Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has come out guns blazing in the New Year and sent strong warning to his political opponents – especially those who see him as weak and label him a ‘Yes Sir’ man. The Vice President is certain that is the best bet for Batswana because no opposition party has better policies or sound leaders.
Among other multiple toned denunciations, the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament chastised the opposition, promised to win back the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s popular vote, create jobs, and win the youth as he “marches to the 2019” general elections to seek the Presidency of the country. “We are going to deliver a sucker punch and the opposition parties won’t know what hit them,” he declared, further stressing that “I know what is coming”.
In a wide ranging interview with this publication at his residence in Gaborone, the Vice President shared his observations regarding his party, the BDP, the country, and what he intends to do during his tenure as Vice President.
“I may not have the face or the looks you want, but I have the policies of the BDP which can guarantee you a brighter future. I am not going to lie to your children and give them false hopes. I only tell them real and substantive issues,” said Masisi. He said the BDP prides itself in selling practical policies and not selfish falsehoods.
When asked a question – “Are we speaking to the future President of Botswana?” Masisi responded with a bold Yes and pointed to the Constitution, “As long as all factors remain equal, because the constitution does address the issue of incapacitation,” he said. He said he is aware that there could be others in the party, who want to be presidents, and he cannot stop those who aspire to challenge him but he cautioned that, “it will not be easy – neither will it be wise.”
Masisi was challenged by a quartet of BDP members for the chairmanship of the party and won convincingly at the Mmadinare congress held mid last year. The Vice President declared that he has settled in well into his Vice Presidential duties, a role he has held for the past one year and two months. And he has a word of advice for those who still doubt his Vice Presidency, “They must just accept that I am the Vice President.”
Masisi is the eighth Vice President of Botswana since the colonial era ended. He began discussing the possibility of him becoming Vice President with President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama a month before his appointment. He was initially appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development and surprisingly at the time, he was already aware that he is the Vice President elect. His appointment to the post of Vice President threw many off and even the book makers and political pundits got all their guessing game wrong about Botswana’s next Vice President. Masisi stated that the BDP culture of caucus has held the party together over the years; and caucus remains the consolidating factor for the party’s future as it prepares for the 2019 homerun. Masisi explained his undying love for the Ministry of Education and Skills development, “it has a special place in my heart as an educationist.”
SPEARHEADING BDP RECRUITMENT, BLASTS UDC FOR VOTE TRAFFICKING
The Vice President said he will interact with Batswana during his tenure, “I have a way of doing things and I am aware of our population dynamics, I know what is coming, my eyes are glued on 2019 as I recruit relentlessly because I am a loyal BDP member,” he stressed. Masisi pointed out that the BDP policies and programs are much better that those of the opposition, “whether combined or in their individual capacities.”
The BDP has indeed been hard at recruiting recently, but it has come with the tag that the ruling party is paying opposition cadres to join it. Masisi does not take kindly to the accusation: We do not buy people, he said, if the opposition thinks that we are buying people, they should tell us if the BMD members were bought to break BNF and BCP, “we do not think of them as buying people. No! It is shocking that people are alleged to have been bought only when they join the BDP,” he explained.
Instead, Masisi accuses the UDC and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), though to a lesser account, of voter trafficking in the last general elections. To drive home his allegation, he zoomed into his own constituency to demonstrate the trafficking he is talking about, “my first margin when I contested and won the Moshupa constituency was 5000, and in the last elections the UDC jumped from 1500 to 3500 votes, it is clear that there was trafficking and we have evidence from eye witness accounts. Buses brought people to Moshupa from as early as 5am and some of them did not even know where the school was so that they could cast their vote.”
However Masisi said he is not worried by trafficking in 2019 because Government has taken a decision to address the problem. He said there will only be one date for registration while supplementary registration and transfers will be cancelled, according to a proposal that they will put before Parliament soon. He observed that the many dates for registration were opening gaps for voter trafficking. “We want people to win and lose honestly,” he said.
“I challenge the opposition to hold primaries, they are afraid of primary elections, but we at the BDP are determined to promote democracy by holding primary elections at party level. We accepted that we had a dip in our popular vote in the last election amid the voter trafficking by the UDC, but we are a work in progress and we are coming up well,” said Masisi. He said they are on a high speed recruitment drive and they are and will be “pouncing from all angles without mercy”.
JOB CREATION IS MY BABY
On job creation, Masisi stated that: “we have an issue with jobs because of our population dynamics and middleclass challenges. But with the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) we envisage to arrest some of these challenges.” The ESP is meant to help catch up with the national development plan and will see government finance projects that were lagging behind from the previous development plans, explained the Vice President. While admitting that Government has experienced situations where public money was not utilised and returned to the treasury, Masisi noted that they are coming up with means of fast tracking usage of money, while also closing possible gaps of corruption and mismanagement among other things.
According to the Vice President the private sector will be involved more in the execution of ESP projects. He also stated that they will engage registered professional bodies like the Architects and Engineers Registration Boards to harness their expertise when it comes to project implementation. “We are going for mass buildings, we are going to make sure that these buildings are taken first to where they are needed most. Our teachers and health personnel will soon enjoy abundant housing as we roll out this program,” said Masisi. He further allays fears that the ESP is meant to only benefit the ruling party elite and their friends, “As the Coordinator of ESP I have to ensure that this programme is for all Batswana. As the BDP Government, we have presided over numerous decisions that needed us to put aside our party affiliation, the same spirit will prevail under the ESP,” he said.
But there are those who fear ESP will breed or influence corruption, Masisi offers himself as the shield again, “There are tenders that have been advertised already. Our ITTS are EDD compliant and any person who flaunts the EDD policy, I will make sure I come after them myself. We intend to brand all ESP tenders so that they can be distinguished from the normal tenders,” he stressed.
The Vice President is confident that jobs will be created especially through construction and maintenance, but he insisted that jobs must be spread out, “I will not want to see a situation where a company wins tenders in several places, we must share. He said there is a huge backlog of maintenance work which he feels the ESP programme will address and create thousands of jobs. Masisi said he is aware that the ESP has brought a lot of excitement among Batswana hence the over 900 companies registered since its announcement but he cautions that things must be done right in order to achieve the envisaged results. He also had a word of advice for Batswana, he warned them against shunning some jobs which end up being given to expatriates – he gave the example of farm work, domestic work, construction work and others.
He also commented on the issue of water and electricity. He noted that the problem is prevalent in the whole of southern Africa but he is surprised that BDP critics fail to broaden their scope and appreciate the El Niño factor as affecting the global community. “They also talk of lack of planning when it comes to water, are they not aware of the national water masterplan? For their information, they must be informed that we know where the underground water is and we are working on bringing the water to the surface, it is not a quick job as they would think,” he said. With electricity the Vice President is confident that they have communicated workable strategies to address the situation overtime.
WE ARE SORTING WORK PERMITS, VISA ISSUES
On other issues, Masisi addressed the issue of denial of work and residence permits and visas for foreigners or expatriates. He acknowledged that as government they are aware of the issue and they are addressing it. He said there are a lot of factors that are at play when it comes to this issue. He said there is possible corruption, and faults from both sides, being applicants and government officers. He said in most cases the paper work by the applicants let them down especially when they choose to use unscrupulous consultants. “But we are definitely working on the matter because even Business Botswana has made representations to us on the same,” he said.
NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR FOREIGN POLICY
The Vice President also touched on the issue of Botswana’s foreign policy and the participation of Botswana at international meetings. He pointed out that he is the Chief Assistant to the President and he does exactly what the President instructs him to do. He noted that there are sentiments that the President never attends some of the international meetings, “people should be aware that what I share at meetings be it African Union or the United Nations is exactly what the President would have said should he have attended. Even if I am to enter into any undertaking on behalf of Botswana, I follow the script as directed by the President, where there are doubts are inquire and do not commit at all,” he explained. Masisi explained that it is an honour to represent the President at international forums.
Masisi also addressed the participation of Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba in relation to her contest for the position at the Commonwealth. He found nothing wrong with Botswana’s foreign policy and insisted that Masire-Mwamba put up a good and Africa did vote for her. He noted that Botswana’s independence and sovereignty take precedence when decisions or positions on international matters are to be taken. He acknowledged that Botswana has differences with some of her African counterparts when it comes to the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it is a healthy difference of opinion.
EXPLAINS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT KHAMA
The Vice President is aware that he has been dubbed Lelope or bootlicker because of the way he relates with the President. He relates that it is unfortunate that most people who pour scorn at his modus operandi do not understand Setswana – the language. His tag of Lelope came to prominence after one of the kgotla meeting he addressed just before elections, when he stated that “ke ngwana wa lelope”. Masisi is still shocked at the level at which some criticise his speech at that kgotla meeting.
Explaining his working relationship with the President, Masisi said his bolope resonates with Setswana culture and being fit for purpose – that is being loyal. He stressed that loyalty is a very important attribute because it shows that you are sincere. But he notes that he a completely different being when compared to President Khama because they are of different generations.
“His Excellency is my elder and I take instructions from him and I execute them sincerely and with precision,” he stated. While Khama and Masisi went to the same school at some stage, the former was way ahead of the latter, “even his twin brothers are older than me,” he said. Masisi however stresses the fact that they were both born into strong BDP principles and their loyalty stems from being loyal to the party and what the BDP stands for in terms of what is good for Batswana in general. There are times when we do not see party line and we take decisions for Batswana and not the party,” he said.
Khama has allocated a number of tasks to Vice President Masisi, he has been assigned to coordinate job creation and poverty eradication; coordinate the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD); he chairs the National AIDS Council; chairs the Rural Development Council; represents the President at various international meetings, among other assignments. Masisi said he is working Members of Parliament, Councillors, community members, diplomats, NGOs and the business community to execute his mandate meaningfully.
But one thing remains dear to his heart, the constituency of Moshopa-Manyana and its people. “I am the MP for the area, you may take everything else away but not the constituency, I thank the good Lord for the popular vote I got from the Moshopa-Manyana constituency,” he said.
MASISI DISMISSES COMBINED OPPOSITION THREAT
The Vice President follows the ongoing postulations of a UDC that will include the BCP. But he told this publication that they opposition has the right to take whatever route it wants to take. He said it is incumbent on the BDP and its members to nullify any potential opposition threat. “ We are going to hammer them in 2019 and we are already outsmarting them,” he declared. Masisi said he is confident that the BDP popularity will go up in 2019, “we have huge plans for the youth and first time voters, I can assure you that Duma Boko won’t know what hit him.” You should be aware that we created our own opposition in Parliament, the majority of MPs are BMD and originally BDP and we know what they are thinking, they are communicating BDP policies,” he said.
According to Masisi the BMD has annihilated the Botswana National Front (BNF), “the BNF is as good as dead, you can classify it along the likes of Botswana People’s Party (BPP),” he said. Masisi said every parent want the best for their child. “What is it in the UDC that people could risk even for just two days. We continue to ensure an unblemished children’s future and we still maintain that the future of this country is best mortgaged to the BDP.” Masisi is of the view that Botswana is doing far much better and vows to do better than past generations. The Vice President reminded this publication that President Khama came in at probably the worst time of recession but he managed to save jobs. “It was either people are fired or jobs are saved by not increasing salaries,” he said. Masisi revealed that at some point discussed the possibility of taking a pay cut to save jobs.
Masisi is not entirely dismissive of the opposition, he noted that there are bit of value especially from the likes of the BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe whom he described as “BDP through and through”. He said Ndaba got most of his underpinning and ideas while still with the BDP and more so that his late father Baledzi Gaolathe (MHSRP) was instrumental in the crafting of some of the BDP policies. “Yes his blood father constructed some of the BDP policies and it would not be surprising that Ndaba borrowed from the BDP and those in the UDC start alleging that the BDP copied ESP from them.” Masisi has little to say about UDC leader Duma Boko, “I do not fear him in an election, I will beat him fairly. His contribution to Parliament is below average, all I see is court theatrics and most of the time when I take out the stuff that Ndaba wrote for him nothing remains in his vocabulary,” Masisi. He said taking Boko out of the court room is like taking fish out of pond, “I am sorry to say Boko is failing in Parliament.” Masisi challenged Boko to release the Gomolemo Motswaledi investigation report because his party has accused the BDP of killing Motswaledi.
POINTS TO NOTE
Masisi was Vice President elect before being appointed Minister of Education
Cabinet had looked at the possibility of taking a salary to save jobs in 2009
Senior Ministers had told Masisi that they wanted to be Vice Presidents
Masisi says it will not be wise or easy to challenge him for BDP Presidency
Explains Bolope in the Setswana context and how it connotes loyalty
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”