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Lessons from the Sekoma bye elections

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

On 5th March 2016 the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), supported by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), contested the Sekoma Council bye elections against the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Contrary to popular expectation the BDP won the elections and wrestled the seat from the Botswana National Front (BNF) which had held it for more than two decades. This result, or rather upset, which was not even foreseen by political commentators, including me, clearly has lessons for all of us.

The first and perhaps most important lesson is that Batswana have awaken and their vote can no longer be taken for granted. One of the reasons the UDC lost the seat could be that the Councilor who held the seat after the 2014 general elections failed to serve the voters.

If that is the case, the people of Sekoma deserve commendation for they sent a very strong message that no person or political party should take their vote for granted. Even the BDP should, as it celebrates the victory, know that if it fails to fulfill the promises it made to the voter it may lose the next elections.

The second equally, if not more cardinal lesson is that political parties should respect the voters’ will. Reports are that the members of the BNF had implored the party to field a candidate from Mahotshwane, Keng or Khonkhwa and not Sekoma because the seat had for many years been held by a Sekoma resident.  

If it is true that the UDC refused such a seemingly reasonable request, it is conceivable that some party members either abstained from the vote or voted for the BDP candidate in protest to the party’s decision. This could possibly have been exacerbated by the allegation, if true, that the candidate did not enjoy the support of those aligned to the person he beat during the primary elections.

The third lesson is that no matter how a political party thinks it has a tight grip on a particular constituency it should not undermine its opponent(s). Reportedly, the UDC campaign team arrived late in the constituency and waged a lackadaisical campaign compared to the BDPs.

Not only that. It is alleged that one of the blunders that cost the UDC was the sudden postponement of the launching of the candidate. Reportedly, the launch was initially planned for 13th February, but was postponed at the 11th hour to 20th February. As if that was not enough, the BNF leadership, it is reported, was focused on the 50th anniversary celebrations and this is said to have diminished many volunteers’ spirits.

Worse still, it is reported that the UDC campaign team was mainly made up of people from outside the ward. It is likely that the campaign team’s lack of knowledge of the socio-economic and political dynamics in the ward cost the UDC the ward.

In electioneering as in most other social phenomena, messaging is key. It is, therefore, inconceivable how people who have limited or no knowledge of a people’s way of life can develop winning campaign messages for the people.

The BDP’s strategy, which the campaign manager and former Member of Parliament(MP) for Ngwaketse West, Mephato Reatile, says involved each village member having his or her own campaign team no doubt contributed to the BDP winning the bye elections.

Reatile is reported as having said “we wanted our campaigns to be led by people from that area, not us. Our job was simply to help them where they had a shortfall. … Of course our party was focused on this ward and we stopped certain activities because we knew the ward belonged to the opposition. That worked for us greatly.”

It appears that the few outsiders the BDP used in the campaign team were for strategic reasons. For example, former BCP members, Lotty Manyapetsa and Thato Osupile, likely swayed the elections in BDP’s favour because of their knowledge of Opposition campaign tactics.

Manyapetsa and Osupile are also likely to have convinced many of their former comrades in the BCP, especially the youth since they were high ranking members of the BCP Youth League, not to support the UDC since they were opposed to the BCP’s proposed coalition with the UDC.

Fortunately, the UDC seems to have learnt this lesson because the UDC Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe, has been quoted saying “… there are murmurings that those involved at different levels of the campaign management should have deployed a different set of tactics or personnel to secure a win. These feelings are natural, and in some cases justified…”.

The fourth lesson is that an agreement by the party leadership that the political parties would support each other in an election does not necessarily mean that the members of the supporting party will support the party contesting the elections. No wonder the agreement between the UDC and the BCP that the latter will support the former did not result in the former winning the bye election.

Clearly, there are many BCP members who, perhaps because they are against any form of cooperation with the UDC, did not, and may never, vote for the UDC. Every political party has die-hard supporters who can never vote for any political party other than theirs no matter what the leadership says.

Related to this point, the fifth, and perhaps more disconcerting lesson is that the much anticipated Opposition coalition will not necessarily unseat the BDP in the 2019 general elections. Seemingly, the Opposition needs to do more than joining forces through contracts.

The fifth lesson is that if, despite suffering a loss, a political party stays focused and immediately develops strategies to regain its fortunes, the voter is always willing to forgive it. It is incontrovertible that the BDP’s hard work following the losses it suffered in the 2014 general elections is beginning to pay.

In July 2015 I wrote an article entitled “Opposition beware, BDP is awaking” in which I warned that if the Opposition becomes complacent, as it seems to be, the BDP will return to the pre-2014 days when it enjoyed more than fifty percent popular support among Batswana.

This is especially true if regard is had to the fact that the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) and/or public officers’ influence seems to have been lacking in the Sekoma bye elections. Could it be that public servants voted for the BDP because of late it has demonstrated willingness to address public servants’ grievances?  

On its crusade to regain public servants’ confidence, the BDP has reportedly resolved that government should increase public servants’ salaries and, as an incentive, introduce a thirteenth cheque to be financed through the funds set aside for the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP). Did this influence the Sekoma bye election? Or did the ESP itself influence the bye election results?

The BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, has tried to improve the BDP’s relations with Labour. At Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)’s 2015 congress Ntuane said “it would be incorrect to think the BDP could govern effectively and be responsive to the aspirations, needs and concerns of Batswana without BOPEU, and other worker formations.”

To buttress his point Ntuane revealed that “on the basis of an appeal made to the BDP Labour Sub Committee and the Parliamentary caucus respectively by public sector unions, we caused debate on the Trade Disputes Bill to be delayed pending further consultations. This gesture we consider another step towards generating goodwill and improved relations with Labour.” Did these placate the workers during the Sekoma bye elections?

If these gestures by the BDP tilted the scales in favour of the BDP in Sekoma the lesson for the UDC is that it cannot bank on its relationship with BOFEPUSU for victory in 2019.   It has to, especially through questions and motions in Parliament, continuously show public servants that if elected to government the workers’ agenda will be a priority.

If the workers on the ground believe that the BDP is now responsive to their needs the partnership between UDC and BOFEPUSU may become irrelevant since the individual public servants would vote for the BDP despite the partnership as they likely did in Sekoma.

After all, BOFEPUSU itself has said that its support for the UDC is not a lifelong commitment and it will withdraw it and lend it to any other political party that promotes the interests of the workers if the UDC ceases to do that.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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