DR PHEKO TALKS TOUGH
When the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) were unceremoniously dismissed from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) fold in October last year, Gaborone Central became one of the constituencies up for grabs within the coalition.
After much confusion amid apparent conflict within the coalition, Botswana Congress Party’s Dr Mpho Pheko was selected as the UDC’s parliamentary candidate for the area.
With her striking good looks and dazzling smile, Pheko was quickly christened ‘Dr Bae’ by the media.
However, the University of Botswana lecturer is much more than a pretty face.
The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA sat down with the good doctor this week for a quick chat ahead of her launch on Saturday.
Kindly share with us you journey to politics?
I will say my political journey started when I was pretty young.
My mom was a political activist, so when I grew up I was always surrounded by politicians and party activists.
But she died when I was around 12 – in a car accident on her way to a political party conference.
I quickly decided then, I guess because of the trauma of losing a mom tragically, that politics was not going to be my personal journey.
So what changed your mind?
I went for my education in San Diego California (USA) where I stayed with an activist of the Democratic Party and she reignited my passion and interest in politics.
I started joining her for what we call house-to-house campaigns and other campaign related activities.
I came back to Botswana in 2006, and I decided to join active politics as a member of the BCP in 2008.
But because of the loss of my mother I thought I would just stick to behind-the-scenes politics doing mainly strategy, policy work and various forms of activism.
What do you hope to achieve?
My hope is to bring visionary, issue based, solution oriented, outcome based politics and clean politics.
I want to bring accountable leadership that recognises that MPs are given a five-year mandate and at the end of the five years they need to account to the people.
I wish Batswana can objectively evaluate the status of their personal lives, community lives, national development status and determine if they want to give the current government or those that they have elected a renewed mandate.
And I will subject myself to the same assessment in 2024.
That is why I have already committed to be a voice of the women, youth, education and community building.
It is noticeable that there is a lack of female contestants – why do you think that is?
There are many structural and cultural barriers that limit women’s participation in leadership and political roles.
Therefore, recognising the need for diversity, and teamwork in addressing national challenges, Botswana needs to commit to facilitation of the participation of women leadership through some types of quota systems by committing to some type of affirmative actions – this will usher in a fair, equitable government.
We deserve many seats at every and any table that purports to design socio-economic and national development programmes and policies for this nation.
This means that any caring government ought to have found it necessary to capacitate and develop women and enable their maximum and productive participation.
Otherwise, as Madeleine Albright, a former Secretary of State for the United States of America under Clinton’s administration, once observed, “The world is wasting a precious resource in the dramatic underrepresentation of women in leadership positions.”
Botswana is not an exception to this observation by Albright.
I am therefore proud to be part of a coalition that seeks to enhance participation of women in national, local, and community leadership roles
What needs to be done to bring more women into political positions?
Because inequality is a systematic problem, the solutions also ought to be systematic.
Some solutions can be found in political education by the civic society and political parties.
Party funding by our government if it is serious about being inclusive of women. Introducing quota systems and effective affirmative actions can also shield women from the abuse.
Beyond this, for now women will just need to toughen up and FIGHT for their seats at the political table.
Elections are costly affairs – who is funding you?
Getting sponsors is hard. And it is harder for opposition politicians, so I have just been relying on small donations and in kind assistance of other activists to fund my campaign.
This is hard, but having managed the Gaborone South 2014 campaign I can say that I was mentally prepared for the tough terrain.
Politics, especially the systems adopted by BW, is a very important but very expensive process.
The political illiteracy is also costing politicians big time as voters demand their share or demand that politicians buy their votes.