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.
NEW AGE POLITICIAN
Botswana Democratic Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Kanye North Constituency Thapelo Letsholo advises his constituents to go for youthful competence, result-oriented representation and shun the outdated and usual political rhetoric.
If elected, his main objective will be to turn Kanye North into a progressive and result-oriented constituency. He will achieve this through unifying all levels of government with the goals of his people. Letsholo brings vast experience in business, retail management, communications and strategy having served corporate entities that have international reach.
He is confident that his professional expertise, particularly in strategy development, brand positioning and corporate reputation management, puts him in a prime position to be entrusted with effectively articulating and interrogating possible solutions to challenges faced by the constituency and the country at large.
Kanye North constituency needs new age representation that is in tune with the needs and aspirations of the current and future Kanye North voter. “That is exactly what I distinctively bring to the constituency. My intention is to consistently and continuously be available to all constituents, predominantly in person through such forums as dikgotla.
“However, across various interactions with the residents of Kanye North, we are in agreement that there is need for more communication platforms that will form additional contact points with the Member of Parliament (MP).“I therefore have an ambition to set up a call centre and develop a mobile application that all, especially the younger generation, can utilise to communicate with their MP and inform him of such areas that need his attention,” he says.
He will interrogate and positively confront all answers given by different ministries, departments and service providers for service lapses and challenges facing the constituency so that there can be increased urgency, vigour and adherence to timelines for service delivery and promised projects in the constituency. Some of these projects include the long standing water problem, Kgomokasitwa/Tshweneyagae Road, a sports stadium, youth unemployment and transforming the main hospital in Kanye into a more efficient and effective health care centre.
Confirming that a challenge exists by civil servants at Kgotla meetings can no longer be accepted as an appropriate and accepted response to the problem. “I am going to continuously and consistently agitate for clearly defined deliverables on how the specific challenges will be overcome as well as strict adherence to the associated timelines,” he says.
Q. You mention some challenges that have long existed. What will set you apart from MPs that came before you?
A. I believe in the philosophy of collective thinking. I don’t wish to present myself as a sole solution provider, and I don’t intend to mislead my constituents by offering and presenting myself as such.
Q. Women representation in political office has been a great challenge. What is your view on this?
A. The issue of women representation in politics in particular is very broad and has less to do with women’s capability but more to do with mistaken societal attitudes towards women’s ability to lead in general. This negative view should be tackled from the boardrooms through to politics. We need to emphasize equal opportunity and ensure gender balance across board. Throughout my tenure in business, I have fully appreciated the tremendous capability of women, to the extent that in most of the businesses I have been associated with, the majority of employees have been women and held leadership positions in the different divisions.
Q. What is your view on corruption and institutions put in place to fight it?
A. Corruption is a sign of a society whose moral values have been eroded over time. Therefore the sustainable solution is to take a long-term view to reverse the current decay.
At policy level, there is need to reconfigure the reporting structure of institutions charged with the responsibility of preventing corruption. There is opportunity for the institutions to report directly to Parliament, with the Heads of those institutions also appointed by a committee of Parliament. Their recruitment ought to be public and transparent, and their credentials, integrity and fitness to hold public office publicly interrogated. Their term of office could also be fixed to a specific period and non-renewable, such that their continued deployment is not at the pleasure of the appointing authority.
Q. There has been a general problem of youth unemployment, how are you prepared to address it?
A. Kanye North has a significant population of young people with big dreams, enormous ambitions and incredible aspirations. I have a real interest in working collaboratively with the youth, through continuous engagement with them and other stakeholders, to make the dreams of our young people a reality.
Moreover, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has committed to enable thousands of jobs mainly targeted at the youth, in the arts, creative and entertainment sector. To bring this to life, we have a strong ambition to work with the private sector to create Botswana’s first Television Production Incubation Centre in Kanye to give our local talent the opportunity to produce content initially for Botswana Television but ultimately for international consumption.
The fully equipped Incubation Centre will provide the necessary equipment, guidance and execution of various concepts proposed by creatives. This concept has not only already been developed for Botswana, but has also already tested in various other countries such as Nigeria and Kenya, resulting in the creation of jobs for the youth
Q. Given your acknowledgement of the magnitude of youth unemployment, as a successful businessman what have you done to alleviate the problem?
A. I am a passionate entrepreneur and a business leader. The companies that I have established permanently employ over 27 young people, mostly below the age of 30. My commitment to enabling and facilitating the development of our exciting and emerging talent is relentless.
Q. Noting that entrepreneurship is an alternative to solving youth unemployment, how do you intend to support those in this pursuit?
A. Given the limited opportunities in Botswana as a relatively small population but abundance of talent and skills, there is need to take a new approach towards starting and growing businesses. There is tremendous wisdom in the adage “moroto wa esi ga o ele” and that “noka e tlatswa ke melatswana”. The youth should embrace merging of different skills and talents as opposed to working in silos in turning gaps identified in the economy into viable business opportunities.
There is greater value in five individuals coming together and setting up a business and reaching out to a client as a service provider, as opposed to five individuals approaching the same client and competing amongst themselves.
Q. Education results have been declining throughout the country, how are you going to address the low pass rates?
A. Rather than teach children so that they can pass exams, the school system should be enabling learners to collaborate with each other, identify their strengths and setting them up for lifelong learning.
This approach will motivate and inspire learners to take ownership of their own learning in a motivated manner and consequently reduce apathy in their studies. In realization of the above, the BDP has also committed to an overhaul and modernization of the school curriculum, to enable us to respond to the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It has further committed to the establishment of a skills fund aimed at retooling our graduates for the current job market.
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.
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