Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane has used P6000 in total to lure Thato Osupile, Viginia Masole, Oganne Mazwigwila and others into the ruling party. The money was classified as transport money to cover fuel and communication because the group had pledged to mobilise across the country, especially in Francistown, to recruit Botswana Congress Party (BCP) members to the BDP.
Political experts agree that Ntuane and his partner in the BCP invasion, Mephato Reatile are well within their rights to raid the opposition Dumelang Saleshando led party and other opposition parties like the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is their pursuit to quench their thirst for more opposition ranks at the ruling party. But some within the ruling party express discomfort at the ‘recklessness’ demonstrated in the leaked tapes.
BDP commentators who have listened to the leaked audio featuring Ntuane, former chairman of the BDP Political Education subcommittee, Reatile are worried that the new secretary general is bordering on recklessness because of the statements he is making to lure the frustrated opposition members. First he indicates that politics has nothing to do with principle, it is about the belly and self, period.
Ntuane is describing the BDP as a desperate party that used to be arrogant. He states that the BDP is no longer arrogant because of the changing political climate and the poor election performance of 2014. He uses himself as a case study to pick at the BDP desperation, “You see they voted for me to be the secretary general despite the fact that I have just arrived from the BMD. It shows that the arrogance is gone,” he says.
“The beauty of the BDP of today is that there is no arrogance because of the party’s dismal performance in the just ended 2014 elections. They just want new ideas to rescue the party’s sinking ship. They are now open minded, they are no longer selfish,” he says in the leaked tape.
Ntuane is using his circumstances to lure the opposition ranks into the BDP. He is clearly stating that changing political homes is not a problem. “I know some people always find it difficult to change political homes after staying for some many years at a particular party, for us, this is not a problem, life goes on. I used to be at BMD, a party I founded, and now I am with the BDP and I am its secretary general,” he preaches.
“If it was that old party known of arrogance, they would have not even voted for me in Mmadinare, they would have easily snubbed me saying I divided the party and formed the very splinter party that has undoubtedly affected the party’s electoral fortunes. But they voted for me because they thought I could be of assistance to the party and bring in some new people for the party. So basically, the party is at the moment on survival mode. At this stage of survival, everyone should benefit.”
While Ntuane has had his own personal wars with the BCP when he was still with the BMD, some feel that his current excursions into the BCP is more about asserting himself as a worthy secretary general for the BDP. He wants to prove that he can recruit for the party despite the many doubts expressed by the group that did not support him at the Mmadinare congress.
Further in the tape Ntuane had encouraged the renegade BCP members not to write any resignation letters. He had wanted them to do an act of surprise on the BCP leadership. “We want you to be paraded at the Phitshane-Molopo rally, so that you surprise them.
Even if they are to plan a disciplinary hearing, there is no way that they will discipline a member of a different party. That is what we did to the BDP when we formed the BMD. How could they institute disciplinary proceedings against a leader of another party,” said Ntuane selling his story to the bemused former BCP members.
To explain the P6000 given to the disgruntled former BCP members, the leaked audio tape captures a conversation below:
“Comrade, we were given the money which we were told it was for fuel, and other expenses, and there were 5 of us while the amount was P 6 000. Florah then said she was not jumping ship, and we agreed that her P 1000 will be included in the fuel expenses, and then her One grand was put aside, XXL got his P 1000, and XXT got his as well, including XXV. And we were left with P 2 000.”
The conversation continues:
“In the first meeting we were told that, as Domkrag were no longer dishing out money to buy politicians even though they used to. But they are now finding themselves in situations where by a lot of people who jump ship also want that money, but since the money is no longer there, they assured us that there were opportunities that came with joining the party.
We were given an example that XXXXX was awarded a P7 million loan from a parastatal with all the procedures intentionally flouted and manipulated to favour him to start a company. But unfortunately due to poor management he failed to pay back the loan agency – but again the party broke the law and protected him so that his asserts were not repossessed and impounded – you see that’s an opportunity.
The other example was that of KN who never contested for the past elections but he was given a specially elected seat. If you look at it closely you will see that in opposition there is nothing for us, if you lose primary of general elections there is basically nothing in store for you whereas with the BDP you can get special nomination.
Also, we were told that with BDP, controlling the economy there was much in store for us. For example, if you are running a supplies business and we are given a tender, we can allocate it to Minister X and if we gave it to her we would have given to around 20 BDP members since we will instruct her to longer purchase from South Africa. The other good thing about the BDP is that if you make an assignment using your costs you are catered for.”
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.