It is regrettable, but not fatal that the newly created political formation, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) excludes the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The results of Mokoboxane and Tlokweng, where the Botswana National Front (BNF) narrowly lost to the ruling party, were the first to demonstrate that the opposition parties need each other. It appears that the BNF lost because of lack of effective BCP support.
I believe that the BCP had its own reasons for not actively supporting the BNF, but I do not want to go into that, suffice it to point out that in the forthcoming bye elections in Monarch West, both the BCP and the UDC partner, the BPP will find themselves on a collision course, much to the delight of the BDP, who will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of opposition victory.
The problem of the opposition parties always splitting their own votes is now legendary. In 2009 the opposition split votes in nine constituencies, in 2004 it was 12 constituencies, and in 1999 it was six constituencies.
Only God knows how many constituencies will lost due to split in opposition vote in 2014. The loss of two wards by the BNF to the ruling BDP with such small margins shows that the go it alone strategy will not work in the current context of first past the post electoral system. But a BCP victory in Monarch West will only give rise to a false sense of optimism that the go it alone strategy is a viable option.
I want to believe that there is still time for the opposition to get their act together before the next election. There is an urgent need to get out of this self-destructive sibling rivalry where BCP and BNF still see one another as the most immediate tactical obstacle to overcome as a means to a more long term strategic objective of defeating the BDP. This emanates from a well-known ancient grudge between two siblings (in fair Palapye where we lay our scene) who, both alike in pride (or egos), just want to continue with their parents rage, one whom is now deceased (my sincere apologies to William Shakespeare).
One can feel the emerging antipathy between the newly formed UDC and the BCP. But the BCP and BNF (now under the UDC) need each other more than they want to admit publicly. Just look at their policies and manifestoes. When I was roped into the task force merging the four opposition party polices last year, I was surprised about the little differences amongst them, and the ease with which differences were quickly overcome.
Even the new kid on the block, the BMD, sometimes came up with very radical proposals, much to the relief of all of us. It is interesting to note however, that this success story was never publicly acknowledged, instead focus was put on the differences, that is, the problems surrounding seat allocations. But it appears that it is the old habit of the opposition parties to always focus on areas of disagreement rather than areas of agreement and in the process miss the bigger picture: the attainment of state power.
But now that there is the UDC (of the BNF, the BMD and the BPP) a registered political party, rather than a coalition of parties, how can the TWO main opposition parties, namely, the UDC led by BNF and the BCP together move forward and overcome the well-known problem of opposition vote splitting in all the coming bye elections, and on to the 2014 general elections?
My own strong feeling is that the UDC and the BCP must form an electoral pact. The much talked about Memorandum of Understanding of Bye Elections signed by BCP, BNF and BMD can be revived and revised in light of changed political conditions. I know for a fact that there will be no need to formulate a Pact Manifesto, because it already exists.
I know because I was party to its drafting. But I am not sure who should make the first move. May be the conveners of the talks can break the deadlock by inviting Boko, Motswaledi and Saleshando to some wine and cheese get together, and ask Rev Dick Bayford to grace the occasion. To someone like Boko, an electoral pact with BCP might be a bitter pill to swallow as it would appear to vindicate the position of the Executive Committee that he fired.
But political circumstances have changed and a wise man can adapt to the new conditions. The main ingredients of these changed political circumstances include the BNF narrow loss in the last two bye elections, the formation of the UDC and the return home (not defection for God’s sake) of Botsalo Ntuane, and Kabo Morwaeng (and only God knows who is next) formerly very prominent personas in the BMD fold.
Looking at the trends in the popular vote, the opposition vote has always been very high, though fragmented. In the 2004 general elections, the ruling BDP led the popular vote by about half a percent at 50.63 percent, and in the last 2009 elections (with the Khama magic) the lead rose to 53.26 percent, up by about two and half percentage points.
My position has always been that the problem is the electoral system of first past the post, and that it can and must be delegitimized. In a journal article in 2006 I fiercely repudiated (and with the benefit of hindsight, not successfully) a thesis propounded by American Professors, Dandolf and Holm in their 1999 journal article entitled Democracy Without Credible Opposition – The case of Botswana, on the prospects of what they referred to as ‘pre-election coalition’ in Botswana.
Their argument is that Botswana’s opposition parties have never committed themselves to a strategy of coalition building for the purpose of winning elections (italics added), that the de facto one- party system that prevails in Botswana is due mainly to the opposition parties inability to form a pre-election coalition, and that the opposition parties squander their chances by fighting amongst themselves. Whilst I still remain an unreconstructed believer in proportional representation (PR) I now appreciate their argument (better late than never).
And come to think of it, BDP just has to lose elections once, and it will be out of business forever, as has happened with many other ruling parties that have overstayed in government, such as UNIP in Zambia, nationalist Party in South Africa or Communist Party of the Soviet Union days. Can you imagine the BDP in the opposition benches?
It must be noted however, that pre-elections coalition/pact is not the same as merger, and is not necessarily the easy option out. It is not a mechanical operation and party rank and file tend to be sentimentally attached to their parties, so much that some would not vote a coalition/pact candidate out of resentment. But if you were to balance pre-elections coalition/pact with the split opposition vote, I believe that an elections coalition/pact will be the lesser of the two evils. In 2004, the BNF was able to pull back from the brink because of its pre-election pact with BAM and BPP. But those pre-election coalitions/pact negotiations were difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. I know because I was there.
The 2009 elections results also show that BAM/BCP pre-election coalition/pact worked for BCP, and I want to believe that those talks were also difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. Surely if the BCP and the BNF can go into pre-election coalition/pact with smaller parties, and it works, they can go into pre-election coalition with one another, and it would also work, if only it was not because of this ancient grudge! What I find attractive about the pre-election coalition/pact is that the parties in the coalition/pact keep their identities.
The Oasis Motel negotiations collapsed precisely because people had set themselves unrealistic deadlines, little realizing that there were going to be many obstacles to be overcome, including botete ja bangwe, which, even if unreasonable, had to be nursed. There is still time before the next general elections and I will say to UDC and BCP back to the drawing board. And who knows, the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission might just come in handy.
Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.
There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024. Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”. Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”
Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.
However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party. This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.
There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.
As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.
Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said. Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.
Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.
This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned. “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.
The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.” Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”
He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.” Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.
He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court. “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.
He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.” He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.
“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”
He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo. “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.
Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.” He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.
The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.
The report was released a week ago. Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says. It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge. The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.
“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.” On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.
“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry. The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says. According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.
The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week. The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods. Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health
The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.
The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.
The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.” “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.