Political parties have in recent months been hard at work putting together what they consider to be the best proposal, pulling all stops to lure Batswana to vote in their favour in the much anticipated 2019 general election due in two months.
Thus far, only four political parties have launched their election manifestos for voters to scrutinize them in advance to casting their votes in October. The parties are the ruling BDP and opposition parties UDC, AP and RAP. Other opposition parties being Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are yet to launch theirs. BPF was launched last week in Kanye, with the party interim president Biggie Butale noting that the party will have its manifesto out soon after an elective congress in Palapye.
As an endeavor to stimulate voter education, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) recently partnered with democracy assessment body, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to host a Battle of Manifestos panel discussion in Gaborone, under the topic ‘’Job creation and Fight against Corruption’’. The panel discussion brought together four political party representatives to unpack their manifestos on what promises they have for voters in the 2019 elections. The discussants were Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe representing BDP, Dumelang Saleshando (UDC), Thatayaone Molefhi (AP) and Franklin Lerubisi (RAP).
Here are the key talking points gleaned from different political party manifestos.
UMBRELLA for DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (UDC)
With the most plausible offer, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) put at the forefront a pledge to create 100 000 jobs in the first 12 months should the party be voted into state power after October.
UDC contends that decent jobs translating to decent lives can be attained, promising to introduce a Minimum Living Wage of P3 000/ month for workers; to hike tertiary student living allowance from the current P1 600 to P2 500. Further, the UDC also propose to increase old age pension from the current P540 to P1 500 monthly. UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando remains confident that the party will meet its target without any difficulty, emphasizing that the party will generate economic growth and employment from sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and construction.
BOTSWANA DEMOCRATIC PARTY (BDP)
As the ruling party, BDP has been heavily criticised by political observers and the general public for lack of clear targets, especially with regards to job creation as graduate unemployment figures continue rising. The backlash comes despite BDP pledge of leading the country on a path to economic transformation by so doing creating jobs that will roll back the scourge of poverty. The BDP led government aims to partner with the private sector to grow the country’s economy. "In this regard, we will undertake major policy structural reforms to make Botswana attractive and improve service delivery in order to stimulate domestic and international investment,” part of the BDP manifesto reads.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who succeeded Ian Khama on April 01, 2018 will attempt to steer the BDP ship through turbulent waters to victory. The tension caused by the standoff between the two leaders have dealt a serious blow to the party fortunes ahead of October with Khama sponsoring the formation of a splinter group, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). Compounding Masisi and the BDP's challenges is that as a party in government they need to strike a balance between pleasing a civil service who are growing agitated because their demands are not met, create more jobs, sanitise and promote the country's foreign polciy and grow the economy. As it were, Masisi has too much on his plate.
Perhaps that explains why the BDP 2019 election manifesto appears shallow and out of touch with the real needs of the electorate, making it difficult to sell to potential voters. Consequently democracts have resorted to being creative in their campaigns, adopting positions that do not necessarily reflect the aspirations of the party manifesto. For example, in the latest gaffe Masisi and other BDP leaders are leaning more towards pushing suggestions that indeed 100 000 jobs can be created, after spending months arguing that it could only happen in fairytales.
ALLIANCE for PROGRESSIVES (AP)
Led by economist, Ndaba Gaolathe, AP in its manifesto pledges to reduce unemployment from around 20 percent to less than 10 percent by positioning Agriculture as one of the top four lucrative contributors to the GDP. Additionally, the more economic transformation led AP further promises to generate per annum a whooping P 100 billion in both domestic and foreign investment structure’s so doubling the economy. As the party approaches the elections eyeing to create a new Botswana from the old Botswana, AP proposes to make Botswana a Transport Hub for the 277 million strong SADC market as well.
REAL ALTERNATIVE PARTY (RAP)
The Gaontebale Mokgosi led movement is also keen on improving the workers conditions of service as shown by RAP's promise to hike minimum wage to P6 500/month, over double that of the UDC. RAP, who refers to its members as messengers, also vows to introduce P3 250 Unemployment Allowance, P8 00 allowance for each child born and total elimination of the prisons system. RAP also proposes a different approach to fight or eliminate corruption. They want those convicted for corruption to face capital punishment, with a wall of shame to be established for those killed for committing corruption.
Divided into 27 thematic sections for indepth discussion the major areas of focus in the RAP manifesto are Jobs for Life, Land & Decent Housing, Economic Freedom, Spaces for Arts &Recreation, Community Connection and Culture Heritage for Social Guidance. The RAP rallying call is that “BAHUMANEGI NAKO E GOROGILE YA GORE RE IKEMELE MO SEPOLOTIKING, RE LAPILE KE GO NNA DIBEREKELA.”
BOTSWANA MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY (BMD)
Led by Sidney Pilane, the party is yet to produce a manifesto just two months before elections. Although some of its members have shown interest to contest some constituencies and wards, the party does not seem to be interested in campaigns or launching candidates any time soon. Their preoccupation is blocking UDC -who expelled them from the alliance - from contesting the 2019 elections.
BOTSWANA PATRIOTIC FRONT (BPF)
Although its interim President Biggie Butale claims they will be ready in October, the newly formed opposition party who recently broke away from the BDP is yet to establish structures and hold an official gathering (conference or congress). Like the BMD, the BPF does not have a manifesto yet and similarly their pre-occupation is fighting to bring down Masisi and his party, following claims by their patron Ian Khama and others that they are persecuted by the current president and his administration.