The humiliating loss of the opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at the just ended 2019 General Elections has been attributed to their association with embattled former President Ian Khama.
UDC attained a paltry 15 constituencies, with Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) managing only 3, Alliance for Progressives getting 1 and 38 seats amassed by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). According to In On Africa (IOA), which is one of the leading Africa-focused research, consulting and publishing firms based in Africa and focused solely on Africa, Khama aspect was key to opposition being defeat by the BDP.
IOA research has pointed out in their findings released this week that “the assessment of the country’s political dynamics noted that the Khama factor did play a major role in the recent elections and ultimately proved to be a key element in the UDC’s failure to secure victory”. Additionally, the report posits that the neutral stance of the trade unions proved to work in favour of the ruling party as Duma Boko’s arrogance, coupled with the opposition’s affiliation with Khama, resulted in labour unions showing their support for the ruling party on Election Day.
Although opposition parties have expanded their reach in the northern regions of Botswana and wrestled control of the Central District away from the BDP, the report states that Masisi’s influence won the favour of the urban electorate and rolled back the ground gained by the UDC in the 2014 elections. It further states that Botswana’s political landscape has indeed experienced a evolutionary phase in its 2019 elections, which will see the coming 2024 elections favour “the most stable, proactive political party” instead of the “status quo or the Khama legacy.”
Still, “the newly formed party BPF, strongly relying on tribal politics and the influence of the Khama’s, had a notable impact on BDP’s influence in the Central District, and while the future of this ‘coalition of the bitter’ remains uncertain, it is worth keeping an eye on over the coming years,” the report further observes.
Looking in on the next five years, the IOA observes that Batswana are now met with a sense of relief following Khama’s now “limited influence” over the country’s politics and the BDP, bringing a measure of hope that has been lacking for the past 10 years. “Though some within the opposition and their support base may not agree with the outcome of the election, they too will still share in this sense of relief given the long-term impact left by the Khama legacy,” the findings posit.
However some political pundits on the other hand believe that Khama was instrumental in increasing the popular vote of both UDC and BPF through majority wins for MP’s in the Central District, which was for a long time BDP heartland. In Central District, Khama assisted the UDC to win Selibe Phikwe West, Selibe Phikwe East, Bobonong, Sefhare-Ramokgonami, Palapye, Tonota, Shoshong, Mahalapye East, and Mahalapye West, which were known to be BDP throttleholds. On top of that, BPF also won areas formerly within BDP grip, areas such as Serowe North, Serowe South and Serowe West.
Future BDP victories no longer guaranteed
The report further says that the year 2019 will forever be remembered as the election year where Botswana politics saw a giant leap forward surrounding the democratic experiment, and, should this trend continue it predicts that 2024 will be an even more competitive election. According to the report, Botswana politics is no longer guaranteed to be the preserve of the ruling BDP but can go either way henceforth.
“This evolution of Botswana politics brings in a sense of democratic competition and the very real threat that future BDP victories are no longer guaranteed,” the document asserts. Going forward, it emphasizes that the ruling party will need to ensure that it delivers on its election promises and upholds an air of positivity surrounding Masisi. “It needs to further ensure positive change, successfully combating corruption and attracting more intelligent politicians that are able to act and govern on par with the country’s current leader.”
As the world grows increasingly more connected and the media enjoys ever more influence, the ruling party needs to tread carefully in upholding its public image, the Africa report continues. Moreover, it points out that the days of undermining the media and the people -as the case was during former President Khama’s reign- is something the BDP would need to distance itself from and ensure that the party is never again tied to the same practices.
It warns that “the landlocked Southern African country continues to face an array of social ills and while the BDP and President Masisi have won the battle, there is still a metaphorical war to be won.” According to the report, Botswana’s current social conditions and wealth distribution also do not reflect that of an upper- middle income country and Masisi’s work has only just begun.
“As climate change continues to grow in prominence, Botswana’s water situation, with its knock-on effects across the socio-political spectrum, is a particularly important factor that needs an increased impetus with more effective service delivery in the country’s rural area,” IOA findings indicate.
Accordingly, it states that this will go a long way to improve the living standard and general health of many Batswana, and in relation to this, it explains that it is pertinent for Masisi’s government to find more effective methods to deal with human-wildlife conflict, in addition to the hunting ban.
“Any strategies aimed at the latter should also bear in mind the role of Botswana’s tourism industry, both in relation to the economy and broader employment. With this in mind the age-old over- reliance on the diamond industry will have to be adjusted and more proactive policies adopted to provide sustainable employment, especially among the youth,” it states.
However, a vital component of youth employment has proven to be education aligned with the needs of the job market, the Africa report indicates adding that Masisi’s government urgently needs to ensure that the currently misaligned tertiary education sector be re-evaluated and re-vamped in order to deliver graduates who are capable of meeting the country’s skills requirements.
It adds: “Botswana’s ruling government also needs to look inward and address the institutional weaknesses that manifest in its outdated constitution. For the good of the whole nation and its future, it is critical to close in on the constitutional and other legislative loopholes with an aim of promoting its checks and balances.”
This is particularly important in the fight against corruption, it maintains while highlighting that part of these institutional frameworks is the controversial image of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), which should also be reworked to truly serve the people instead of being an instrument at the disposal of the President.
The research was conducted by In On Africa (IOA) which is one of the leading Africa-focused research, consulting and publishing firms. IOA was founded in 2007 and aims to ensure data-driven decision-making through quality research and analysis. IOA offers a wide range of services to help clients better understand Africa and to accelerate growth on the continent.
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.”