Dorcus Makgato believes she has what it takes to push the women empowerment agenda and she is challenging for the position of chairperson of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Women’s Wing.
The ruling party’s women folk go for their congress next month and jostling for positions is ongoing. The chairperson of the Wing automatically becomes a member of the central committee. Makgato’s quest to be a dominant force in the BDP politics will not come easy; she has to fight a challenge from Tshepo Wareus, who also has her own strong support base.
“I want to ensure improved participation of women in politics. I believe that they have a big role to play especially owing to the demographics of the country. There are more women than men and we should activate ourselves to participate meaningfully in shaping the laws of this country, growing the economy, and influence the political environment among other things,” Makgato said in an interview with WeekendPost.â€¨
According to the Minister of Health, the BDP needs to be strengthened further through more strong leaders because the economic landscape has changed – “we need an even stronger party,” she stressed. She indicated that her journey in politics and the corporate world has baptised with immense skills which she is willing to lend to the BDP, and she has identified the Women’s Wing as a launch pad for such exuberance.
She is confident that her skills of articulation and influence have produced results along her journey – “I want to use them to empower women, while at the same time help my party deal with the challenging political landscape,” she said. She contends that it is not enough to have a strong government; in fact it should be complemented by a strong party.
On whether she has assembled a team for the congress, Makgato said she has decided alone to stand, and that she has heard of other competent BDP women who are running. “I have a feeling that it is a very rich menu and I am very happy to work with them.”
While Makgato would not necessarily take a bite that she can’t chew, she is conscious of the fact that she is in the game of politics, where anything is possible. She intends to work hard to ensure success in her mission of becoming the party’s Women’s Wing chairperson.
But Makgato is not without critics, there are those who posit that she does not support women empowerment. She said she is aware of the “smear campaign”, but she submits that she has always been a proponent of women empowerment. “As chairperson of the BNSC I came up with an initiative specific to women empowerment. When I was the Sports Council, there were very few women in sports and I managed to produce several presidents of sports associations who are women,” she said.
The Sefhare-Ramokgonami Member of Parliament said she is proud to have presided over the moulding of female talents such as Amantle Montsho, Tshotlego Morama and others. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, she has recently been appointed the patron Women in Sports International and her immediate predecessor is Finland’s Prime Minister. Makgato is preparing for the 2018 Women in Sports meet.
“The only thing that I could have said in the past which has been misconstrued is that women must see themselves as humans first; and then see themselves as women second,” she said. According to Makgato her fear is that women will lose opportunities that come along while waiting for initiative that are specifically designed for them. “They will lose sight of other opportunities, but I do believe is women specific initiatives but they should not stop us from competing elsewhere,” she said.
Makgato hopes to increase awareness and education in politics among women because she wants them to participate from a position of knowledge. “I will use my skills and try to inspire women.” She wants women to understand the party, put deliverables on the table, and also make improvements on regulation and governance of the Women’s Wing. “I intend to use the Women’s Wing to improve the image of the party,” she said.
Makgato said there are a number of women she is mentoring in the party. She has told them that it is possible to work in the private sector and join politics, but the latter is not for the faint hearted. She warns them against propaganda that it can break them if they allow it to stick. “I despise propaganda politics, smear campaign, lies and fabrications. I prefer issue based politics,” she said.
However, she insists that she does not sweat over small stuff because “you can throw everything at me, if it is not true, it won’t stick.” Makgato describes herself thus; “Clear, bold and driven.”
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.