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North yet to warm up to Opposition

A spirited campaign by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) saw the party rip through some of the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) territories in the Southern part of the country during last Friday’s general poll.


But the same cannot be said about the Northern half of the country where the ruling party won over two thirds of the available parliamentary seats.


The second city, Francistown, for instance, has three constituencies of which two went to the ruling party and one to the main opposition, UDC. Constituencies stretching from Dibete to Gweta all went to the ruling party.


Effectively the BDP has the Central District and North East to thank for winning this election. For the first time in its history, the party has won government by a popular vote, which is less than 50 percent (46.0 percent).


Francistown South Member of Parliament (MP) Wynter Mmolotsi of the UDC says he is not intimidated by the continued dominance of the BDP in the North.


He said his party is confident of erasing the BDP in all areas. He promised that the next wave of campaigns will be reaching the North in due course. Mmolotsi was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Francistown constituents, thus putting to rest assertions that he had run away with BDP votes.


Winning BDP candidates in other areas ascribed their victories to the “cash they poured” into the campaigns.


After emerging victorious against his rivals in the Francistown East Constituency, Billy Honest Buti said in the run-up to the October 24 general election, he spent over P800 000. He said the exercise was daunting as his campaign team had to conduct house-to-house campaigns as well as do consultations with other stakeholders.


Through the door-to-door campaigns Billy said he identified issues which he will tackle during his tenure as Francistown East MP.


“Many people in Francistown are not aware of Government initiatives, I will align my plans to the already available initiatives and Francistown’s Vision 2022 to help move the city forward,” he said.


But Billy’s seat is not a safe bet for 2019 because the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has a strong presence in the area; a complete unity in opposition ranks could easily sweep him away.


However, Billy remains resolute that he can survive any combined opposition onslaught.


Meanwhile, BDP’s Ignatius Moswaane for Francistown West ensured that BCP’s Dr Habaudi Hobona spends the shortest time in Parliament when he defeated her in the national polls.


Hobona entered the National Assembly through a by-election from which the BDP was barred from contesting earlier this year. Habaudi Hobona was the first opposition woman MP.
She was frustrated by the poor development status of the city.

 

“The rulers have this kind of ownership mentality over the people they rule. The people literally wait for handouts from Government. There is no spirit of ownership. There is no spirit of self-entitlement. It’s all subservience. That is not good for any democracy because the rulers develop a master mentality,” she said.


Moswaane has meanwhile also pledged to improve developments in his constituency. The Francistown West legislator is under pressure to push the city’s development agenda as residents are clear that their loyalty to the ruling party is not yielding any results development wise, with the city becoming more of a ghost town.


BDP insiders in Francistown revealed that they are expecting the wave that ran through Gaborone to shift to Francistown. They said several factors would determine their political future as individuals and the BDP, such as Cabinet appointments, President Ian Khama’s choice of Vice President and indeed developments in the City of Francistown.


Francistowners also feel the city has been neglected as developments are now being channeled to main villagers in the Central District. They want planners to balance infrastructure distribution or risk an opposition takeover in some areas in the North.


The BCP has a large following in the North-western part of the country. They have one Member of Parliament in Okavango, Bagalatia Arone. BDP politicians in the area have also expressed worry that the relaxed attitude of their leaders in Gaborone could come at a cost in 2019 should the opposition work together.


They point out that, constituencies like Maun, Chobe and Nata are not BDP strongholds any more. According to BDP insiders, the Ngami constituency won by Thato Kwerepe under the BDP ticket is also a very marginal constituency and should scales tilt to opposition unity, the BDP will “kiss the constituency goodbye if reasonable service delivery is not demonstrated in the area”.


The BCP also has numbers in the Selebi-Phikwe, Bobirwa and Tswapong areas. BDP members are aware of the threat posed by a united opposition. Already the BCP has one MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse in Selebi-Phikwe West, and he could be the spring board of opposition unity in the area.


Indications are that the three BCP MPs in the House have already agreed to work as a team with their 17 UDC colleagues.


For the first time, the BDP has failed to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

 

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

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.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

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.

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