Rannatshe on a battle to loosen the BDP’s tight grip on Thamaga
Kopano Rannatshe is in the thick of the political battle zone for Thamaga-Kumakwane constituency.
The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Parliamentary candidate has expressed confidence that he will be the one to wrestle the area from the long-term grip of the Botswana Democratic Party.
Having lost against Gladys Kokorwe and then the current Minister of Health, Dr John Seakgosing, Rannatshe speaks to Voice Journalist Daniel Chida on how and why he fancies his chances this time around.
Q: Welcome Sir, can you introduce yourself.
I joined the Botswana National Front in 1984 and became active in 2001.
I was not recruited into the party, but I was simply impressed by the way the late Dr Kenneth Koma addressed issues at his rallies, so I went to the party office and asked for membership.
The issues of youth and lack of development were increasingly frustrating me. Freedom of expression in BNF attracted me to join them.
I like to debate, and would only give in if I am sure that I really have lost a debate.
I can’t be easily silenced, so had I joined the ruling party, I would have long been chased out.
Because of my active participation in the party, I became one of the few youth parliamentary candidates in 2004 general elections.
I was only 32.
Q: Before politics what were you doing?
When I finished my secondary schooling, I joined Air Botswana briefly.
But because of my passion for business I returned home to start a driving school, unfortunately the operations closed after some time.
I then went to Selebi-Phikwe and worked for CTO.
I didn’t stay long there and returned to Gaborone to work for Unitrans Botswana, where I stayed for 11 years.
Just before the 2009 elections, I was fired from the company for having influenced and led the workers’ strike.
I went back to business.
I started a transport business, which I am still operating.
Q: You will be contesting for the third time having lost to Gladys Kokorwe and John Seakgosing.
How do you think you will fare this time around?
When I faced Mma Kokorwe, I was still young and inexperienced.
I also had no finances to run my campaign.
The second time, when I faced Seakgosing, I had worked hard to win the primaries but then it proved to be the most difficult time for me politically.
BNF was going through a turbulent time.
I was among the candidates who were suspended and had to take the legal route.
For one and half years, we could not campaign.
By the time we won our case in court, it was late in the game with only two months left.
It was hard; we had lost so much on the ground.
I lost by a margin of 600.
Q: What is it that you are doing differently this time?
I am more prepared. We are more organised and ready to win the elections.
I look at my major opponent, Tshenolo Mabeo of the BDP, I realise that he is in a position I was before.
Unlike him, I am with the electorate full-time.
Again, I have a better understanding of the whole constituency as I have worked it long enough.
The electorate also know me well and my abilities.
Q: Thamaga has been a haven of young gangsters terrorising the community, how are you going to address that?
This problem is a result of failure by the government.
These gangsters are unemployed and mostly school going youths.
What this tells us is that first the education system is flawed and failing our youths.
Then the unemployment rate is just too high, leading to loitering and disobedience.
Moreover, we do not as communities and the government have programmes to really tackle issues of unemployment and youth poverty.
As UDC we have plans to speedily and effectively address these social ills.
We want to focus on the resources of each and every village and create income-generating projects.
Kumakwane for example sits on water. We plan to create fruit fund, establish fruit farms and industries and manufacture pure fruit juice.
Owners of farmland (masimo) in the neighbouring villages will be asked to rent out their land and share in these projects.
We will negotiate to rent fields around Thamaga, Gakgatla and bring wildlife from outside to create game farming.
These can be youth run and income generating projects. As regards the current state of gangs I personally engage with them.
I go to football teams, meet young people and try and share business ideas.
They are many youngsters who really want something challenging and fruitful to do.
I can help them use their energies to register a company.
Q: Where is the government failing when it comes to criminals especially in your area?
For the last 47 years, the BDP government has failed to establish a single industry to hire at least 1000 people in this constituency.
There is not a single development to talk about.
With a population of 38 000 plus, there are no banks, or any other shopping facilities except Choppies.
There is one hospital, in Thamaga, but with only three doctors.
That is serious underdevelopment.
As we point out on page 28 of our UDC manifesto, we will rise and create our own businesses as communities.
Where we lack in skills and funds, we can bring foreign investors, say a jeweller, and set up firms in places such as Kumakwane, which is only 25 kilometres from Gaborone.
One major firm comes with its supporting industries and businesses such as shops.
Q: Why should people vote for you?
I believe I have what voters need and want.
Over the years I have acquired business qualifications and experience to know and build businesses for the youth.
Even more critical, for 48 years, we have had one party with different MPs and we have nothing to show for that.
While the bigger villages are hard hit, smaller areas like Kubung, Lesilakgong, Gakgatla, Ramaphatle and Kotolaname are worse off.
There are no roads and basic facilities like water and electricity.
It is time voters realised that we need change.
I inspected the National Development Plan the other day, and I was shocked to learn that for the constituency, from now until 2016, the only plans for us are Ipelegeng and Namola Leuba.
So there is nothing that a BDP MP would give our people.
As UDC leader, I will be the voice that will push hard and ensure development.
Umbrella will create wealth and employment to sustain the youth.
At schools we have to ensure that our teachers are taken care of.
We have to ensure that the students have textbooks, and all other facilities. I have the voice.
I get so pained to see that even the school I went to, Rungwana Primary, still has students learning under the tree in the heart of Thamaga and you can imagine those in Kotolaname.
Kubung pupils have to commute daily; they have to be transported to junior communities in Thamaga, on bad roads and unsafe transport.
The destitute of Kubung have to travel to Mogoditshane every weekend to pick their dead because that is where mortuary is.
We have had cases where vehicles carrying corpses have broken down and we have been called to assist.
These are the things we will have to change when we take over.
Q: Did you in any way advice the past and incumbent representatives where the area was behind in developments?
I have engaged all the MPs before and continue to do so.
I have spoken about the need to build school halls in primary schools and the need to have a secondary school.
This is an old issue, which all BDP MPs have failed to address.
I recall that back in the early 1990s our parents working in the mines contributed monies towards the construction of a Senior School, and nobody is talking about where those funds went to.
Q: Back to your campaign, how is it going?
It is tough mainly because this time around voters are smarter.
But whats making my life easy also is the team that I have.
For the first time, we have a united and hard working team of council candidates – Mme Dikeledi Keitsemang, Thamaga East; Benjamin Kelepang, Thamaga South; Cllr Tona Molatedi Selala, Thamaga West; Thatayaone Kgosimolala, Thamaga North; Mmetlinyane Mobe Kegakilwe, Kubung; Thuso Moshapa, Gakgatla; and Mothibi Phatshwane of Kumakwane.
We are aiming for a white wash.
Q: You and your team will be launched this Saturday, share a bit with us.
Yes, the UDC Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi and other leaders, MPs Wynter Mmolotsi, Kgosi Tawana Moremi and Pius Mokgware will be launching us.
Before we gather in front of Thamaga Hospital for the main event, Kgosi Tawana will lead us in laying the wreath at Kgosi Diratsame Mosielele’s grave.
This is the man who brought BNF to Thamaga, and was the first to contest the constituency.
We want to honour his spirit.
“Re ha re leng teng ka ene” We are where we are because of him.