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BDP Buckles Under Societal Pressure

RYDER GABATHUSE
Nata/Gweta Member of Parliament Polson Majaga
Factors have seemingly connived against the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) this week forcing the conservative ruling party to break from its norm and suspend its beleaguered maverick legislator, Polson Majaga of Nata-Gweta. The Monitor Staffer Ryder Gabathuse follows the developing story

FRANCISTOWN: In the period before the 2019 General Election, amongst others, the BDP in its election manifesto had promised to condemn defilement or any other form of abuse with the strongest voice.

The party made a commitment to end all forms of violence against children. The party even made a vow to ensure it implements the sex offenders and paedophile register. What follows from its vow was the suspension of Majaga last Friday morning.

About six months post general elections, the BDP found itself in a tricky situation of having to balance between pleasing the masses by implementing its 2019 pledges or showing the masses the middle finger. The party instead settled for the former at the expense of its legislator. Resultant from an ongoing case into a sexual offence charge against the party’s parliamentarian, this move is purely unprecedented, as BDP has until recently stood unwaveringly with its legislators facing criminal charges.

Societal pressure has also been mounting from across the political divide including the civic society, political organisations and the UNCEF Botswana, which champions the rights of children, in particular challenging the ruling party to live up to its pledges.

The BDP could not bear pressure from within its ranks, as the BDP Women’s Wing joined the chorus in reminding its senior leadership to live up to its election pledges lest they lose the confidence of those who voted for them last year.

Although he is yet to be found guilty of the defilement of the under-18 girl, calls for Majaga to resign were even louder from the opposition’s Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

BCP Women’s League (BCPWL) and BCP Youth League (BCPYL) were unequivocal in their calls for Majaga to step down from his position as the people’s representative.

For the first time in the history of the conservative ruling BDP that has enjoyed majority seats in Parliament since 1966, found it fit to ‘yield’ to public pressure.

University of Botswana senior lecturer in politics, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao concurs that during the 2019 general election, the BDP made a number of promises, including the protection of the rights of minors.

“I think the party had to act to avoid being accused of reneging on its election promises. Of course, public pressure was also important, as the public and civil society reminded the BDP of the promises it had made,” highlighted the political analyst.

Besides that Majaga, a maverick politician who often differed with the party leadership could be punished for his independent-mind. President Mokgweetsi Masisi, as the ruling party leader

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also had pressure from within the State House.

It should be noted that First Lady Neo Masisi is a patron of the UNICEF Botswana campaign popularly known as ‘Eseng mo Ngwaneng’, which she is pursuing with so much vigour and gusto.

This is a campaign that is meant to give hope to the sexually abused children, especially that UNICEF Botswana has been crying foul about the escalating cases of abuse against the girl children.

It goes without saying that in the wake of allegations involving a prominent person in the position of a legislator alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a minor, who is also pregnant, Masisi had to support the course of the First Lady’s campaign.

Prior to the 2019 General Election pledge, it was common cause that legislators suspected to have committed criminal offences, they were allowed to remain at work until the courts of law cleared them.

The cases involving former Cabinet minister, Kenneth Matambo following the decision of the Directorate of Public prosecution to charge him with corruption quickly springs to mind. It was in 2011, but the BDP could not yield to public pressure to suspend Matambo until the court cleared him of the charges.

Another interesting case involved former justice minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, whom the public called to resign as he was facing corruption charges, but the appeals fell on deaf ears.

Equally, Jacob Nkate who was assistant minister of finance then, faced allegations of conflict of interest as he was a director at Zac Construction, which often did work for government and the circumstances could not warrant his resignation.

Former Cabinet minister, Michael Tshipinare was never compelled to resign from his parliamentary seat after he was convicted and jailed for his alleged involvement in acts of corruption involving a construction company, Wharic Construction.

The only BDP duo who took a personal decision to resign from their Cabinet positions in order to clear their names were Daniel Kwelagobe and the late Peter Mmusi. This followed the recommendations of a fellow former Cabinet minister, Englishman Kgabo appointed by former president Sir Ketumile Masire to head the Kgabo Commission into land dealings in Gaborone, Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas.

At the time, there were allegations of illegal activity implicating senior Cabinet fellows Kwelagobe and Mmusi. The two powerful politicians were deemed to have used their political office to acquire the disputed land.

They resigned from their Cabinet positions and went to court to clear their names after which they were reinstated to their Cabinet positions.



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