OUTSPOKEN: Kabelo Mokgalajwe

Gaphatshwa ward councillor in the Kweneng District, Kabelo Mokgalajwe, recently resigned from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

The vocal councilor says he was pushed out by some people in the BDP leadership whom he also accused of corrupting the police and influencing the law enforcement officers  against him.

Although rumours are rife that the young turk has joined the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF), Mokgalajwe says he has not yet chosen any particular political party to call home.

Q. I am told you have joined the BNF.
Not yet. We are still in negotiations. I believe the BNF is the right party for me because that is where I could talk freely for the people.

Q. Is that so?
Where I come from in Morope, the BNF is very strong. It has a larger following than any other party.  I won under the BDP ticket because the general public sympathized with me. Only a handful of BDP supporters voted for me. In fact during the last general elections the BDP tried to bar me from contesting the elections but failed. They attempted to vet me out. There was a lot of conflict surrounding the primary elections and it took many hearings before I could be allowed to contest. Even after winning the primaries, it was not certain whether I would be allowed to contest under the BDP ticket.

Q. What was the cause of the conflict?
Domkrag (BDP) is run by factions.  I joined the party under the A-team faction because the former councillor was a Morata-phathi faction under Raletobana (area MP) and I chose to align myself with his opponent, Patrick Manthe. You see in BDP politics, you need a team to work with in order to win elections because if you are not aligned to any faction, its almost impossible to make it on your own.

Q. When did you join the BDP?
I don’t remember quite well. It was around 2004 or so.  It was my first political home.

Q. So why did you leave?
To be honest with you, I’d say, they pushed me out. I was no longer useful in the A-team. They no longer wanted me so they connived, threatened and forced me to leave the party.

Q. Tell me about the meeting you had with the BDP Executive Secretary Mpho Balopi recently. I heard you decided to quit BDP a few days after the meeting.
Patrick Manthe (former council chairperson in Mogoditshane-Thamaga Sub District) who is not in any party structure received a call from McDonald Peloetletse, a BDP stalwart who told him to tell me that I was needed at the party office in Gaborone. Manthe passed on the message to me during the recent Mogoditshane-Thamaga sub district council meeting. Because it was an A-team decision, that is why Balopi had to call Manthe to pass the message to me. He said I was wanted by the police. The council chairperson Motlhophi Leo then travelled all the way from Molepolole so that he can accompany me to the party office.

Q. I am told Leo was driven in a council vehicle to do BDP business that day?
From the Sub Council in Mogoditshane we used my car, but yes I would say he used the council vehicle because he traveled all the way from Molepolole in it to do party business. He said we should use my car to and from Balopi’s office because he did not want to attract noise from those who could have been watching. He drove back to Molepolole using the same council vehicle driven by a council employee.

Q. What happened at the BDP office?
Remember that in the last internal council elections I lost to BCP member, despite the BDP being the majority party in the Council. I think it was an order from above that, “look, don’t give any position to this one, he is not a true Democrat.” Maybe it was because I was not speaking their language. I was not like a parrot that repeats what its master says. They chose to elect Banks Ndebele as deputy council chairperson for the sub District.

Q. I am told that you are a bad leader who smokes Marijuana and have been caught several times in possession of the drug. How true is that?
When we were fighting ahead of the 2009 elections, the BDP guys went to court and retrieved a very old file where I was charged with possession of somebody’s else’s green plant. The central committee was desperate and doing all it could to stop me from contesting. They took the story to the papers and it was published. But they knew the truth. All they wanted was to tarnish my name. If they are still pursuing that story, then is out of bitterness. They are moaning their loss. I was obviously an asset to them but they could not stand me because I was not a bootlicker like many of them.

Q. There is another concern though, about you and Chinese deals. Do you know anything about that?
The Chinese deal is a long story. Sometime back, a Chinese Construction company donated toilets to Mmopane Block 1. He (the Constructor) then wrote us a letter requesting to donate two classroom blocks to a local school.  The council met with him and gave him a go ahead. Just after he delivered concrete and was about to start the construction, Minister Peter Siele, then of Labour and Home Affairs, decided to deport the Constructor under completely mysterious circumstances. We (Council) tried to question the deportation and the response we got was that, it was due to “security reasons.” Maybe they thought I had cut a back handed monetary deal with the Chinese. What they did not know is that I do not accept briberies. I live by my own principles.

Q. Was the construction completely abandoned then?
There is another Chinese company, which had shown interest in taking over the project. We were having a meeting with its management a while ago (Monday). In fact the owner of this company is a Motswana. He has a Botswana citizenship, hence he has a brick moulding company. The problem that we are facing is that BDP cadres are known for cutting back hand deals with foreign companies and if you try to help the community, even when you are clean they suspect that like them,you are into corrupt deals, something which think should be their preserve!

Q. Let’s go back to your meeting with Balopi. What happened?
That is another long story. I used to buy vehicles from a certain man of Indian origin. We were friends with this man and we used to visit traditional doctors together where we bathed with traditional herbs. You can see how close we were. Later on this man wanted to cheat me out of my money and the misunderstanding began. He sold me a Toyota Prado with a defective gearbox and when I complained he took it for service and gave me a courtesy car, a Toyota Surf. I used it for months and in February I demanded my car back. He told me stories and because he owed me a Mercedes Benz, which I ordered and never got, I took the Prado and kept the Surf and he reported me to the Police alleging theft.

I was called to the Central Intelligence Department (CID) office and when I got there I was detained. I was brutally assaulted by the CID officers over this misunderstanding. I then opened a case against the officers but the matter was never taken to court. Even the council immunity did not work that day. They did not care that a councillor is not to be arrested when on his way to and from council business. They beat me while I was wearing a suit and a tie, on my way back from the council just because I refused to give them my car keys. At the end of the day they took the Prado and I had to get a taxi home.

Q. That’ is surely a long story. What did Balopi and the BDP had to do with it?
The reason I ended up I Balopi”s office was for him to persuade me to drop the charges against the state and let the matter be pushed under the carpet. He said if I pursued the matter then I was not going to be allowed to contest in the coming general elections. He also said that the police told him that they had a warrant of arrest against me because I had not returned the courtesy car and they have asked him to have a gentleman’s talk with me so that I can get my Prado back. I then decided to leave the BDP. I could no longer stand the abuse from the party leadership.

Q. Are we likely to see you contest under the BNF ticket in 2014?
It is too early to say because as I have mentioned earlier, negotiations are still on. One thing I can confirm though is that I am not going to stand for the council elections and I am never going back to the BDP.

Q. So, you are eyeing a Parliamentary seat?
Yes. But the delimitation results will help me answer that question more confidently.

Q. Why do you want to be a Member of Parliament?
I believe Parliament has a much more powerful voice than councils.

Councillors can talk and wail on the people’s behalf but at the end of the day it is Parliament that decides and make laws. Councils only implement Parliament decisions. The Parliament passes their decisions down to the councils and the poor councillors cannot do much about decisions that have been already made. Councillors are not Legislators. I don’t want some politicians to make decisions for me. I want to be part of such decision making process.

Q. Are you aware that the backbenchers in Parliament, especially from the opposition benches always complain that the Cabinet at times makes decisions without consulting them? Don’t you think even Parliament may not solve your frustrations in as far as decision-making process is concerned?
I am aware, but Members of Parliament have the freedom to debate issues, face to face with the Ministers.Cabinet can make decisions but for decisions to be made into law parliament  always critics such decisions first. My concern is the people’s rights and to get the platform to be free to pass on their concerns. This is not about me at all, it is primarily about the electorates.

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