With elections fever is heating up in Ngamiland District and throughout the country in general, the same cannot really be said about Maun East, which has no hype this season.
In this interview, Parliamentary candidate for Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Goretetse Kekgonegile, who seeks to unseat the incumbent, Konstantinos Markos, of the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP), tells The Voice journalist, FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA all about the constituency’s silence.
The constituency is a bit quite for an election season. How is the going?
The campaign is not as vibrant as in 2014 for obvious reasons, both the main contenders are still finding their foot in terms of smoothening their operations.
BDP has its own internal squabbles in terms of presidency, the central committee, the cava factions and their campaign has not taken off as yet.
On our side at UDC, we have also not yet taken off as much as we would have wanted to because of the obvious reason, being the conflict surrounding BMD constituencies, the wards have so far not been allocated as yet, Boseja South, Chanoga/Phuduhudu and Khwai/Mababe.
We are talking six months away from the elections! Are you not running out of time?
Unfortunately that is what it is. We are still talking about who will be our representative.
We are still to go for primary elections in Khwai/Mababe, which we understand have been set for the weekend of April 6.
So it is only after that date that we will know who is our candidate in that area.
What does it mean in terms of your campaign then, because councilors are foot soldiers?
It is a huge hindrance. A big set back . We need foot soldiers.
We know very well that councilors are cordinators of campaigns at ward level , so when there is a gap at ward level, it becomes a problem for the constituency as a whole.
That is why I say, the campaign is ongoing but not as directed and vibrant as it ought to be.
What do you foresee then in terms of elections outcome?
It is difficult to predict, because we are talking of decisions of human being who can speak for themselves and can be convinced by multiple factors, so it is not easy to predict, but as far as the political environment is concerned in Maun East as far as opposition politics is concerned, as far as UDC is concerned, it is more favourable than it was in 2014.
Is that so?
As much as in politics we don’t say one plus one equals two, because the answer can be two point two, meaning, the combination of BNF and BCP in Maun East is a force to reckon with. The 2014 numbers speak volumes and our work rate on the ground at the moment speaks volumes.
I recently attended a major UDC rally in Maun West and you were not there and neither were you in the line up. Would you care to tel us about your absence?
We made the programme together. I would have loved to be there, I was supposed to be there, but unfortunately I was outside the country and I could not make it on time to be there.
I did not deliberately intended to miss it, but I had other personal issues to take care of.
People were talking on the sidelines. They gossiped that you and Maun West candidate, Dumelang Saleshando are not in good books because people are trafficking en-mass from your constituency to register in his!
You raised two issues there. It is not true that me and comrade president are not in good books.
We addressed a rally together after that, last week at the bus rank.
We are hosting the national launch of the UDC manifesto in Maun at the sports complex on the 18th May and we are working together on this.
It is not an issue that I was boycotting the rally. We are having activities in Maun East and he had not appeared, that is because he is busy with other things as well.
I am told you are under pressure due to the mass exodus of the electorate. What is your say?
We need to understand dynamics of our constituencies and know who specifically is moving to Maun East and who is moving to Maun West.
First and foremost, our cultural dynamics in terms of our political inclinations, our political obligations, we tend to support each other as families, as party members, as friends and generally as sympathizers.
So people move from one constituency to another to vote for their family members.
So here it is a situation where people are moving from Maun East to Maun West and vise versa to follow their family members and yes for the past elections registrations, 2014 and 2019, Maun West has had advantage over us in the sense that in 2014 it was Kgosi Tawana who stood there and people moved to vote for him.
They felt they had to protect their Kgosi. Of course it was also a political strategy that worked for Tawana then.
Now the Vice president of UDC is standing in Maun West and to a certain extend, the same scenario in terms of protecting the president can appeal to some people but we have not seen the mass exodus like it was in 2014.
I think people are using the registration numbers to make such a wrong conclusion.
Generally I think there are more people in Maun West than in the East.
Already more than 17 000 have registered there while on our side we have registered around 15000.
Campaigns are expensive, who funds you?
I am a full time politician struggling to come up with some business initiatives because for one to succeed in that area, they have to go through capital requisition.
For you to get capital from those institutions you have to be a member of the ruling party, but my tuckshop gives me little here and there.
Campaign is very expensive yes. We use our personal funds as there is no political party funding in Botswana.
We are mobilizing funds from our own coffers, friends, business community, well wishers and largely we use our own as you know opposition politics don’t have money.
You lost to Markos in the last elections. What makes you think you stand a better chance this time around?
Politics is all about comparison in terms of making a choice between two candidates, and is mostly made on two aspects; quality in terms of capability and understanding of a representative or a candidate.
Secondly on the policies of the party they represent and the character.
The number of destitutes has been rising in this constituency in the past few years and this means the representation we have is failing in that particular aspect.
What do you suggest as an alternative solution to that?
We believe that the issue around Maun is an issue of promoting indigenous means of livelihood, help people use cultural means to uplift themselves.
We are in a tourism area, so it should be used to benefit and uplift communities living in this resource area.
The government is expected to lift the hunting ban anytime from now, do you think that will help local communities in some way?
The lifting of hunting ban is just a small aspect within the human right aspect of community based natural resource management.
We at UDC are talking about giving the community, the whole package, of managing their own resources of which hunting is just a small component.
It is that difference between us; UDC and BDP, in terms of thinking, the legal rights of these communities within these resource centres must be protected by law and that way we won’t have a situation whereby Khama comes in and bans hunting, land rights are taken and managed through a land bank in Gaborone.
Concessions must be run and awarded by communities, not by the Ministry in Gaborone. I personally influenced the UDC manifesto to be pro Ngamiland.
It talks to issues of Agriculture, tourism and others.
What is your view on the infighting of the ruling party?
The issue is BDP is a party in power, what is happening within has direct and huge consequences, which are very negative on the country.
People who are supposed to be running the country are consumed with party wars and these battles are not going to end anytime now.
They are going to continue post Kang. The mistakes that Batswana will make, is to help BDP retain power in its current state.
The war will go on until one of these gentlemen falls down, either dies, raises his hands or goes into exile.
They are just like two kids standing at a distance from each other and shouting at each other.
For how long are they going to shout at each other! The best thing for Batswana is to vote for UDC as it is the only alternative party.
But UDC is having a similar problem, BMD is shouting from the other end?
BMD is not a member of the UDC, the court will make a ruling on the 29th of April. If you feel you have been unfairly treated, you approach the court to settle the issue so we can move forward.
As far as we are concerned, the court cannot force us to go into a pact or accept BMD because we and BMD speak different languages.
Our operations are different and people have started, even members of the BMD have started to accept that.
We have seen the likes of Mmatli and Haskins (members of parliament) coming on board.
They say this is the people’s project, the only alternative to oust BDP.
Your last word?
I can only encourage people to go and register in large numbers. It is very important.
What is happening within the BDP is very disturbing.
This year’s elections are more important than ever before.
They are sure to give us change. These will be historical elections and for one not to participate in them, it will be unfortunate.