On Thursday political enthusiasts gathered at Botswana Craft to go and watch and listen to the political giants as they reviewed the Year 2017. The debate pitted Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) deputy Secretary General Shaw Kgathi, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President Dumelang Saleshando, Alliance for Progressives Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale and Botswana Federation of Public and Private Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) Secretary General Tobokani Rari.
He was the first to draw the blood and as predicted he proclaimed that one of the key developments in 2017 was the formation of AP which he said has breathed fresh air into local politics. Butale said that the judiciary under the current government has been compromised due to interference by the executive. “We have seen some judges who have been suspended for raising legitimate issues about their welfare apologising to the President and reinstated,” he said. The collapse of the bargaining council is one of the issues that worried the AP leader who said Government was disregarding the workers. Butale – also MP for Gaborone Central – decried the lack of independence of the Parliament, saying committees which are there fail to meet.
The BOFEPUSU firebrand said 2017 was a bad year for the labour movement in Botswana due to government’s disregard for the labour laws. Botswana for the first time, according to Rari, was summoned by the International Labour Organisation due to making all workers in Botswana essential.Rari said they were shocked when the Commissioner of Labour informed them about the deregistration of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC). Hurried amendment of all labour statutes without due regard for the international standards as outlined in the ILO conventions; TDA, EA, TUEO, PSA. Such reckless amendments resulted in Botswana being shortlisted among the gross violators, said Rari.Another issue, which is of great concern to BOFEPUSU is the deteriorating education system under President Ian Khama and high unemployment rates among the graduates. “Suspension of judges under dubious circumstances, disputation of appointment of Court of Appeal Judges, unlawful refusal by the President to appoint Judges, the current persecution of the judges who have not yet apologised to the CJ. We have seen the Court of Appeal making dubious decisions, usurping the powers of the lower courts,” he charged. He said as a federation they have played a pivotal role in shaping democracy; case on COA judges, civil servants voting at primary elections case, hosted conference on unemployment.
He came to the debate as the target man as he was from the governing party but Kgathi showed his debating prowess as he managed to articulate his issues well.His point of departure was the performance of the BDP in 2017 as he indicated that they managed to hold a very successful elective congress. This, he said, they achieved amid some political pundits predicting that the party will come from Tonota divided.Kgathi said that it was a bad year for the opposition as they saw blood being shed at Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) elective congress in Bobonong which gave birth to a new political party being AP.“It is on record; we have the highest number of absenteeism in Parliament by the leader of opposition. This is the weakest we have ever had in the history of Botswana Parliament,” said Kgathi.On the thorny issues which have dominated the media space that Botswana Defence Force (BDF) want to purchase Grippen jets, Kgathi – the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security – rebutted the allegations. He said BDF budget for the current is in public domain and they are looking at options for fighter jets. Kgathi said President Khama made the opposition eat humble pie as he announced that he will be stepping down next contrary to what they have been saying that he will want to extend his stay in office.
He started well by stating that history was made when Botswana Congress Party (BCP) listened to the plea of Batswana and joined Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).He said that in the last General Elections they have realised that BDP won the elections by less than 50% and had the opposition been united then they could be in power.A political debater of note, Saleshando raised the issue that President Khama has done disservice to the country by failing to attend both regional and international summits, labelling it absenteeism of the worst order.“If you want to talk about absenteeism in Parliament; you and I know who the champion of absenteeism in Parliament is. We know who is an absentee at AU,” hit out Saleshando in reference to Kgathi when he said the leader of opposition was always absent in Parliament.Saleshando said Botswana is one of the few countries spending billions of money in purchasing military equipment in the world. He said that it was shocking that government has decided to spend billions of money in procuring Grippen fighter jets whilst most Batswana are unemployed.He touched on the introduction of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) against the will of the people. According to Saleshando, Government is hell-bent on introducing the EVMs even when indications show that Batswana are against its introduction.