But take her lightly at your own peril because Botlogile Tshireletso, the assistant Minister of Local Government is a tough cookie to crack and many men and women that she took head on and beat for political office would attest to that.
Botlogile is the first woman to deputize the council chairperson in the Central District Council which is the country’s largest council. In parliament like any MP worth their salt her voice can be heard as she meaningfully contributes to many debates.
In a candid interview with MMIKA SOLOMON, this bold and beautiful woman of substance speaks out.
Q. Madam Minister when did you join active politics?
In 1978, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) held a congress in Mochudi to establish the youth wing.
I was invited by the then party organizer Kgosi Resapele Senai.
He was a Chief of Mahalapye and a BDP activist.
Q. …and what happened next?
As the say the rest is history.
I was the Vice-Secretary of Mahalapye constituency. I was responsible for registering and organizing the youth activities of Mahalapye. I was more like an administration officer.
Q. As a youth leader then what achievements did you bring to the party?
The first youth congress was held in Mahalapye under my able leadership. I was also elected in the debut committee.
Q. In other words, upon entering active politics you hit the ground running. You must be proud of yourself?
Even today, when I walk I walk tall. I am a self made politician. In 1979 I was asked to contest for a ward councillor at the age of 24 . I was scared because I was young.
Q. Who asked you to contest?
My former Member of Parliament the late Gaolese Koma asked me to contest. I was smitten when he told me he saw a potential leader in me.
I took the challenge and won the ward elections. At the time it was a committee of 18 which voted and I was voted by 16 people out of 20.
Q. If you look back what can you say about your journey in politics?
I don’t like boasting. But self believe is something that I cherish. I am a giant in local politics of today. I sit in cabinet because of hard work.
Never in my political life have I been a specially elected councillor or Member of Parliament.
I achieved my success through hard work. Whatever I do I do my best.
Q. I am told you are academically challenged. How far true is that?
Those are rumours spread by those who don’t know me.
When I was a councillor I used to simultaneously attend school and do council work. I won a scholarship to study in Russia.
I was there from 1981 to 1982 I graduated with a certificate in Political Education. So what academic challenge are you referring to?
I am able to read and write just like every MP in parliament.
Q. But you were upset when Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando ridiculed you in parliament saying you can’t read.
In politics you have to take every jab as it comes and respond promptly otherwise people will believe it is the truth. Dumelang annoyed me of all the people, how could he say I don’t know how to read.
I love the boy I treat him like my first son because he is the same age with my first born. He knows I am his mother.
Him and I have a Mother and Son relationship so I was disappointed by those remarks.
Q. So it was lack of respect on his side?
He sometimes misbehaves just because he is in politics.
So at the time I put him in his right place. Now he respects me as his mother.
My intelligence is not his, so he could not talk about it without first asking me which schools I have gone to.
Q. You deputized the Council Chairman of the largest council in the Country, Central District Council and you never made it to the top why?
I was the first woman to become the deputy Chairman of Central District Council. I deputized Kgotla Autlwetse for a long time, I used to challenge him. I was so hurt that I didn’t make it to be the Council Chair, although I didn’t say it at the time.
Q. I bet you were happy to be the first Woman MP again for the new Mahalapye East constituency.
Indeed. I campaigned against reputable men and beat them.
I thank the people of Mahalapye East for having trust in me.
I became a back bencher for the first five years under the leadership of Rre Festus Mogae.
Q. Earlier on you said you are a giant in local politics,what exactly did you mean?
I brought Rre Mompati Merafhe into Mahalapye. I could not contest against him then, I had to wait for him to retire or wait for a new constituency.
When a new constituency was created I took my chances. I became its first MP, not only that, a Woman MP. In 2003, as a nobody I challenged Tebelelo Seretse, a Minister for the position of Chairperson of Women’s league and I won.
Q. So whats so gigantic about that?
You must remember that contesting against a cabinet minister was unheard of then.
Mma Seretse and I were contesting for a vacant position after Margaret Nasha left it. Nasha had endorsed Seretse because they were both in cabinet. I showed them that I am from Mahalapye and I won.
Now I am a cabinet minister (deputy).
Today as we go for BDP’s primary elections, there are four people challenging me and all of them know very well that they don’t stand a chance.
At the same time I was a member of the A-team, and Barata-phathi voted for me, after that I realized that factionalism does not work. Now I don’t belong to any faction.
Q. Do you have friends in politics?
Politics is a dirty game, you will never know who is on your side.
Everybody laughs with you when in-fact they know they want to take you down.
I don’t have friends in politics, but comrades.
Q. What have you done for your constituency?
I have done a lot. My constituency has tarred roads in all small villages and electricity is connected because of me.
Each small village used to have a nurse now they boast of two.
I have empowered the youth to be self employed.
Many of them have taken government programmes to uplift their lives.
Q. You were in Parliament during President Festus Mogae and now with President Ian Khama.
Who in your view is a better president?
Rre Mogae is a democrat, so is President Khama.
There was never a change of government but a change of leadership. To me both are good leaders.
In Mogae’s era I was a back bencher I was asking cabinet a lot of questions. I made sure they delivered on their promises, but now I am in cabinet it’s a totally different ball game.
Because decisions made by cabinet are collective.
Q. Some say President Ian Khama is a dictator do you agree with them?
President Khama is a nice person.
He believes in collective decision making. Opposition leaders and media are the ones labelling him a dictator while us in the BDP see him as an accommodative person.
If you were close to him, you would realise he is a nice person. He has an open door policy.
Meet him and you will agree with me. He does not hold grudges against anybody.
Q. As you are contesting in the coming general elections if you lose what will you do?
Should I lose, I will accept the results. I am also a businesswoman of repute, I have invested in many sectors.
I have about nine houses in Mahalapye that I am renting out. All my children are working so I am okay.
I won’t be dependent on anybody
Q. Do you aspire to lead this country?
That is a tough question. I am not interested in being the president or vice. But as a woman I will be happy to see a woman leading this country one day.
I am not ready though to be that leader.