Botswana, SA ruling parties exchange notes on political challenges
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone- Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa held a meeting last week in an effort to introspect and chart the way forward ahead of general elections.
The two neighbouring countries are scheduled to hold general elections in 2019. The BDP and ANC meeting comes on the backdrop of poor performance of the two parties in recent years and the current political challenges in South Africa.
In the 2014 general elections, on the parliamentary contests, the BDP garnered a total 320,665 votes or 46.7 percent, which showed a decline in popular vote of about 6.56 percent from the 2009 general elections performance.
On the other hand, the ANC’s support dropped to 54.5 percent in last year’s local government elections from 62.2 percent in a national vote two years ago
At the recent meeting in Gaborone to introspect and chart the way forward, Botswana President Ian Khama hosted ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe in his capacity as the leader of the governing BDP.
Mantashe told reporters at a press briefing that the meeting was meant to strengthen relationships between BDP and ANC, share ideas and experiences.
He conceded that South Africa was going through restlessness because of the recent cabinet reshuffle, which he said Botswana could use as a case study.
According to Mantashe, the reshuffle had been received with mixed views, some of which were presented as if South Africa was going through political instability, which he said was not the case.
Mantashe said Botswana had contributed immensely to the freedom of South Africans, which goes back to the time when Gaborone was a safe haven for freedom fighters.
“Our relationship is very strong, which is why we always come back to nurture it by sharing these life experiences and lessons,” he said.
He observed that the party in government always faced struggles and opposition from the public, stating however that with BDP having been in power for over 50 years, the party handled the challenges well.
He said the ANC had learnt a lesson from something which should not have happened in the first place as far as the cabinet reshuffle saga was concerned.
“One of the mistakes that have been committed in the cabinet reshuffle itself is to give an explanation based on an intelligence report.
“When there is a reshuffle in his cabinet, a President is not expected to give an explanation. It was a mistake to give an explanation for the reshuffle and based on the intelligence report,” he said.
BDP secretary-general Botsalo Ntuane said the ANC’s visit represented a huge milestone in strengthening the relationship between the two parties.
Ntuane noted that Botswana had contributed immensely to South Africa’s freedom, having been a corridor to the rest of Africa.
He said that they discussed political party education and how they could improve the strong ties that already existed.
Ntuane said going forward, the two parties agreed that there would be more interactions of this kind.
According to Ntuane, the two parties “feed off each other in terms of lessons,” adding that they were inseparable.
On a related issue, Mantashe dismissed reports that the resignations of ANC MPs from Parliament was a clear indication that the party was in crisis.
Mantashe said they expected the MPs to resign from Parliament after being dropped from cabinet.
He is of the view that the MPs in question wanted to protect their pensions as former cabinet ministers because if they continued as ordinary MPs they would forfeit their pensions as cabinet ministers.
“We expect other former cabinet ministers to resign as MPs. Most of the MPs who are now resigning don’t have any investments apart from their pensions as former cabinet ministers, hence the need to resign,” said Mantashe.
Former deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas has resigned as ANC MP and was the second after former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters’ announced her resignation on Wednesday. Former Energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson also resigned as ANC MP.
They were dropped from cabinet alongside Finance Minister Pravin Jamnadas Gordhan by President Jacob Zuma.