Matlhabaphiri takes on Ntuane in the BDP SG race; VP Masisi not off the hook yet, he is still being lobbied; Kabo Morwaeng joins race for deputy secretary general
Democracy is expected to be at full play at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) July congress to be held in Mmadinare. With already a flurry of contestants for the position of chairman in the central committee, more candidates are expected to announce their candidature for various positions in the 2015 central committee.
Many observers within the party believe that the spirit of democracy and freewill that was experienced at the Women’s Wing congress in Lobatse pushed a few off the fences and they have now taken positions. Dorcas Makgato recorded a resounding victory against Tshepo Wareus in Lobatse earning 317 votes compared to 186 votes. Makgato’s camp chanted celebratory songs reminiscent of the BDP of old. Makgato’s victory has earned her a place in the BDP’s politburo.
A recent twist in the contest for BDP central committee positions is the reported interest of former cabinet minister, Gaotlhaetse ‘GUS’ Matlhabaphiri to stand for the position of secretary general of the ruling party in July.
Matlhabaphiri’s eminent declaration comes in the wake of earlier pronouncements that former Gaborone Bonninton South Member of Parliament, Botsalo Ntuane could be unopposed for the same position in July.
Matlhabaphiri is said to have finally agreed with those who have been lobbying him to challenge for the position so that he takes the baton from Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general. Those who lobbied Matlhabaphiri are of the view that Ntuane could serve better as a running to the former.
They want him to be more administrative and execute his writing prowess at the office while Matlhabaphiri does the dirty work of resuscitating party structures and other related grass roots work. They want to rather position Ntuane for 2017.
Days before Ntuane declared his intentions as far as the position of secretary general is concerned, Matlhabaphiri was approached by the same lobby group and he declined their invitation, but it appears they have convinced him this time around. Sources who spoke to WeekendPost indicate that Matlhabaphiri has been assured that he has the support of the party hierarchy.
Meanwhile, BDP’s on and off prodigal son, Kabo Morwaeng is said to have shown interest in the position of deputy secretary general. Should he make a declaration as expected, he will be inviting a challenge from former Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) chairman, Metlha Mokwena who has long declared his interest.
Those who are lobbying Morwaeng indicate that he is a hard worker and he knows how to mobilise. During his calm days, Moraweng was renowned for his easy links with the grassroots hence those who approached him believe that he still has it. His phone rang repeatedly without being answered when efforts were made to contact him.
BDP CHAIRMAN HOT POTATO
So far, there are five candidates who want to become BDP chairman. This week there was a meeting that attempted to push Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to the fray. BDP lobbyists still believe that Masisi should become the next chairman of the BDP so that he prepares himself for presidency by acclimatising with party structures.
They believe that the Vice President should build into the hearts of party members and that exercise can start with party members actually casting a vote for him at the congress.
According to his supporters it will be too late for him to start endearing himself with the party faithful in 2017, the date of the next congress. Initially, the Vice President was not keen on contesting and it is not clear if he will change his mind before the end of this month.
Those who are against his candidature posit that there is too much blood on the floor and should he join he will come out tainted or could perform badly and hence dent his presidential bid. However, there are those who theorise that should he contest some candidates would pull out in his honour.
Already five candidates vying for BDP chairmanship have confirmed that the party needs renewal and the time is ripe for a serious makeup. Former Minister of Defence Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse was in Lobatse to market his strategy of reviving BDP fortunes. He intends to become BDP chairman in July.
Biggie Butale made use of the BDP Women’s Wing congress to sell his reformist approach to the BDP ailments. He has promised fresh ideas and fresh leadership.
Dithapelo Tshotego did not want to be left out; he spent the entire weekend at the Women’s Wing congress to convince party members that he is the right man for the job. He is adamant that he has graduated from the days of the Youth Wing and he appreciates the party well.
Former diplomat, Tebelelo Seretse also made use of the Women’s Wing Congress to solidify her campaign. She was the first person to declare her candidature for chairman and she has covered a lot of ground in her campaign.
Reports also indicate that businessman Moemedi Dijeng also has solutions for BDP problems and he wants party members to vote him chairman in July. There is also a new entrant to the race of chairman, a youth member from Serowe, Mr Motalaote was seen organising groups of people to lobby them in Lobatse at the BDP Women’s Wing congress.
It is very likely that there will be twists and turns in the race for BDP central committee positions until the day of elections in July.
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.