While the rest of the nation breaks for festive season, the President-in-waiting Mokgweetsi Masisi will be spending sleepless nights agitating over the mountains he has to climb next year.
Few weeks into the year, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will face a stern test. The party primaries, which have traditionally been a divisive period for the party, will take place in opposition-held constituencies.
In the 2014 general election, the contentious Bulela Ditswe, led to in-fighting that cost the ruling party their stronghold constituencies such as Goodhope-Mabule and the two in Molepolole.
The BDP will hold the primaries on January 20 in opposition-held constituencies. The BDP is hoping that having early primaries will enable the losers to heal in time to help winning candidates to campaign for the 2019 general election.
BDP has been failing to lure voters in urban areas, something that has been worrying democrats.
Masisi will have to prove himself to the party that he could convince urban areas with basket of promises he is willing to deliver to Batswana when he takes over on April 1, 2018. He is also facing a mammoth task of uniting the BDP.
Although the ruling party in-fights have of recent been on the lull, the party has disgruntled members.
The BDP has not been at peace with itself in Gaborone constituencies and efforts to try to bring peace amongst members by party leadership have failed.
Some members who did not support Masisi for party chairperson during their recent party congress have not made peace with the fact that he won with a big margin.
It is not just at party level that Masisi has to focus. He has to address the issue of growing unemployment, especially amongst graduate youth. While Statistics Botswana declared recently that the country’s rate of unemployment has dropped from 19.9% in 2011 to 17.6% in 2016, there are doubts as the situation on the ground suggests joblessness is on the rise.
Unemployment for the youth aged between 18-35 years was estimated at 25.1%. However many Batswana continue to lose jobs as many big companies are retrenching while others are closing down and relocate to neighbouring countries. The mining sector has been in recent years been on the decline, and even shedding off many workers.
As 2016 closed, Tati Nickel in Francistown and BCL in Selebi-Phikwe shut down, leaving more than 5,000 miners jobless while at Moolman Mine 500 lost jobs around the same time. Since, the once thriving copper nickel town of Selebi-Phikwe has been on its knees, with supporting businesses, including private schools, collapsing.
It is not just private business feeling the heat of depressed economy. The parastals such as Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), and the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) have been retrenching. The media industry, which has been relying on government and corporate sector advertising, has in the recent
Batswana are expecting Masisi to create employment through government and to seriously start attracting foreign investment.
The entertainment industry has, under the thumb of out-going President Ian Khama, been seriously challenged. His hate for alcohol resulted in directives that saw the rise in alcohol levy, the curtailing of entertainment hours and even shutting down of entertainment spots. With one-time major economic players such as Kalahari Breweries Limited closing some branches, there is an outcry for a new thinking, and Batswana are looking to Masisi to reverse Khama’s anti-entertainment business policies.
The relationship between the Khama regime and the media has been at the lowest. In addition to the dictatorial laws and disregard for the media, the government introduced advertising ban to squeeze the independent media out of business. Of late, Masisi has been trying to bring peace but the issue of advertising ban has not been addressed. Masisi will be forced again to intervene on the matter. He has been granting media interviews, something he has promised that he would not stop.
One of the strategies that the BDP and Masisi have to do is to make peace with unions. Government employees could easily sabotage government programmes and punish the ruling party during election time. In 2014, workers sent out a strong message to the ruling party that it could not ignore in 2019. The workers plea needs to be heard by the ruling party.
Botswana’s next first citizen will have to advocate for transparency at the land boards since Batswana are crying of lack of land. Many Batswana are always queuing for allocation of plots.
Like the BDP, even opposition parties will go for primaries in 2018 to prepare for 2019 general election. Unlike the BDP, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has four affiliates, still has a lot to iron out before going to primaries. The issue of some constituencies like Moshupa/Manyana, Lentsweletau/Mmopane and wards allocations have to be sorted out. Again the UDC congress, which will be held on February in Gaborone, might make it strong or come out divided.
The congress will discuss lot of issues among the affiliates and endorse the constitution. All the affiliates of UDC, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP) will hold their primaries to decide on their candidates. By next year, the split of BMD, which led to formation of Alliance for Progressives (AP) will tell if it has affected UDC badly or not. Both UDC and AP will have to convince voters why they should cast vote for them.