The emerging resistance movement for democratic restoration, economic revival, clean governance started with civil society resisting both the formation of the DIS and the new media regulatory structures in 2008. It gained momentum with the Barata Phati faction sweeping the BDP’s central committee election at the Kanye congress in 2009 (the same faction that later established the Botswana Movement for Democracy-BMD actually defeated President Khama’s all women team!), and with Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi taking President Khama to court that ended with the former’s recall.
The resistance movement gained ground with the expulsions and resignations of Motswaledi’s supporters that led to the party split in 2010, with the public servants strike that ended with calls for regime change in 2011, with the all-inclusive negotiations among opposition parties that ended with the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The release of Margret Nasha’s book Madam Speaker Sir that ended with the Khama regime preventing her from observing the South African elections in early 2014, was followed by the widespread suspicions that Motswaledi’s fatal car accident was staged by some public security forces working with Israeli consultants.
The revelations concerning the possible existence of a hit list of opposition candidates facing assassination during the political campaign added its weight to the resistance movement, followed with a public media blackout on Motswaledi’s hugely attended funeral in Serowe, by former Presidents Masire and Mogae openly criticizing the Khama regime of intolerance and of diverging away from the rule of law that Botswana was known for, all culminated into a showdown in the October 2014 general election.
The self-declared forces (represented by the UDC) of the restoration of democratic rule and good governance, stood against the BDP under Ian Khama that was portrayed as intolerant and as champion of authoritarian rule, and against the opposition BCP that was portrayed as betraying the struggle in favor of the BDP.
In some strong sense, the 2014 election was not a normal election. Coming from the resistance movement for democratic restoration, for economic revival, and for clean governance, the forces of resistance (civil society, public sector unions, private media, social media, and opposition political parties) unleashed revolutionary energy, aimed at sweeping away BDP rule that had perceivably become authoritarian, militaristic, corrupt, arrogant and unable to take the economy forward.
True to Skocpol (1979)’s ‘states and social revolutions’ that tied revolutionary success to international support and to defections in the military, the revolutionary coalition for democratic restoration, for good governance and economic revival, was able to attract international sympathy and support.
With international assistance from the southern Africa region (Khama’s foreign policy in the region characterized by his stand off against Mugabe’s heavy-handed electioneering in Zimbabwe in 2008 was unsettling to say the least and was opposed by most ruling parties in the region) and from overseas (his threat to arrest President Al Bashir of Sudan in case he visited Botswana, his seemingly deliberate absence from AU summits of head s of states, his uncharacteristic support for the International Criminal Court-ICC, and his government’s public sparring with the American Government over comments concerning the arrest of a newspaper editor), revolutionary energy that expressed itself through the UDC and equally through the public sector trade unions, private media and social media (particularly Facebook), mounted a spirited campaign that took President Khama by surprise and Botswana by storm.
Hugely organized group launches were organized for UDC candidates with glamorous tents from South Africa and elsewhere, with glamorous presidential buses, and with privately owned helicopters chartered to transport the UDC leader in order to help him look presidential, were deployed.
A private radio station, GABZ FM (with support from trade unions and from the American and British embassies) organized constituency debates and presidential debates revolutionized Botswana’s electoral democracy, were aired nationally and were attended by UDC and BCP candidates and were boycotted by the BDP. In contrast, the privately owned newspapers made a sustained attack on the alleged corruption practices of the DIS boss, disabling him from leading his spy agency into helping President Khama’s campaign.
Realizing late that revolutionary energy had been unleashed to sweep away his rule and facing regime change in the face, President Khama abandoned his earlier position of normal politics of keeping a low profile, re-launched all BDP parliamentary and council candidates across the country and made second and third visits to many constituencies and wards, transported his supporters in army helicopters and flew all over the country, employed public facilities to clear bushes to create open spaces for his political rallies, danced and rode bicycle in opposition strongholds, made no attempt to restrain some of his activists who had resorted to violent means (including house break-ins and mugging) to intimidate opposition candidates.
In short, President Khama mounted a counter-revolutionary campaign spiced with threats of war should his party lose, talks of him going to prison should the opposition win, the hiring of Israeli consultants for unspecified clandestine works, the use of army helicopters to visit several constituencies a number of times, targeted verbal attacks on certain UDC candidates, the use of threatening telephone calls by unknown callers, the use of dances and bicycle rides.
Unbeknown to Khama, an organized faction within the ruling party engineered (through rigging and other means) the loss in the party primary elections and in the general elections, of important people (particularly those with military background to prevent them from being considered for position of vice president), and the emending of parliamentary rules to require booth for the secret voting in Parliament for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President.
Thus, President Khama was facing revolutionary pressures from several fronts: from a broad-based opposition coalition enjoying regional and international support (including from ruling parties in the region), from the private media, from social media, and a revolt from within his own party from an organized faction that wanted to influence who becomes vice president. But at the end of it all, the counter-revolution was partly successful and President Khama was re-elected to start his second term as president.
While President Khama’s ruling party survived and won the elections (it actually lost the popular vote and a number of seats previously held by ministers), the opposition BCP was swept away by the democratic revolutionary current and by the counter-revolution.
The BCP never saw the revolutionary current. Neither did it see the counter-revolution that actually reversed all previous BCP gains. As a result, it never prepared for either. Being outside both, the BCP saw a normal election in which it (BCP) was destined to win power alone and to embarrass the UDC coalition!
When the whole nation was either in the democratic resistance movement of the UDC or in the counter-revolution of the BDP, the BCP’s darkened vision saw normal electioneering in which the results of the 2009 election could be relied upon to make ‘safe’ predictions of its win, in which its president could ‘safely’ walk out of Motswaledi’s heavily politicized funeral in Serowe, in which it could create artificial distance between itself and the UDC in constituency and presidential debates, in which it could deploy its president to traverse the country campaigning for his candidates in the ‘safe knowledge’ that his constituency was safe, in which it could deploy one presidential bus to drive around the whole country.
In short, the BCP organized for a normal election, not for a revolutionary current nor for a counter-revolution, both of which threatened its existence. The BCP was swept away partly by the revolution that it refused to join, and partly by the counter-revolution that rode on its back for survival. The BCP became a victim of circumstances which its visionaries failed to see and which its policy makers failed to prepare for.
Humbled by the humiliating loss of constituencies and wards, the BCP has woken up, not to join the revolutionary current, not to fight the counter-revolution, but to fight lies! Seeing neither the revolution nor the counter-revolution, the BCP has unleashed its activists to attack the UDC, the private media, the social media, and the public sector trade unions! With the BDP-controlled executive shifting the counter-revolution against Parliament, BCP is provided with a rare opportunity to join the revolution, or miss another chance presented by history and risk being swept away completely. In contrast, will the UDC survive if it promises to work cooperatively with the Executive championing counter-revolution? It is in order for the UDC to be cautious in cooperating with the counter-revolutionary forces.
Zibani Maundeni is professor of political science at the University of Botswana
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”