Mmegi Online :: A day with Dumelang
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Last Updated
Monday 22 October 2018, 11:52 am.
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A day with Dumelang

* BCP President Dumelang Saleshando and his wife Dineo tell how they met
* Dumelang recalls his mammoth task of running against the powerful Domkrag machine in Gaborone Central
* His views on taking the 'hot seat' some day
By Staff Writer Mon 22 Oct 2018, 19:51 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: A day with Dumelang








Dumelang Saleshando is wearing khaki shorts and a neat brown and black T-shirt. His wife Dineo is wearing a light grey dress which complements her light brown complexion.

We are outside their manicured gardens in their double storey home in Phakalane. "You retire to normal life one day and all your children are grown up and they don't need you anymore," Dumelang says.

As the first born of five children in a family of professionals, the BCP president learnt how to be responsible at a young age. Moving schools between Standards One and Three - from Selebi-Phikwe, Lobatse and then Gaborone, was a first lesson on how to adapt to various environments.

He says he seemed to be constantly on the move because his father (Gilson Saleshando) got transfers at work often. It was either BMC, BCL or something else.

In the Saleshando family back in the day, church was not negotiable. Food was prepared on Fridays and kept warm for the Sabbath. "My mother, who is a staunch Seventh Day Adventist, believed in the necessities of fearing God and acknowledging Him in all your ways," he says.

"I must say those virtues I uphold to this day. They played a big role in my character development. If my mother had it her way, I would have been a pastor."

Besides church, one of Dumelang's fondest memories when growing up was when he fell sick in Standard Three, forcing the lad out of school for two thirds of the year, the first and second terms. When he returned during third term, it was time for exams.

"To our surprise, me and my family, I came third in our class," he remembers. "My mum came rushing at Assembly, and before I knew it, she was kissing me and lifting me up. All to my embarrassment."

He jokingly asks his son, Loago, who is in Standard Two, if we would want his mother to kiss him in front of friends at school. Loago vehemently disagrees.

After Standard Seven, the young Saleshando tasted the first fruits of freedom; he could choose when to go to church. These were also the formative years of his life, when he met lifetime friends like Benjamin Mafa, who is a neighbour today.

It was around this time that he started flirting with politics. He founded the debate club at St. Joseph's College, had a keen interest in table tennis for which he eventually became captain and he joined MELS.

"At the time, it was not a political movement or party. It was a grouping which provided members with literature in various subject areas," Saleshando says.

After high school, like any teenager, he was confused about his options. He had friends in the army who were doing well and driving designer cars, BTC was offering him an internship programme where he could pocket P1,800, and BPC was another alternative.

Benjamin talked him out of joiningthe BDF and all the other alternatives. Dumelang eventually joined the University of Botswana where he decided to pursue Economics and Political Science. That was 1992.

"It provided me with a basic understanding of economic issues and politics. Later I was to engage in an environment where this background would enable me to do my work with ease.

"Doing Public Administration was out because my father's experiences had taught me that you are always uprooted and taken elsewhere. And of course I wouldn't major in politics because my options would be limited," he says.

As he went about his studies at UB, he met Dineo at the Business Clinic. She was also part of the project.

He recalls how beautiful she was but kept her just as a friend for a while."No we did not get into office romance," he jokes and we all laugh. "He couldn't take it any more, so he had to confess his undying love for me sooner rather than later," Dineo says.

As they speak about their youthful days, Dineo stretches out her hand and touches her husband's arms. "We really started dating after university. I had realised she had outstanding qualities that I would need in a life partner," Dumelang admits. "I love(d ) him because he is responsible. He sets goals and sees them through. He sees opportunities, and when he does, he moves quickly to take them," she says.

The best part of their relationship came when Dineo's family demanded cattle, and NOT cash, for bogadi.
Dumelang had to prove his love by going around farmlands buying cattle, which had to be delivered. His in-laws also expected Saleshando to get firewood and help with numerous other tasks that required considerable physical labour.

"He did it, and that was the best day of my life. He went through all that for me. For us," Dineo acknowledges.

After dating for six years (from 1996), Dumelang and Dineo finally tied the knot in 2002. "Before that, I would visit

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her at their (family) house in Gaborone. They got to know me as a result. I never really told my father until I was about to get traditionally married. My little brothers knew Dineo because she visited me from time to time. Their views were not welcome though," he says, laughing.

For Dineo, there is a lot of pressure that comes with being Mrs Saleshando: "I am rarely my own person. To many, I am just 'the MP's wife.' But I have my own personality; my own character, and I would really appreciate it to be given a chance to be me."

She says at times people expect favours, donations and financial assistance for one thing or the other. "I think people do not understand how this works at times. When some are low on rentals and they need a top-up, they think of you, and because you are Mrs Saleshando, you must think up a solution," she says. But they are now used to the public eye and are comfortable as community leaders that people look up to. "For a perfect getaway, we go out and have fun," says Mrs Saleshando.

Despite the warmth that comes with family, Saleshando's life story is not independent of politics and its realities, which can often be harsh. He says he wanted to be a ward councillor, but his party had bigger plans for him. "The battle for the Gaborone Central seat was a hard contest. At first, I was not in it to win but to come as a strong second. BCP was not the strongest of parties when we first went for elections. I was only 33-years-old working against political heavyweights like Mma Nasha of BDP. I couldn't really draw on experience and a strong party. But I would go with senior party members such as Gobe Matenge to convince the senior electorate," Saleshando remembers.

His Maun debate with Jacob Nkate, which was televised and aired on national radio, changed his political career.

The campaign ran smoothly and people took his candidacy more seriously afterwards. The numbers were tight, and Dumelang was a fresh face in a large constituency. "I went to the President Hotel for coffee to find BDP members celebrating after the council results indicated that 'P' was winning. The assumption was that we had lost the parliamentary seat as well. Of course, we had the last party! The margin was small, it was a very tight race," he says. Asked about his relationship with the President of the Republic, Saleshando says he has none except that Khama is his President. "I think from where I stand, it is not easy to reach out. But the President can use his office to reach out to the opposition. I think it's something the Leader of the opposition, Rre Botsalo Ntuane, can look into. The only time I remember extensive consultation was during Sir Masire's time. Rre Mogae only did it when the CKGR situation was getting worse and it had the potential to cripple our diamond experts. It was called the All Party Conference," he says.

What if Motswaledi had gone into the race for Gaborone Central? "BDP numbers in Gaborone Central never change. They remain stagnant - no decline, no increase over the years. If you look at the figures, you will realise that's how it always is. My belief is that we could have won the seat anywhere. Look at the council seats; we have about 16. This shows our strength on the ground."

Political funding is still a biting issue with opposition candidates. They have to fight against a financially well-oiled machine but struggle for basics such as transport, posters and PA systems. "Unlike Zimbabwe where Morgan Tsvangirai can obtain donations from overseas because of a classic example of a bad situation, Botswana is different.

We are considered an ideal model of democracy, peace and stability. Against such a background, we do not expect to obtain as much support from across borders. However, the Labour Party in the UK has given us technical assistance such as training and upskilling some of our members," he says.

Does he has ever imagine himself as President of the Republic of Botswana? Saleshando's response is that what is more critical now is to capacitate the party to a level that is good for people to appreciate it is a government in waiting.

"We need to reset the buttons so that the opposition embraces that fact that they are not just critics and advisers of the government; they can win. We need to change that mentality and take ourselves more seriously.


We can do it. What I am more concerned about now is making sure that party structures are strong enough to contest and compete convincingly at all levels nationally, and then we can think of the presidency," he says.

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