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Is Botswana headed for a hung Parliament (Part 2)?


Unlike in 2014 when it was clear that either the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) or Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) would win the general elections, this year it is not clear, with some opining that we may have a hung Parliament.

In this series, which was initially intended to have two parts but will now have more, we attempt to interrogate this issue. Last week, we attempted to answer this question by making deductions from the political parties’ historical performance at the polls, starting from 1965. From this week onwards, we attempt to answer this question by considering the threat to the BDP, if any, posed by the UDC (with the Botswana Congress Party (BCP)) in collaboration with the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), albeit without the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

We propose to answer this question by considering two main factors. The first is the constituencies which the BDP unexpectedly lost to the UDC in 2014, the question being whether the UDC will retain them or the BDP will wrestle them back. The second is the Opposition held constituencies generally, the question being whether the Opposition will retain them or the BDP will win them. Of course, in dealing with both these factors, the BCP, BMD and BPF factors will be considered.

This week, we consider whether the UDC will retain the constituencies it unexpectedly wrestled from the BDP in 2014? These constituencies are Gaborone Bonnington North, Gaborone Bonnington South, Gaborone North, Ghanzi North, Mogoditshane, Molepolole North, Molepolole South, and Tlokweng. In Gaborone Bonnington North, the BDP’s Robert Masitara lost to the UDC’s Duma Boko with 4,222 to 7,694 votes, loosing with a whopping 3,472 votes. The BCP’s Anna Motlhagodi garnered a respectable 2,387 votes.

In Gaborone Bonnington South, the BDP’s Botsalo Ntuane lost to the UDC’s Ndaba Gaolatlhe with 3,597 to 6,646 votes, loosing with a whopping 3, 049 votes. The BCP’s Abbey Chengeta garnered 1,318 votes. In Gaborone North, the BDP’s Keletso Rakhudu lost to the UDC’s Haskins Nkaigwa with 4,109 to 5,738 votes, loosing with a whopping 1,629 votes. The BCP’s Motsei Rapelana garnered a decent 3,157 votes. In Ghanzi North, the BDP’s Johnnie Swarts lost to the UDC’s Noah Salakae with 3,685 to 3,999 votes, loosing with a respectable 314 votes.

In Mogoditshane, the BDP’s Patrick Masimolole lost to the UDC’s Sedirwa Kgoroba with 3,786 to 4,180 votes, loosing with a respectable 394 votes. The BCP’s MacDonald Rakgare garnered an impressive 3,846 votes. In Molepolole North, the BDP’s Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri lost to the UDC’s Mohammed Khan with 5,990 to 8,854 votes, loosing with a whopping 2,864 votes. An Independent Candidate, Nonofo Mosung, got a meagre 121 votes.

In Molepolole South, the BDP’s Daniel Kwelagobe lost to the UDC’s Dr. Tlamelo Mmatli with 5,580 to 5,967 votes, loosing with a respectable 387 votes. An Independent Candidate, Majalemotho Molefe, got a meagre 200 votes. In Tlokweng, the BDP’s Olebile Gaborone lost to the UDC’s Same Bathobakae with 3,867 to 6,442 votes, loosing with a whopping 2,575 votes. The BCP’s Jacob Zachariah garnered a decent 1,195 votes.

If regard is had to the 2014 voting margins, one may conclude that the UDC would most likely retain the Gaborone Bonnington North, Gaborone Bonnington South, Gaborone North, Molepolole North and Tlokweng constituencies. Matlhabaphiri’s demise makes the UDC’s chances of retaining Molepolole North even more likely.

But a lot has happened since 2014. The BMD and AP are no longer part of the UDC; the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions (BOFEPUSU) is no longer as fiercely opposed to the BDP government as it was in 2014, and public servants are no longer as aggrieved as they were pre-2014. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who was despised by many for, inter alia, trampling press freedom and workers rights, is no longer president; Colonel Isaac Kgosi is no longer Director General of the once feared Directorate on Intelligence & Security Services, etc.

Because the AP is no longer part of the UDC, two Opposition giants, the AP’s Ndaba Gaolatlhe and the UDC’s Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, will be contesting against each other for the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency, something which can only split the Opposition’s votes in favour of the BDP. Fortunately for the UDC and the AP, however, this may be mitigated by the fact that while the UDC may benefit from the over a thousand votes brought by the BCP, both candidates, especially the AP’s Motshegwa, may benefit from the vote by labour though it may be reduced compared to 2014.

Also, their BDP contender, Mr. Christian Nthuba, is unlikely to be much of a challenge to either of them, especially considering the fact that he may not get full support from his party because his challenger during the party’s primary elections, Mr. Pelonomi Bantsi, did not accept the results, impugning the procedure before and during elections. In Gaborone Bonnington North, UDC president, who is also president of the Botswana National Front (BNF), Advocate Duma Boko, seems to be safe. The then BDP’s Robert Masitara who trailed him in 2014 is not contesting this year.

Anna Motlhagodi, who challenged Adv. Boko under the BCP banner in 2014, is standing under the BDP this year, but considering that he beat her with a resounding 5,307 votes, it is unlikely that she can win against him this year, even in view of the BMD and AP factor. No doubt, Adv. Boko will benefit a great deal from the BCP’s over 2,000 votes.  

In Gaborone North, though there will be no vote splitting between the UDC and BCP as was the case in 2014, the UDC’s Nkaigwa will have a serious challenge from the BDP’s Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, whose position in the party, proximity to His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi, and access to resources may give him an urge over Nkaigwa.

Also, Nkaigwa, who resigned from the AP as recently as March this year, is likely to suffer a backlash from AP voters, something which can only benefit the BDP. Nkaigwa is also unlikely to enjoy any favour from some members of the BMD since he abandoned it for the AP. In Molepolole North, the death of the BDP’s Matlhabaphiri may have opened the doors for UDC’s Khan’s second term in Parliament. Matlhabaphiri’s replacement, Mr. Oabile Regoeng, is, in my view, no match to Khan. 

In my view, the BMD and AP’s departure from the UDC is unlikely to deplete the 8,854 votes that Khan garnered in 2014. On the contrary, though the BCP did not contest the seat in 2014, it is likely to bring in some votes for the UDC. In Tlokweng, the death of Same Bathobakae is, in my view, unlikely to lead to the BDP wrestling the seat from the UDC. This is because Bathobakae’s successor, Kenneth Masego Segokgo, has held fort very well, and is unlikely to be defeated by the BDP’s Elijah Katse.

In 2017, when a bye election was held following Bathobakae’s untimely death, Kenneth Masego Segokgo garnered a whopping 4, 634 votes against 2 156 and 57 votes for the BDP’s Elijah Katse and Independent candidate, Shirley Segokgo, respectively. In my view, therefore, even without the BMD and AP factors and BOFEPUSU’s support, the UDC is unlikely to lose the 2,156 votes it beat the BDP with in 2014.

In Mogoditshane, Independent candidate, Tshepang Mabaila, is likely to split the BDP votes in favour of the UDC’s Sedirwa Kgoroba, something which will be detrimental to the BDP’s MacDonald Rakgare. Kgoroba is also likely to relish from some of the 3,846 votes which MacDonald Rakgare garnered in 2014 under the BCP.  So, of the constituencies it wrestled from the BDP in 2014, the UDC is likely to retain Gaborone Bonnington North, Gaborone Bonnington South, Gaborone North, Molepolole North, Tlokweng and Mogoditshane, putting 6 seats in the bag.  But the same cannot be said about Ghanzi North and Molepolole South.

In Ghanzi North, Noah Salakae beat the BDP’s Johnnie Swartz by a mere 314 votes. In my view, though Swartz is not contesting the elections this year, Salakae’s position may be precarious in view of the BMD and AP factor. Worse still, the BDP’s Johane Thiite, who got an impressive 1,593 votes during Bulela Ditswe, is likely to pose a significant challenge to Salakae.  In Molepolole South, Dr. Tlamelo Mmatli, then of the UDC, beat the BDP’s Daniel Kwelagobe by a mere 387 votes. In my view, though Kwelagobe is not contesting the elections this year, Dr. Tlamelo Mmatli, who left the UDC with the BMD, is unlikely to return to Parliament.

Not only has he lost UDC’s votes, he has also lost AP’s votes, especially that the AP will be represented by Shima Monageng, whose threat cannot be underestimated considering that he had a sizeable following while at the BDP, which he left after losing Bulela Ditswe. Besides, Dr. Mmatli’s advocacy in Parliament has been wanting, in my view. His opponent from the BDP, Kabo Morwaeeng, who has long fought to go to Parliament, may prove too much for him, especially with Kwelagobe’s endorsement.

So, of the 8 constituencies it unexpectedly wrestled from the BDP in 2014, the UDC is likely to retain 6 and lose 2. Next week, we consider whether the Opposition will retain the constituencies it currently holds other than the ones discussed earlier. These constituencies are Kanye South, Goodhope/Mabule, Maun West, Selibe Phikwe West, Gabane/Mankgodi, Mochudi West, Mochudi East, Francis town South, Ramotswa, Jwaneng/Mabutsane, Gaborone Central and Molepolole South.    

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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