BDP Maintains Grip… Khama promises a better Botswana
Gaborone – Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has managed to hold onto its record as the longest governing party in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, if not in Africa, after winning the October 24 general elections, although with a reduced majority.
President Ian Khama, who led the party to victory against a spirited opposition, was on October 28 sworn in for a second and last five-year term.
The former army commander with the Botswana Defence Force ensured that BDP, which was founded in the early 1960s by his father Sir Seretse Khama ‑ the country’s first president, maintains its half-century record of uninterrupted rule in this southern African and diamond-rich nation of just over two million people.
Since independence from Britain in September 1965, Botswana, under the BDP administration, has earned global praise for its political stability and high level of economic growth, which at one point was said to have outpaced the Four Asian Tigers – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
But 61-year-old Khama, who took oath amid an economic decline, decrease in demand for diamonds and rising unemployment, has pledged to create jobs, eradicate poverty by 2016 and improve water and electricity supply during his last term in office.
This year’s election was touted by political commentators and the media, as the most fiercely contest in the history of Botswana as an increasing number of Batswana view opposition as a viable alternative to the governing BDP.
And the results seem to have vindicated their claims, which showed that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s popular vote continues to decline since the last general elections in 2009.
The BDP’s popular vote fell from 52.3 percent in 2009 to 46.7 percent in 2014.
On the other hand, the newly formed opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) put up a spirited campaign, which resulted in six cabinet ministers in the BDP administration losing their constituencies.
The UDC, which comprises three opposition parties, got 30.8 percent of the popular vote while another opposition, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) got 19.5 percent.
Out of the 57 constituencies, BDP garnered 37 constituencies, 17 went to the UDC while the BCP managed a paltry three with its leader, Dumelang Saleshando being booted out of Parliament.
UDC leader, Duma Boko, who will be leader of the opposition in Parliament, secured himself a seat in one of the Gaborone constituencies, which were mostly won by his party.
While it fell short of the required 29 constituencies to assume state power, the UDC posted the best performance by an opposition in the history of Botswana in its first appearance in the general elections.
The party was formed through a coalition between Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) an offshoot of the BDP, Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP).
UDC’s spirited campaigns across the country, which included seven branded buses and a chopper, paid off as the party gained 17 constituencies at the recent polls, beating the previous highest number of 13 by the BNF in 1999.
Most of the opposition seats where won in the southern part of the country.
Boko, a trained lawyer and former university lecturer, dispatched Robert Masitara of the BDP and Anna Motlhagodi of BCP in the Gaborone Bonnington North constituency.
The opposition coalition proved to be a favourite among the residents of the capital, Gaborone as it performed strongly in the main city where it won four out of five constituencies.
UDC also shocked the BDP’s strongman and doyen of the ruling party politics Daniel Kwelagobe who has been an MP for more than three decades as Dr Tlamelo Mmatli wrestled Molepolole South (45 kilometres from Gaborone) from him. Kwelagobe had represented Molepolole in Parliament for 45 years.
Another UDC member Mohammed Khan also trounced BDP’s Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri in Molepolole North. The two constituencies had been traditional BDP strongholds.
The coalition further pulled off another shocker in Ghanzi North where their candidate Noah Salakae ousted long time cabinet minister Johnie Swartz.
The Botswana Congress Party that pulled out of the opposition coalition was the biggest loser, slumping to a paltry three constituencies from seven in the previous Parliament.
They retained just two constituencies. The party’s dismal performance is attributed to punishment by members of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (Bofepusu) which spearheaded the formation of the UDC.
A week before the elections, the public service union issued a hit list with names of the ruling party’s Members of Parliament (MPs) and BCP leader Saleshando was the only opposition leader included in the list.
The union accused him (Saleshando) of walking away from the opposition cooperation talks. The UDC was the brainchild of the Bofepusu following the 2011 public service strike which was occasioned by the government’s refusal to increase their salaries.
Saleshando said he accepts the election results and takes full responsibility for the poor performance. BCP only managed a paltry three constituencies and lost four.
He said they did not see the loss coming as their assessment informed them they would win.
Saleshando said they are to meet as a party to decide on the way forward after appreciating the lessons learnt from the election. He said, “I take full responsibility for the BCP’s performance. We will reflect and map a way forward.”
Saleshando, who also lost his seat congratulated ruling BDP President Ian Khama and opposition coalition UDC President Duma Boko for their respective parties’ performances.
BDP performed well in the northern part of the country where President Khama’s social progammes among them, poverty eradication seem to have been well received by the rural masses. The party also won all the constituencies around Khama’s home village of Serowe.
Meanwhile, President Khama has extended an olive branch to his political opponents and has urged all the Batswana to join hands.
He said the government continues to recognise that “the dignity of our society and quality of our democracy, along with the delivery of sustained development are all dependent on us finding the discipline within ourselves to sacrifice selfish and short-term interest for nation building”.
“We must work together to obtain standards of excellence that will enable us to compete with the very best in the world. Let us also continue to recognise that discipline is a prerequisite to overcoming many of our social challenges, be it the spread of HIV, the damage caused by alcohol and substance abuse, the corrosive effects of crime and corruption or the loss of family and community cohesion,” said the President.
In his inauguration speech at Parliament, Khama said Botswana has just emerged from the election that has once more demonstrated the nation’s commitment to the democratic processes and values that “have sustained our peaceful progress over the past five decades”.
He remarked that: “As we savour our respective victories, let us remain mindful of the fact that the real and urgent work now begins as we come together to move Botswana forward. As political leaders, it is our responsibility to provide direction and to lead by example, by putting the nation’s interests first while re-committing ourselves to the values of tolerance, mutual respect and self-discipline”. Khama said, he would confine himself to confirming what shall be “our governing priorities as we move Botswana forward. These priorities, which were set out in my party’s election manifesto, shall stand as this administration’s collective performance agreement with the nation. They include: job creation; food security; expanded land and housing ownership; access to quality education; economic empowerment and the eradication of poverty”.
In carrying out his mandate to deliver on each of these priorities, Khama said his administration shall continue to be guided by the roadmap for achieving a better Botswana.
“This roadmap can be summarised as our pledge to achieve a dignified life for all Batswana through the delivery of sustainable economic development that is driven by a culture of democratic accountability and rooted in a renewed sense of social discipline,” he said.
In keeping with this pledge, he said, “We shall, therefore, maintain our focus on the delivery of improved education and training, along with the provision of expanded vocational opportunities through our Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and citizen empowerment initiatives.”
To further diversify the economy, Khama said, his administration shall capitalise on emerging opportunities within the mineral sector, through further beneficiation, as well as in other sectors such as agriculture, tourism and ICT driven services.
“Our ongoing success in establishing our country as a global hub to market diamond processing should, in this respect, now serve as a beacon of what we can also accomplish in other areas,” he said.
In his efforts towards realising people centred development, Khama said, he shall, moreover, continue to give special priority to youth development and empowerment.
“In promoting the dignity of all Batswana we have pledged ourselves to the creation of an enabling environment of economic opportunity that leaves no citizen behind. A cornerstone of our efforts to achieve inclusive growth will be our continued nurturing of small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) as vehicles of self-empowerment and catalysts for grassroots development,” he said.
For those most in need, Khama said he shall move forward with the poverty eradication programme, where his administration is already in striking distance of meeting its primary goal of eliminating extreme poverty among able-bodied Batswana by 2016.
“Our commitment to dignity for all is further reflected in our interventions on behalf of those living in remote area communities or having special needs such as people living with disabilities, orphans and those with health conditions, as well as the less fortunate in general,” he said.
Meanwhile, Khama commended the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other stakeholders “who ensured that this year’s poll, like all of those that have preceded it, was conducted in a free and fair manner. “Let me congratulate all those from across the country who were elected to Parliament and the local Councils”.