Thirty year old Gaborone City Mayor Kagiso Thutlwe is a young man on a mission to change people’s lives and liven up the country’s capital city. After being elected the city mayor last year following a win at the village ward council elections, Thutlwe has hit the ground running and is now a news maker and a game changer to watch out for.
The youthful mayor will be jetting off to Rome; Vatican City today (Sunday) to attend a workshop on modern slavery and Climate Change where he will among other things meet Pope Francis as part of his portfolio as the focal Mayor of Southern Africa. A position he was elected to, this year after the Commonwealth Local Government Conference.
Although many would expect drastic changes in his conduct, both personally and in office, Thutlwe is unfazed by the honor of being bestowed with the responsibility of leading the country’s capital city. The position, he says, has not changed him and rather he is the one bringing change to the office of the Mayor.
The city Mayor says he assumed office knowing very well that his predecessors, especially the immediate, who now hold a position in the national assembly as the MP for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaigwa have continuously bemoaned that the position is more of an honorary one, that the Mayor ‘s powers are limited to the extent that the City Clerk wield more powers than them. This he says will not derail him from accomplishing his mission. Being youthful and vibrant has afforded the Mayor to devise a plan to beat the system and have his way around.
According to Thutlwe he has decided to use privileges and powers that he have as the political leader of the city council to meet directly with government officials including the President and Minister to present proposals and share his vision of how he intends and wants the city to develop. “Just recently I met the President and shared my vision with him, he was very understanding and interested in what I had to say. I told him we as the city council need at least P1 billion to develop and revamp all the residential areas in the city.
I told him we need to provide street lights and internal roads to most parts of the city. I made the President understand that all residential areas of the city need attention including the old ones like Maruapula, Block 3 and Ledumang which seem to have been forgotten. Although he did not entirely grant me my wishes the President has agreed and issued a directive that we be given P50 million to use where we can," he said.
As a young person, it will naturally make sense that the mayor represent and advocate for other young people and that is exactly what Thutlwe is doing. The Mayor says he intends to provide platforms through which young people can earn a living through engaging in entertainment activities. As it is, Thutlwe says, many young people are interested and it will be a matter of tapping into their talents and ensuring that they get income.
According to Thutlwe if all goes according to plan events like fashion shows will be staged regularly to afford maximum participation by aspiring artists and entrepreneurs. Although he concedes that employment creation is not his area of responsibility, Thutlwe says he believes that his plans to maximise on Private Public Partnership (PPPs) will at least afford young people a chance to secure short term employment.
In the longterm however the Mayor says he intends on ensuring that young people get employment through engaging in activities that will both benefit them and the city. The cleanness of the city is according to Thutlwe one area that is a cause for concern and in which he intends on engaging youth owned companies to assist. “Just this week I had a meeting with the Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama and we agreed that youth owned companies will be given priority when jobs to clean the city are tendered for,” he said.
Even if he had to say so himself Thutlwe believes he has achieved so much in a short period of time since assuming the position of the Mayor. Thutlwe has been elected the focal Mayor of Southern Africa, a position he says will afford him to see to it that local governments are taking a leading role in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region. His committee he says has also been tasked with addressing issues of sustainable development and development of cities.
Thutlwe has been invited to attend the workshop on modern slavery and climate change which relates to the role of Cities in addressing the key sustainable development issues such as climate change, poverty and HIV/AIDS. According to Thutlwe his trip to Rome today is a milestone in his quest to position himself as one of the best mayors the City of Gaborone will ever have.
His position as the Focal Mayor OF Southern Africa has according to Thutlwe earned him a position in World Mayors and Leadership from Southern Africa and of African descent committee where he sits with other mayors from other regions of the world.
The mayor believes his degree in Environmental Sciences and English is also assisting him in performing his job exceptionally. “ I address environmental issues with authority and recommends relevant solution and my English qualification is working wonders for me in as far as public speaking is concerned,” he said.
Though this is Thutlwe’s first time in a high profile political office, the young Mayor is not a novice to the political scene. Having at some point contested for a parliamentary seat under the Botswana National Front ticket, a party he is still a member of, Thutlwe was engaged in politics from his years at the University of Botswana and held the position of the Student Representative Council (SRC) president at some point.
He has trust that fellow councilors will continue entrusting him with the opportunity to be the city Mayor until 2019 when the country will go to the polls again. And even in 2019, Thutlwe says he believes his party-the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), will assume power and he will still be in the council as a mayor and assisting his party to attain its transition plan of governing the country and staying in power thereafter. “I will still be here assisting my constituency MP Phenyo Butale in the transition process,” he said.
Thutlwe holds a position in the BNF youth league and says he intends to contend for a position again in the coming elections. He however says he does not have any interest in contesting for a position in the party’s central committee saying he still wants to enjoy his youth.
It has not been easy for the young at heart Mayor though. Thutlwe says he finds himself being the victim of the same indifference that other young people face especially from their older counterparts. He recalls an incident where the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso failed to introduce him at the recent Commonwealth Local Government Conference, though she apologised and introduced him, The Assistant Minister allegedly remarked that Thutlwe’s young age made him ‘invisible’ at times, this he says did not sit well with him and shows the seriousness of the obstacles he has to tackle every day.
Most of the people he works with at the civic centre he says are people old enough to be his parents which at times distract them from taking his orders serious. He says that he has however learnt to accept the situation and that he works twice as much to prove himself. Thutlwe says he does this by keeping to his vision and plans, being on time and giving everything he does his all. “As a young person you are most likely to face negativity every now and then, I take such as challenges to conquer and eye openers,” he said.
He implores other young people to follow suit, saying as the leaders of tomorrow, they have to start now to prove they are capable of succeeding and need to be taken serious.