Rapelana steps down from BCP leadership


Having been in the party leadership for 23 years, the outgoing Botswana Congress Party (BCP) chairperson, Motsei Rapelana says she leaves the position a happy woman.

She is the first woman to serve as the BCP chairperson after previously serving the party in different capacities. Rapelana told Mmegi that what makes her smile everyday is the growth of her party from the time they formed it after defecting from the Botswana National Front (BNF) in 1998 to this day. “No one has pushed me out. I believe I have done my part for the growth of this party and it is time now I give others a chance to make their contribution. I want to thank the BCP members for believing in me all these 23 years and allowing me to be their leader.

You gave me amazing support through all the party ranks until I became your chairperson from 2013 to-date,” she said. “Being a party chairperson is not an easy thing because it is your responsibility to run the party just like the president and to intervene when there are internal party fights. You have to be strong and objective all the time. In all decisions that I made, the members have not undermined me because I am a woman. Today I step down from the leadership being proud simply because of you. “Go botlhokwa go tlogela maemo o santse o kgona go ikakanyetsa.” She said her responsibility is to groom the young ones, especially women who are willing to become future leaders for tomorrow. The former BCP leader said it is their responsibility as experienced women in politics to ensure that they groom women because some youth are capable to be future leaders of tomorrow but they only need a skill for what is best for them to do.

Again, Rapelana said one of the things she will do is to keep on advocating women to contest for party positions and national elections for the voices of women to be heard. Rapelana said she will be working closely with the veterans in the constituencies and advising party leaders where necessary. “I want the members to understand that I have no intentions of coming back in the party positions or being co-opted in the leadership. I have now reached my finishing line. My role will be to help my party in other areas,” she said. When she took over the chairpersonship in 2003, Rapelana through the women’s league, advocated a 30% quota in the party and that women should pay less amount of fees when contesting for party primary elections. They contended that the reason why women have no interest in contesting for elections was due to lack of funds and requested the party leadership to support women where possible. But it is in opposition politics that Rapelana has always been a force to reckon with. In fact, when the BCP broke away from the BNF in 1998, she was the first name on the members’ registration list. She was then elected the deputy secretary-general of the new movement. Her activism however, goes beyond the BNF and BCP. She has a rich political profile.

During the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa, Rapelana, then known as Motsei Madisa, was one of the key contacts for the African National Congress (ANC) in Botswana. She was instrumental in coordinating the movement of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) cadres in and out of South Africa. “Here at home, I played a prominent role in building the Botswana Youth Federation, a youth wing of the Botswana National Front (BNF). In 1993, I was elected secretary for public education of the BNF,” she says.

But it was not the first attempt. In 2004, she stood and lost against Botswana Democratic Party's Rakwadi Modipane in the then Kgatleng West. She then stood again for the Parliamentary seat in 2009 where she lost to the former Member of Parliament Keletso Rakhudu for the Gaborone North constituency. She advocates access to free and compulsory basic education, promotes teacher professional development by setting the first degree as the minimum qualification for all teachers in order to restore teacher esteem and dignity. As a mother, Rapelana says issues that are close to her heart and give her sleepless nights are youth challenges. She says the majority of the Botswana population are the youth yet they are the most marginalised. “The youth are confronted by a whole host of challenges under the BDP regime.

There are challenges of high levels of unemployment, limited or no access to economic activities. I am going to support and strengthen the youth non-government organisation for effective youth empowerment and development. Outside political activism, the former BCP chairperson is the deputy director of academic services at the University of Botswana. She has been instrumental as a policy shaper in the university administration. Rapelana was born in Mochudi and completed her secondary education at Molefi Secondary School. She studied for a Bachelor of Humanities (BA) in History and Sociology. In addition, Rapelana has a Concurrent Diploma in Education (University of Botswana and Swaziland). Rapelana holds a Master’s Degree in Education and Planning from the University of London.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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