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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.