Africa-Press – Botswana. Even though the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic took centre stage this year, politicians would not be left behind and had their fair share of the limelight. Staff Writers TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE and INNOCENT SELATLHWA look at some of the political highlights of the year 2020
Parly goes live
The year 2020 saw government finally implement a motion passed by the National Assembly in 2013 to air parliamentary proceedings on state broadcaster Botswana Television (Btv). Passed in the 10th Parliament, the motion to air parliamentary proceedings was finally implemented during the 12th Parliament. The motion had been tabled by then Selebi-Phikwe West Member of Parliament Gilson Saleshando seeking to give voters access to proceedings. This has been a hit with voters as they can now follow their leaders’ contributions live. Voters finally know what really goes on at Parliament. They can see when good motions are shot down and they can also see when legislators sometimes behave like children.
BPF raids Domkrag
The new entrant in the political landscape Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) continued to make inroads, especially in the Central District. The party recruited into its fold a good number of councillors from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). One of them is Pinny Morupisi, councillor for Malaka-Lecheng ward in the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency and spouse to former permanent secretary to the President Carter Morupisi. As if that were not enough, just before Parliament passed motions to bar politicians from defecting from their parties, Jwaneng-Mabutsane legislator Mephato Reatile joined his political father Ian Khama at his new home, BPF. Meanwhile, Francistown West legislator Ignatius Moswaane also quit the BDP to join the UDC after he was suspended for ranting against the party on social media. Outspoken Tonota legislator Pono Moatlhodi also quit the UDC and retraced his steps to the BDP. He said this was because Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando and the UDC caucus had suspended him from Opposition whip position without consultation.
Mangole appointed Ambassador
While it is a norm that politicians from the ruling party who lost elections are rewarded with ambassadorship, secretary-general of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Gilbert Mangole was appointed High Commissioner of Botswana to India. Mangole has served as a Member of Parliament from 2009 to 2019. Before being elected as MP, he served as a councillor from 1999 to 2009. Mangole replaces Ambassador Lesego Motsumi who completed her tour of duty in December 2019.
Opposition parties unite
In yet another interesting turn
out of events, opposition parties, the coalition UDC, Alliance for Progressives (AP), and BPF, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate for the by-elections. This is, however, yet to be tested, as plans halted due to COVID-19 protocols. There are at least three council vacancies occasioned by the passing of BDP councillors in Metsimotlhabe, Boseja and Tamasane wards, but due to COVID-19 dates are yet to be set for the by-elections. Elections are usually held within three months of a vacancy. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has since said they are ready to hold elections. It is believed that there would be complications with parties scrambling for constituencies and wards. Meanwhile, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) that was expelled from the UDC has expressed its desire to work with other opposition parties. The party, however, stated it still needs to get the green light from its congress, which could not convene due to COVID-19.
Party gatherings halted
The pandemic has also proven problematic for most political parties as they could not hold their congresses due to restricting regulations. This has led to tensions in some instances, especially where elections are on the cards. Botswana National Front, Botswana Congress Party and their youth leagues were supposed to have already held their elective congresses while all other political parties were also to meet. As a result of the virus, different political party structures are suffering as gatherings are prohibited. Thus far only party leaders can congregate as meetings are limited to 50 people.
Election losers face execution
At least 23 of the UDC candidates for the 2019 General Election are in trouble and could lose their properties as deputy sheriffs are wielding axes over their heads. Even though efforts were made to collect donations from supporters, the UDC is far off from reaching the targeted millions of Pulas. These are to be paid to BDP and IEC attorneys. The UDC had led a marathon of court cases following the opposition coalition’s failure to win the 2019 national elections. Some of the losing parliamentary candidates decided to initiate election petitions with respect to at least 15 constituencies, predominantly in the southern part of Botswana.