Known for her tenacity that earned her the name ‘Iron Lady’, former Member of Parliament (MP) for Sefhare/Ramokgonami, Dorcas Makgato, who is currently serving as High Commissioner in Australia, has opened up about her political career for the first time since the eventful and fateful 2019 general elections.
Speaking to WeekendPost, the former cabinet minister who has left a mark in Botswana politics albeit in a short period of time has reflected on her gruesome yet fulfilling journey in politics.
Makgato accepted a diplomatic role at the beginning of 2020, subsequently leaving active politics but keeps everyone on their toes about her next move.
“I am happy where I am to represent my country as a diplomat. As a civil servant, I am looking forward to work in the Australian territory. Including Indonesia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands,” she said.
“I think there is a lot of scope particularly in mining, education, Innovation and Agriculture. Australia has advanced in terms of technology. I have already had significant meetings particularly the intention of Botswana to move from a resource based to a knowledge-based economy. So I think Australia is in a good position.”
When quizzed whether she will ever return to politics she said: “You will never know. Probably in my next life. I am truly happy with where I am. I am no longer in politics. I am a diplomat now.”
Makgato, who was having a successful career in the corporate world, initially never had dreams or thoughts of becoming a politician but she found herself having to take on the path that defined her and placed her where she is right now.
“Politics was never my first love. My first love was business. I came to it by default because I was invited into it. But it was also important that once you are in it, you also need a base,” she said.
“I needed to have a base. It was also important for me to participate from a grass root level. That is why I went all the way in because it is either you are in it or you are not. You cannot be in it half way.”
When joining politics, there were a lot of challenges and she had to grow a thick skin to survive the harsh political space.
“There were a lot of challenges, especially with politics, you have to develop a thick skin. When you come from the private sector, despite your skill and track record, people will still question your ability and still say how did you get in and all types of things to annoy you or to get you to hate politics and accuse you of sleeping with someone. Those are normal in politics,” Makgato explained.
“Sometimes people are not telling the truth about you and always inventing stories about you and say things you never said. I learnt that is politics generally and this is just a statement. Whenever people meet they are always plotting something. That I did not like and I kept my life private and my political life political.”
She stated that she did well under the leadership of President Lt Gen Ian Khama which she said she demonstrated loyalty even throughout all leaderships she has been under.
Although she has worked in a male dominated for a long time, Makgato has never been intimidated by the masculine gender.
“I have never really encountered a situation where men say you cannot lead us because you are a woman. Perhaps it’s important to say I do not recognise or acknowledge that I am a woman leader. I just recognise that I am a leader. I lead. The last thing on my mind at any given point is that I am a woman leader,” she said.
When quizzed about the 2019 elections and losing her constituency, she said, ‘‘2019 elections were a defining moment. There were a lot of dynamics that I did not go through in 2014. I needed to confront them head on. Including the level of attacks that I had in my constituency at the time. But its politics you expect it. I have always maintained that and I still do to this day, that whenever you go to work every morning you must expect to be fired for questioning to add value,” she said.
“Therefore when I did not get elected, Sefhare/Ramokgonami for the views that people held against me at the time, I was okay with it because I was prepared for it. Besides being disappointed that I did not get a constituency, I was quite happy to push the agenda that I was pushing.”
Despite the challenges, the ups and downs, she has no regrets for joining politics as it has played a huge role in her growth and with where she needed to be.
“Politics signified a huge growth and the steep learning curve from private to public. In politics, it gives you an opportunity to serve at grass root, at executive, to serve in parliament and to pass law. It also exposed me to the rest of the world,” she stated.
While Botswana is still lagging behind in women political participation she said generally across all political parties in the country, the number of women are still low.
“As a woman leader, you always want women to do well. We did exceptionally well in government because we had lots of Permanent Secretaries that were women and they supported,” she highlighted.
“I think generally we still have a long way to go in terms of women in leadership. There is a lot of growth that needs to happen. There is a lot of support that we need to give women in politics. Other countries have done it by decree others by protocol. We did ours by signing the SADC protocol, we pushed and lobbied for it. It is my sincere hope that those who are in push for its implementation. In there we have mechanism that will increase women leadership. The more women we have, the more confidence they will get and the more they will support each other. The better it is for women leadership,” she said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
â€śBotswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,â€ť says Dr. Kwape. He wouldnâ€™t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
â€śWe will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,â€ś he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the â€śGovernment of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.â€ť
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
â€śSADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,â€ť the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceasedâ€™s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrateâ€™s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
â€śThe third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,â€ť Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
â€śYesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,â€ť said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12thÂ of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Astonâ€™s children) are staying.
â€śThato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,â€ť said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
â€śI have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,â€ť Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
â€śPhillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mallâ€ť the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the â€śunknown callerâ€ť and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused,Â Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6thÂ of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
â€śWe spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine â€“ that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,â€ť said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herderâ€™s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,â€ť said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).