Botswana Congress Party (BCP) National Organizing Secretary-north and Francistown West Parliamentary hopeful, Vain Mamela has been dealt a heavy blow following a decision by his party to swap constituencies with Botswana Movement for Democracy. (BMD)
BCP handed over the Francistown West Constituency to BMD in exchange for Maun West where party President, Dumelang Saleshando has expressed his interest to contest the 2019 general elections.
BMD in turn gave the constituency to Botswana People’s Party, (BPP) a move, which President Sydney Pilane said was necessary to appease the BPP.
The BMD concession however means that Mamela who long announced his intention to stand in Francistown Francistown West is left without a constituency.
The ‘joke’ as Mamela refers to the decision comes after he came third in the 2014 General Elections following BCP’s hasty exit from opposition coalition.
Born in Butale village 57 years ago, Mamela left the employ of Barclays Bank in 1994 after serving for 15 years and was elected Francistown West Member of Parliament under the Botswana National Front ticket in the same year.
A member of the BNF since 1982, Mamela co-founded BCP in 1998 following BNF’s infamous Palapye split.
In this interview with Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo, the veteran politician shares his frustrations and fears as the 2019 General Elections approaches.
Q. Francistown West has just been handed to BPP, leaving you without a constituency. What does this mean for your political career?
I don’t know what it means for me personally, but I know what it means for the party.
This means BCP is losing its strong holds to other opposition parties, and this cannot be a wise move.
There was a time when we were the dominant opposition party in all the Francistown constituencies, now we have been limited to just one.
This is a joke. We should be consolidating our strongholds, not giving them away.
Q. Wasn’t this necessitated by the need to harmonise relations within the Umbrella for Democratic Change?
Well even if the decision was for the collective good I believe it’ll be more costly to the party in the long run.
Coalitions in nature have their ups and downs and one thing individual parties need to do is to consolidate and maintain their base. What happens if the project collapses?
Q. You don’t sound like someone with faith in the UDC project.
I’ve not lost hope in the UDC project but I’m also a realist, and I reiterate that it is vital for my party to maintain its base and consolidate its presence.
Coalitions in nature are not easy and we all have to tread carefully. To re-organise a constituency after general elections is not easy.
Q. Could this be the end of Mamela?
Not by a long shot. My political career is not based on whether I stand for elections or not.
I’m the National Organizing Secretary for the northern region. I’m more comfortable on the ground and interacting with ordinary members of the BCP.
Besides the constituency has always belonged to the party, not Mamela. I’m still thinking about my next move.
Q. You went to parliament in 1994. How would you rate your performance in the five years you were an MP?
I did exceptionally well. During my tenure I was instrumental in bringing in the establishment of Gerald Estates to solve the problem of squatter settlements in the city.
I also served in various Parliamentary Committees such as Law Reform, health and Finance.
Besides being an attaché to the United Nations General Assembly for two months in New York, I was a member of the SADC Observer Mission on Zimbabwe Presidential elections re-run in 2008.
Q. Why do you want to go back to parliament and what are you bringing to the table?
I believe the city needs a political voice. I’m preaching party policies and the bread and butter issues of Francistown West.
This constituency is where the city is expanding to, but to this day there is lack of services.
The city is losing industries; we used to have mines, textile, BMC and those have all since shut down.
The economy of the city has taken a serious knock but there’s no political voice. Services are being taken away from the city.
For instance at Nyangagbwe Referral Hospital the rheumatology unit has been taken to Mahalapye, Eye unit to Sekgoma Memorial and the Psychiatric unit at Jubilee is now in Lobatse making Nyangagbwe a white elephant.
Services in general are non-existent in Francistown, which is really sad for what is known as the country’s second capital city.
Old locations like Area W and Monarch need a facelift because these are the areas that gave birth to this city. The city has regressed.
Q. Why has Francistown regressed?
It’s simple. We don’t have forceful voices in parliament. In 1996/7 when I was an MP I spoke against the relocation of Francistown Teachers College, I lobbied influential people and the ministry of Education retreated.
I remember it was still headed by Dr Gaositwe Chiepe, but FTC was relocated the moment I left parliament. Look at BMC for instance.
MPs in Francistown were notified about it just few days ago, long after staff was transferred to Lobatse.
This is a strange decision because even European Union officials who toured the two abattoirs said the Francistown one is the best; it’s a state of the art facility but it has been shut down, but our MPs are silent.
Q. There’s a new leader in government. Should the nation hope for a new Botswana?
There’s nothing new. Masisi has always been there, he was coordinating some of the failed programmes under the BDP.
The BDP under Masisi is the same BDP that was under Ian Khama. Using the analogy of a borehole with salty water, you can’t fix it by changing pipes; you need to drill a new borehole.
Botswana should not be fooled by this cosmetic changes. This is the same team that has been in cabinet and was party to some of the decisions that sent this country to the dogs.
Our democracy needs to be tested; Batswana should try the opposition because at the moment our country is rotten.