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Bulela Ditswe 2018: lessons for the BDP & Opposition

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

This year’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s primary elections, popularly known as Bulela Ditswe, were like no other. In this article, I argue that, if carefully studied, they can provide invaluable lessons for both the BDP and the Opposition.

Though primary elections are, strictly speaking, a political party affair, I also argue that this year’s Bulela Ditswe results should also provide lessons for the BDP led government and indeed any party that hopes to attain government in 2019. In this year’s Bulela Ditswe, about nine cabinet ministers lost their seats, mostly to first time contenders and hitherto unknowns. No doubt, this is unprecedented in Botswana’s political party history.

Of course, there are other factors which contributed to the loss, which we discuss below, but, in my view, this could be an indication that Batswana are dissatisfied with government’s policies and programmes. One would have expected that the introduction of Constituency Funding (CF) and the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP), both of which were championed by cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs), would have given cabinet ministers and incumbent MPs an urge over their contenders.

It is not only the CF and ESP that should have given cabinet ministers and incumbent MPs an urge over their contenders. Such other government programmes as Ipelegeng, National Service Scheme, Poverty Eradication Programme, ISPAAD, National Youth Development Fund (NYDF), e.t.c should have had the same effect. Still related to the fall of cabinet ministers, the fall of Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Honourable Nonofho Molefhi, and Assistant Minister for Investment Trade and Industry, Honourable Biggie Butale is worth considering.

Honourable Molefhi, no doubt, lost because of the Masisi factor, him having challenged then Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the party chairpersonship. It is not a secret that the Masisi faction does not trust Honourable Molefhi because of his ambitions for the state presidency.

Honourable Butale, together with such cabinet ministers as Minister for Nationality, Immigration & Gender Affairs, Honourable Dorcas Makgato and Assistant Minister for Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Honourable Dikgang Philip Makgalemele, were some of Honourable Molefhi’s fiercest supporters when he challenged President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the party chairpersonship.

Could Honorable Butale’s loss be attributable to the Masisi factor? But how did Honourables Makgato and Makgalemele manage to emerge victorious despite the Masisi factor? Did Honorable Butale underestimate his opponent, Simon Mavange Moabi? In another unprecedented development, this year’s Bulela Ditswe has had many, about fifteen, new comers. What is even more interesting is that these new comers are evenly distributed across the country.

Some of these new comers pitted their chances against party stalwarts, but won against all odds. Examples are Molebatsi Molebatsi and Fransisco Kgobokwe who beat Honourables Kefentse Nzwinila and Shaw Khathi for Mmadinare and Bobirwa constituencies respectively.  Very few expected that Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Honourable Kgotla Autlwetse, would lose the Serowe North constituency, let alone to the relatively unknown, at least nationally, Puma Matlhware?

Very few would have thought so, especially considering that Honourable Autlwetse, against all odds then, beat his nemesis, former Minister of Justice, Defence & Security, Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse. Though not a party stalwart, very few expected that the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia would lose, yet Thapelo Letsholo beat him. Honourable Ralotsia lost despite the fact that he had the advantage of reaching the masses through farming, the mainstay of many Batswana’s lives.

Similarly, though not a party stalwart, very few expected the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Tshenolo Mabeo, to lose the Thamaga-Kumakwane constituency, yet Mataosane Keitseope beat him resoundingly. In appearance, Keitseope is, at least according to some stereotypes, not a regular MP material. He appears to be what some call an ‘ordinary’ person. Yet he is said to be the people’s person. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate for the constituency, Ofentse Khumomotse, should be careful not to underestimate him, lest he does that to his own peril.        

Honourable Kgathi’s loss deserves comment. A week or so before the primary elections, former President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, when launching Kgobokwe’s Trust, effectively implored the voters to vote against Honourable Kgathi. Khama had, in his own words, been angered by the fact that Honourable Khathi attempted to dissuade him from officiating at the launch and when that failed he, according to Khama, phoned Dikgosi and implored them not to attend.

Khama did not take kindly to that, saying that was contempt on him as Kgosi kgolo of BaNgwato. The fact that Honourable Khathi did not attend the launch only added salt to injury. Here, it seems, the Khama magic worked against the Masisi factor for, on the face of it, it appears that following H.E Masisi’s ascendancy to the presidency, Honourable Kgathi abandoned the Khama faction for the Masisi faction.

Honourables Polson Majaga and Ignatius Moswaane’s victories are also worth commenting on. Both are what one may call ‘nobody’s men’ if that is possible in politics. They have caused discomfort to the mainstream in the party for their position on several issues, but have seemingly remained true to their constituents.

They have been accused of not respecting the party’s caucus decisions. They have even been accused of being sympathetic to the Opposition, with claims that they bring parliamentary motions which are leftist in nature, yet they emerged victorious in this Bulela Ditswe despite the serious challenge they faced. Nata-Gweta MP, Honorable Majaga, for instance, faced fierce challenge from, among others, former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) fire brand, Ditiro Majadibodu, and former Director of the Department of Youth & Culture, Lawrence Ookeditse, whom many blamed for abusing his position to campaign before he resigned.

Though the MP for Tati East, Honourable Sampson Guma Moyo, is a bit different from Honourables Majaga and Moswaane for Francistown West, he too has his own mind. Also, despite the fact that his constituency is ‘safe’ he does not take his voters for granted. The lesson from this is that being true to the voter pays. Further that while touring the party line and conforming to the party’s positions and principles is important, loyalty and service to the electorate is of overriding importance.

This lesson is even clearer when regard is had for the MP for the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency, former Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Honourable Prince Maele. Obviously because his constituents have confidence in him, they voted for him despite allegations of corruption that he faced which many believe resulted in his removal from cabinet by H.E Masisi. It is worth noting that Honourable Maele has neither been charged nor convicted of any offence or crime.

Former Minister of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, who was similarly removed from cabinet by H.E Masisi, allegedly because of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga, did not survive. It is also worth noting that Honourable Kebonang has neither been charged nor convicted of any offence or crime. Honourable Kebonang’s loss could be because he faced a strong opponent in Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, the former Chief Executive Officer of a very influential government agency, Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA).

But it could also be because he had lost touch with his constituents, who, when their time came, did not sympathize with him for the corruption allegations he suffered and the removal from cabinet. The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Honourable Tshekedi Khama, won despite the fact that his Branch Committee had vetted him out for, according to them, neglecting the constituency by never visiting his constituency since the 2014 general elections, or bothering to thank the voters.

Khama won despite facing formidable challenge from Moemedi Dijeng. So significant was Dijeng’s challenge that Khama went to court praying for the court to order that Dijeng be barred from contesting Bulela Ditswe for breaking the rules of the primary elections. Also facing Khama was the Masisi factor. Though there is a possibility that the Branch Committee, which some accuse of being pro-Masisi, was conspiring against Khama because it preferred Dijeng, the Khama magic and Bogosi cannot be discounted from contributing to Khama’s victory.

All said, if there is one desirable lesson to be learnt from this year’s Bulela Ditswe it is that no MP should be too comfortable and take the voter for granted. One hopes that this lesson will be continued at the 2019 general elections even for the Opposition. The absence of the recall clause for non-performing MPs and Councillors has been abused by many, even in the Opposition, who got elected only to abandon their constituents or to put the interests of the party over the voters.

In this year’s Bulela Ditswe, the people have shown that they are the employer and they hire and fire as they please. It appears Khama’s Bobonong words that ‘nobody should believe a constituency is their personal or private property’ have resonated with many in the BDP. One thing is also clear from this year’s Bulela Ditswe for the BDP. If it fails to manage the fall out resulting from Bulela Ditswe, and fails to manage the fall out between Khama and H.E Masisi it may lose the 2019 general elections.

Just like many candidates lost Bulela Ditswe unexpectedly, many may lose the 2019 general elections unexpectedly, especially if the claims by some in the Opposition that they voted for weaker candidates so that their candidates stand a better chance to win the general elections are true.    

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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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