Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chairman Mokgweetsi Masisi has dismissed criticism of the current political administration by former Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae as misinformed and statements by old men "who say anything they want". The two former presidents have been critical of the current government and expressed concern at how governance and the rule of law have taken a nose dive in recent years.
In most cases they have expressed their concerns in international forums. Last year towards the 2014 general elections the two statesmen took a swipe at President Ian Khama’s style of governance and the then BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi warned that they will be called to order.
Two weeks ago while speaking at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Masire raised a concern that there is decline in good governance in Botswana. Mogae, on the other hand, while in United States of America two weeks ago, also took a swipe at countries that didn’t recognise the rights of gays and lesbians including Botswana. Regarding Masire, Masisi said that they don’t have any problems with his sharp tongue on the current government as they learn from what he says. “You will have to understand that he is old now and as such old people normally just say what they want,” said Masisi, adding that sometimes the former president is just being misinformed.
The other problem with Masire, according to Masisi, is that he is not used to modern technology and feels that things are not done correctly. Masire was quoted as saying that bad governance does not just undermine service delivery, it retards development. According to Mo Ibrahim 2015 report since 2011, Botswana has shown an overall governance deterioration of -1.8 points. This places the country within the ten largest fallers of the continent over this time period. Apart from Cape Verde, Botswana is the highest ranking country to show such a decline. This weakening performance is driven by widespread deterioration in three of the four categories: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights and Sustainable Economic Opportunity. “In the past things used to be done manually and now most of the services are done electronically and to him is a sign of poor governance,” said Masisi.
Lesbian & Gays
Regarding Mogae on the lesbians and gay rights, Masisi said that is not illegal to have relationship with people of the same sex but the illegality is when having sexual intercourse which he said according to the penal code is unnatural act. Masisi said that Botswana’s third president has gone on record to say that he did not legalise same sex relationship while he was head of state because he did not want to lose elections. He challenged journalists to ask the former president why he wants it to be done when he is out of office. Masisi said that the two former presidents are private citizens and have a right to say their views.
Masisi was addressing the first media briefing since he was elected at Mmadinare Elective congress. Masisi, who is also the Vice President of the Republic, touched on many issues and their relationship as a ruling party with former statesmen Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae as well as the public sector unions.
The BDP has lost all the by-elections which were held after the 2014 general elections which is the first since 1965 and this seemed to have unsettled the ruling. Two weeks ago the party lost a bye election in Boswelatlou ward in Lobatse to Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which was supported by Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Commenting on the loss, Masisi said that they have realised that the opposition has skillfully mastered the art of vote trafficking. He said that their intelligence has shown them that over 400 people were trafficked and registered his worry, saying that it is not good for the country’s democracy and is a threat to the peace and tranquility as some people might revolt in near future. “The integrity of our elections may be compromised by those who conduct themselves in a compromised way,” said Masisi.
Asked if he has reported the issue to the police, Masisi answered in the negative. Surprisingly Masisi said they have also benefitted from voter trafficking. UDC Publicity Secretary Moeti Mohwasa denied that the UDC won the Boswelatlou by-election because of voter trafficking, calling Masisi a bad loser. “Any self-respecting politician will accept political loss with dignity rather than going around peddling lies like he did,” said Mohwasa.
Last week there were reports that the ruling party was considering negotiating with BCP in an effort to form a coalition in case there is a hung parliament after the 2019 General Elections. The statement was attributed to the party’s Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane. Masisi distanced the BDP from the statement and said they have talked to Ntuane who also denied that. He said the BDP is a big institution and has structures in which pertinent issues are discussed and they are a party that does not think in one direction.
Asked why they are defending Ntuane instead of distancing the party from his statement to the media, the voluble BDP chairperson said that he cannot attack his secretary general in public let alone in front of the media. BCP through their publicity secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse has also distanced itself from the statement, saying that they cannot sleep with the enemy. When he was still the Vice President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Ntuane once suggested that they should consider going into political partnership with the ruling party.
Since he became a cabinet minister, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Union (BOFEPUSU) has declared Masisi their number one enemy. They have even publicly campaigned against him in the BDP primary elections and general elections. When he was appointed the Vice President, BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole warned that Masisi is going to be the worst president for the country. Commenting on their relationship with the public sector unions, the Vice President said that they respect unions and this is evidenced by government recognising BOFEPUSU as federation just like Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU). “We are a pro-labour government and have done a lot for our public service workers more than what their unions have done,” he said, revealing that last weekend he was visited by some union leaders at his official residence.
On why they tend to always fight with workers unions at courts of law which in most cases they lose, Masisi said that it is a learning curve that helps them to understand how some things are being done. "It’s a lie they don’t care about the welfare of the public service workers," said BOFEPUSU deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa. According to BOFEPUSU firebrand, government didn’t do them any favour by recognizing as a labour centre on the contrary they (government) tried to deregister BOFEPUSU as a federation. “They were forced to recognise us a labour centre after the court of law ruled against them when they tried to have us deregistered,” Motshegwa insisted.
He said that if there is any government that have been cruel to the working class, is the current one as currently it is trying to make all public sector employees essential workers. “They took the GEMVAS scheme from us without any objective reason because they just wanted to financially cripple the public sector union,” said Motshegwa, adding that it is the current government that tried to take away their organisational rights only for the high court to come to their rescue.
President Khama has gone on record to state that he does not see any importance of trade unions and this is evidenced by making pronouncement which are against the rules of the bargaining council, said Motshegwa.
Botswana’s immigration laws have been viewed by some investors as too tough especially the deportation without being given notice or reasons. Recently the Chinese embassy raised a concern that their citizens who want to come and invest in Botswana are scared because of the not so conducive immigration laws.
Masisi admitted that there are certain things which are not clear from government side and will soon meet with Business Botswana delegates to address the issue of work and residence permits. He admitted that there are some instances whereby some foreigners were denied residence and work permit due to the lapse on the immigration officials and only for the high office to rectify the mistake. He cautioned that they cannot grant a foreigner a work permit when the job can be done by citizens.
The Vice President, who has been tasked with job creation, said that they welcome investors into the country. On job creation, Masisi said that he is confident that they will be able to create more jobs as they are coming up with a strategic policy.
According to Central Statics Office, unemployment rate in Botswana is at 20.0% as per the BAIS IV 2013. A Quarterly bulletin (Q1:2015) released by an economic think tank eConsult titled “Employment Creation - No Quick Wins,” has cautioned government in their report that unless there is a conducive business environment that the private sector can thrive and create sustainable and decent jobs.
The eConsult, which is led by former deputy governor of Bank of Botswana Dr. Keith Jefferies, said that Botswana needs foreign investors to help create much-needed jobs and cut the unemployment rate and called on government to “Roll out the red carpet and not the red tape”.
On education Masisi admitted that they have seen the passing rate taking a nose dive but was optimistic that they have systems in place and is confident the education quality will improve this year especially regarding the Botswana Government Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE). Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) President Johannes Tshukudu said that he was shocked to hear the Vice President oozing with confidence that education system in Botswana has improved. "It is so sad to see the Vice President being so naïve about the challenges facing the education system and having confidence that everything is under control when he knows it is not true,” said Tshukudu.
Currently the morale among teachers is very low as there is too much authority from school heads causing unnecessary tension, said Tshukudu, adding that even the learning environment is not conducive. He said that there are still some classes which are taught outside and that there is acute shortage of accommodation for teachers. According to Tshukudu, the only solution to the current challenges facing the education system is an intensive evaluation.