Unity Dow says she is more popular than most legislators
Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow, who is also Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, has weighed heavily on the debate concerning the country’s electoral system – First Past The Post (FPTP), and the Special Election of Members of Parliament as well as Nomination of Councillors.
Responding to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address this week, Dow was not impressed with the opposition chants that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was not popularly elected, hence it was a minority government. The opposition has also condemned the Special Election of MPs and Nomination of Councillors, labelling the two dispensations, a fraud meant to reward losers and rejects.
Dow herself was Specially Elected by Parliament after losing to Gilbert Mangole in the Mochudi West constituency during the October general election. Mangole was voted by 8856 people while Dow trailed with 6085 votes and the BCP’s Alfred Ramono Pilane was voted by 3558 residents.
First on Dr Dow’s radar was the question of popular vote, which she took time to dissect to the National Assembly, explaining that it can be understood in many facets. She even dispelled the said popularity of some Members of Parliament who come from constituencies similar in size to the one she contested. She stressed that she was in fact more popular than most MPs; hence their being in the house could be subjected to similar scrutiny.
DOW ON SPECIAL ELECTION OF MPS “I believe we can all agree that the Special Election of MPs process was designed to give newly elected party a chance to assess its winning margin and to audit the expertise delivered by the electorate and to then decide how to ensure that it has both the numbers and the expertise to deliver on its elections promises. That is how my party employed the system,” observed Dow.
She said if anyone does not like the system, a system regulated by law; they do not call the system a “dictatorship” and “devilish” as some MPs have decided. “They propose a reasoned and rational amendment to the law, “if the law does not pass, the UDC will be put on notice on how the UDC, they ever take power, will amend that particular law,” she said.
DOW ON POPULAR VOTE Dow further observed that complaints against the current electoral system were not limited to the SEMP system only. “There are complaints that the current electoral system of First Past the Post (FPTP) allows for the BDP to have won when it did not get the “popular vote”. The Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development said the BDP, according to the opposition should not be in power because it did not win the popular vote –m meaning that it did not get more than 50 percent of the votes cast.
Dow said it appears that the opposition only wants to employ the popular vote rhetoric where it suits them. She gave a number of examples of Members of Parliament who she said did not get the popular votes from constituencies where they contested. She further stressed that she got more votes than most of the Members of Parliament.
Dow gave examples of MPs Wynter Mmolotsi (5261 votes), Dithapelo keorapetse (4247), Haskins Nkaigwa (5738), Sedirwa Kgoroba (4180), Dr Tlamelo Mmatli (5 967), Noah Salakae (3999), Phenyo Butale (4601 votes), among others as examples of MPs who fail the popular vote test. She indicated that she got 6085 votes, a number significantly higher than ones achieved by the MPs she mentioned.
“Candidate to Candidate, I received more votes than any of these individuals – Candidate to candidate, I received a higher popular vote than any of these gentlemen did – by what right then are they sitting in this house?” Dow said if the popular should be the yardstick, then none of those with votes less than hers should be in the National Assembly. “But they are and they are entitled to be; because the electoral laws allow it. Perhaps the UDC wishes to change the law; if they do, I invite them to propose legislative amendments to the law,” she said.
According to Dow, only 27 of the 57 Members of Parliament got the popular vote. She cited the examples of Bagalatia Arone, Guma Moyo, Edwin Batshu, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Prince Maele, among others. She said only six of the UDC’s 17 Members of Parliament received the popular vote, and only one of the BCP’s three Members of Parliament received the popular vote.
“So the devilish dictatorship that Honourable Phenyo Butale is complaining about has served him well. He has not received the popular vote. He was voted by only 4601 people. The City of Gaborone has a population of 231 592. Assuming that a fifth are in Hon Butale’s constituency, there are 46 300 people in his constituency. Of these only 11 609 registered to vote. Of these 4601 sent him to Parliament. Mochudi West has about the same number of people, 46 500. Of those 6085 voted for me. That is 1484 more than those who voted Hon Phenyo Butale,” she said.
Dow encouraged the opposition to suggest legislative reforms so that no one enters the National Assembly without having achieved the “magical popular vote.”
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.