Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Parliamentary candidate in the Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency Gilbert Watshipi is optimistic of a better future.
Watshipi will be contesting against Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) representative Naniki Makwinja who beat the incumbent area MP Vincent Seretse in their party’s primary elections. He speaks to Tshepo Kehimile of The Midweek Sun.
MS: Good Afternoon Comrade Watshipi. Kindly take us through your political background.
GW:I have been involved in politics for a very long time, I was born into the family of Botswana National Front (BNF). I became active in politics in the year 2000. Fast forward to 2014, members of the BNF approached me just after the elections asking me to represent them at the 2019 General Elections. Back in 2015, I became BNF Treasurer for Lentsweletau-Mmopane and was involved in the Kweneng regional activities which include being a Treasurer for a fund raising team for the 50 years anniversary event which was a success.
MS: Why did you decide to stand for Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency?
GW: As a person who always believed in liberating the oppressed, I felt it was time for me to play a role in regime change. The ruling party (BDP) has been in power for over 50 years and yet it has failed dismally to bring about desired change for the citizens. And I believe I have the charisma, knowledge and the energy to advocate for the people of this constituency as we route towards change.
MS: What do you think the constituents greatly need from your representation?
GW. To address issues that have not been addressed for many years, for instance, most MPs usually disappear immediately after the elections and forget about the constituency in this area, people who have businesses in Mmopane Block 1 tend to struggle when there are rains as the road is in a bad state. The lack of water and sewage systems in the area are some of the things that made me want to represent my people. My tours around the constituency have revealed problem areas that need to be addressed. Among them are: need for senior secondary school in the constituency; a need for adequate junior secondary schools; inadequate or lack of drugs in clinics. We also need a hospital and I will advocate for clean water suppy.
Another thing that the constituents will need is proper consultation which has not been there. It is important to engage and consult with constituents on issues of their interests, and that is how I have been able to pick these areas of need.
MS: What are the national priority issues you would want to take to parliament?
GW: Some programmes are not done well, for example, schemes such as ISPAAD are not well administered and that is a worrying factor. The funds are not being used properly hence the need to be considered at Parliament. As for the constituency funds in the area, nothing can be written home as there has been high misuse of these particular funds. We have seen instances where an individual farmer could be helped to costs of P35 000 only for them to make only P10 000 from their produce. This proves that the way things are done is not sustainable. We believe as constituents that we could be grouped in tens (10) where we would have P350 000 to use. This way we would be able to run sustainable agricultural projects. There would be good profits and we would be able to create employment. Even the constituency fund is not well administered and our input or views are not taken into consideration.
MS: What is your stance on corruption and institutions put in place to fight it?
GW: Our mandate at the UDC is to advocate for the independence of corruption agencies. Parliament should be given the power to instruct for forensic audits and set terms of reference where they deem fit without fear or favour. It should not be in the discretion of the president. Furthermore, we have realised that the roots of corruption are ideals of the society. If economic life is based on ownership of wealth, status, worship of money as means of power, unhealthy competition just to mention a few, then corruption cannot be avoided. All parastatals need forensic audits and all big wigs who have dealings with government need to be investigated. We at the UDC also believe that legislators must divorce themselves from doing business with government. Ombudsman, DCEC and other justice institution must enjoy total independence and be able to take anyone to task regardless of their position.
MS: How will you address the high unemployment rate?
GW: We have so many idling resources that need to be put to use. We should create commercial agricultural projects. Additionally, we now have a mine in Medie village and it should be managed well so that the constituents benefit from it.
MS: Education results have been declining in the country, how are you going to address the low pass rate in your area?
GW: For our pass rate to improve, these particular issues need to be addressed: Poor working conditions and salaries for teachers as they are doing an essential job hence need to be rewarded accordingly. Students continue to travel long distances which affects their performance as they are forced to attend classes fatigued and stressed. This could be addressed by building enough schools to cater for vast catchment areas. We need to revisit the Kedikilwe Commission report and reduce the teacher-student ratio as large numbers per teacher make meaningful learning impossible.
Infrastucture in schools must be made conducive for learning. As it is, we have dilapidated facilities and ablutions with no water in our schools. The environment must be attractive for learning. Enough classrooms must be built to avoid under the tree lessons where children are easily distracted.
MOKOKO GUNS FOR GUMA
As an independent parliamentary candidate, he is quick to admit that he does not have the financial means to run a lavish campaign. However, Tshwenyego Mbise, 42, a resident of Themashanga village in the Tati East constituency believes that his knowledge of the constituency, its people and their needs coupled with his passion to serve, put him in a vantage position to win.
This is despite the fact that independent candidates in Botswana rarely win an election. He joined Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) in 1998 and unsuccessfully contested Old Naledi ward in Gaborone in 1999. At the time, BPP was part of the Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM). “I would later leave active politics until the Councillor for Themashanga, Kudzani Tobokwani, a member of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) recruited me into the ruling party,’’ said Mbise in an interview. He became active again in 2009 as part of the party activists who campaigned for Moyo Guma, the current area Member of Parliament (MP).
“I had wanted to contest the general elections in 2014 but decided instead to support Sean Sebele in the primary elections against Guma. “I did not want to split Sebele’s votes because I wanted him to win the primaries,” said Mbesi who runs a construction company. Will he consider contesting the primary elections if they are called to replace Guma who has been recalled? “I have been campaigning for some time as an independent candidate in this constituency and the constituents are behind me.
They know me,” said Mbise who has not resigned from the BDP. “The problem of shortage of water in this constituency is an old one and needs to be tackled. Looking at the length of time this problem has been around, it is clear that nobody is pushing it,” he observed adding that there has been no political will to champion the development agenda of the constituency in general. His commitment to addressing the shortage of water is reflected in his election symbol which is formed by two standpipes standing together but facing opposite directions.
The aspirant finds it disturbing that there is no hospital or a 24-hour clinic in the constituency. One of the challenges that stood the test of time is shortage of land in the constituency which is part of the North East District. The North East District is home to farms owned by the Tati Company. “It is difficult in the North East District to own land be it for residential purposes or grazing,” noted the parliamentary aspirant whose chosen colour is maroon. “The Ntimbale dam is situated between farms. Access to it for activities such as fishing is impossible for the ordinary people. Only the rich owners can easily access it which in my view is unfair,” lamented Mbise.
The constituency is endowed with a lot of rivers. “If we had land, the rivers could be an important resource especially to the youth interested in farming. “Irrigation farming would grow in this area due to the many rivers we have,” he added. Mbise is also not happy with the inadequate road infrastructure in the constituency or the general pace of development. “Look at a village such as Matsiloje for instance. It is so close to Francistown but so neglected. There are no developments,” he observed.
Mbise believes that the Tati Nickel mine should not have closed. “The other problem here is the human-wildlife conflict. The Department of Wildlife is not doing their job and people are suffering because wild animals are destroying their crops. I intend to articulate these things in parliament,” said Mbise.
Lucas confident of victory
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate for Francistown South, Modiri Lucas, popularly called Jojo, is a confident man.
He fancies his chances to beat both Wynter Mmolotsi and Tiroyaone Ntsima of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) respectively in the October general elections.
BDP won the constituency back in 2009 with Mmolotsi as party candidate but he would later break away as part of disgruntled members that formed the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
The 39 year old entrepreneur is unfazed by the fact that BDP could only manage 3 289 votes in 2014 while the UDC, whose candidate then was Mmolotsi, garnered 5 261. A lot has since changed. Mmolotsi’s AP has decided to go it alone in the elections. “He has changed from one party to another and people can no longer trust him. People need somebody who is consistent and they can trust.
“Secondly, there is no AP in the constituency. I am confident that the BDP, not necessarily myself, will win the constituency with large numbers,” he stated.
Lucas has been an entrepreneur since his primary school days. “I was a photographer at school and also sold sweets at school,” revealed Jojo who stayed with his parents in old Somerset, which is known for poverty, alcoholism and crime. He went to Mokaleng Primary School and Moremogolo in Francistown and then proceeded to Francistown Secondary School before enrolling with the South African College of Auctioneers for a Diploma in Auctioneering.
“We were squatters here and life was hard so I had to sell sweets, take photos to compliment whatever my parents could raise,” noted the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) member who stays in Block 8.
He contested Ipopeng ward using the tagline mokoko wa ditlhabololo as an independent candidate in the 2014 general elections but lost. He used his own resources to buy and install tower lights at dimausu to curb crime. “There are people who cannot afford even a simple thing as replacing or repairing the door to their house due to poverty.
“When I discovered this need, I used my resources to help out because, without a door, you are exposed to criminals at night,” explained Lucas. He has pioritised jobs among the needs of the constituency. “Nobody is taking the government empowerment programmes to the constituents. I intend to do that by organising seminars and workshops for the relevant government departments to market those to the people,” added Lucas.
He has registered a company called A 100 Minds Limited. “This will bring a hundred young people together to run business related to farming, manufacturing and the production of different commodities for supply to government,” said the BDP diehard whose philosophy is that politics is about service to the people.
He is also worried that no clinic in the constituency operates for 24 hours. “There is a need to add a maternity wing to the Masego clinic in the constituency. Our internal roads need to be upgraded. I am also worried that, in almost the whole constituency, churches operate as squatters. This is despite the crucial role they play.
“They are not given the recognition and dignity they deserve by being allocated land,” Modiri said. As MP, Jojo will get government to resolve the problem of O Mang for the children who struggle to be recognised as citizens because one of the parents was not a Motswana.
“Government needs to solve this problem once and for all. Right now, I know some who will not vote because there is a problem with the renewal of their identity cards,” he lamented. His position is that, if government cannot open the Tati Nickel mine, it should at least turn it into a tourism park, which would revive the economy of the town. Francistown constituency also needs a Youth Centre equipped with WIFI which will also serve as a resource centre.
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