Former Gaborone Bonnington South Member of Parliament Botsalo Ntuane, has down played reports that he will be contesting for the Secretary General position at the upcoming Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress billed for July.
Ntuane, who was elected the Chairman of Gaborone region recently, has chosen not to comment on his perceived interest to run for the secretary general position currently held by Mpho Balopi. This publication has established that the former legislator, who was at some point, the Leader of Opposition while he was with the Botswana Movement for Democracy, is studying the situation with keen interest before actively lobbying for support. “For now, I will not comment on it,” he said.
It is expected that a number of heavyweights within the party are being cajoled to contest for various positions with the party chairpersonship having attracted a lot of interest. WeekendPost have been reliably informed that among the people being lobbied to contest for chairmanship is the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and President’s brother, Tshekedi Khama, who is the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism.
Former Minister of Commerce and Industry, Tebelelo Seretse has already made her ambitions for the chairpersonship clear, having started lobbying for support. Seretse contested and lost the chairmanship to Daniel Kwelagobe at the infamous Kanye congress in 2009.
Ntuane, understood not to be under any lobby list for now, has started calling for reforms within the party ahead of the crucial congress. Ntuane wants the party to adopt major reforms to ensure that the party rejuvenates itself in order to stay in power beyond 2019. BDP had its worst performance in the history of its existence winning 37 seats and registering 46.7 percent in popular vote.
In the process opposition garnered a historic 20 seats in parliament, 17 seats belonging to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), a newly formed coalition of opposition parties, while 3 seats were won by Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Ntuane was among the victims, losing his seat to his former colleague, Ndaba Gaolatlhe.
The 2014 general elections also saw BDP losing some its traditional strong holds to UDC, most important constituencies which it never lost in history. BDP surrendered for the first time, Molepolole North, Molepolole South, Ghanzi North and Good Hope-Mabule (formerly Borolong).
It is against this devastating development that Ntuane believes making changes including considering adopting a new electoral system, will help the party. Ntuane is of the view that the current First Past the Post (FPTP) system has been overtaken by time, therefore calling for a hybrid system. Ntuane wants Botswana to adopt an electoral system of a hybrid of proportional representation (PR) with the current first past the post system.
Ntuane who rejoined the BDP in 2012 following his resignation from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a party he helped to found, says BDP must look for inspiration within the region. Ntuane contends that countries like Namibia and South Africa have been using the system for some time now. “Every democracy is a work in progress and must be reformed as and when conditions call for such,” he contends.
As the chairperson of Gaborone Region, the most influential region in BDP, Ntuane may use his position to cajole the congress into considering reforms. However, Ntuane says his views, which were recently circulated and published in local media were personal and did not have anything to do with him being Gaborone region chairperson.
“The article I wrote is just a personal contribution to the post electoral period which is awash with debates on various subjects and many commentators; partisan and non-partisan people are busy debating the 2014 elections and what it means for the future of politics and governance in our country,” he told this publication. “I cannot prejudge internal BDP discussions because it is up to democrats to decide what is worthy for debate and what isn’t, but it’s great for a nation to debate issues and we should encourage that.”
Many will recall that ahead of the 2009 Kanye Congress, which eventually led to the party’s split, Ntuane and other stalwarts sympathetic to the Daniel Kwelagobe lobby, called for reforms within the party as well as a constitutional review. Ntuane says he has always supported and called for reforms within the BDP and even before the party split.
There is a view that many conservative BDP members will be averse to such reforms, especially when they seem to favor the opposition at the current moment. With an electoral system like proportional representation in place BDP, would have lost the past election, and therefore leading to a coalition government as neither party won a simple majority.
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.