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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.