Major Gen Pheto paid a cow, a goat and a cock for democracy

He is seated with a few elderly people Kgotla style outside a homestead in Gakutwe. In the last few weeks, this home had become the nerve centre for the planning of the event. There is something so peculiar about this home, it’s the only double story building in the village and the venue for the launch of Major General Moeng Pheto into the UDC fold. With him are multitudes of followers to their promised land.

I found Pheto in some conversation over his cellular phone. I greeted him once he was done with the call and he replied in a somewhat hoarse voice. He sits back on his camping chair and cuts a sorry figure. “My daughter just called me and told me that there was a housebreak at my place in Molepolole”, he said. I just thought, what a coincidence of events. But this must have been planned against his political migration.

The event is the welcoming of various people from the BDP and a few from BCP. The key figure in the parade is Major General Pheto himself, the former member of parliament for Lentsweletau/Mmopane constituency.

When asked to speak, he chronicles his fallout with Mogolo and he took the audience as far back as his days at BDF as Deputy Commander. He was as diplomatic as he could get but one could tell that the animosity between the two has really reached levels where it is really irreparable. In his speech he blamed UDC for donating that constituency to the BDP in the last elections. He was referring to the proposal he had made to the main opposition party to drop their candidate and appoint him as their representative for the parliamentary race.


According to sources within the UDC, the difficulty in absorbing Pheto was the fact that he was encumbered with several council candidates some of whom were still holding positions as councillors. I personally think something amenable should have been put in place to reconcile those differences for the sake of democracy. But anyway, that’s the nature of democracy.

Pheto had contributed a big cow and a goat for this event and crowds were fed free lunch. The total cost of the event ran into several thousands and people had been so generous in contributing.  And what about a cock? Pheto had given his whole soul and matter to see the success of this event. He could not afford to see this fail. On the day of the event, two women carrying a conversation said;  “A Pheto jaanong ga e sa tlhole e le mokoko?” And the other answered; “Ware mokoko? Motho yoo ene e le tshukudu.” At the end of it all they appreciated the fact that he had come to be a member of UDC.

Have you ever engaged your mind into determining the cost of democracy in Botswana? It is individuals who drive and fund democracy out of their pockets. This is particularly in reference to the opposition. In his quest to strengthen democracy, Pheto had to do some sacrificial giving. It’s not common to see someone making a donation worth P7,000 with further donations in kind unless they have a vision in seeing our democracy thrive.

A similar incident happened in 2011 when the protracted civil service industrial action took place. Around the country, civil servants would gather every morning at designated spots and they would sing and chant their slogans. Farmers pledged to feed the crowds and I remember that Kanye had one such Good Samaritan who gave them several beasts. In Gabane, a certain Lentswe Peter Mogomotsi boosted the morale of the workers by slaughtering a healthy cow for them. Mogomotsi a well known cattle baron has never worked for government and yet he felt that it was his obligation to participate in the struggle for better pay and by this action nourishing democracy.

In actual fact some families and individuals have gone under because of the debts they incurred in their quest to strengthen our democracy. In this regard, no government official, minister or the president has the right to boast of democracy. It is the demos (the people) who are shouldering the responsibility of driving democracy in this country.

The government of Botswana is often hailed as a shining example of democracy. There is something terribly wrong with this conception. In fact it’s a misconception. The truth is that it is the people who sweat and toil to raise the profile of our democracy. This is something that the rest of the world is not told. Such compliments need to come to people like Pheto and Mogomotsi who want to see democracy thriving in this country.

This raises the question of party funding to the fore. I am made to understand that parliament has passed a law with which government is obliged to fund political parties. Government has once again given the usual lame excuse that there is no money while they can afford to make senseless and useless spending in areas of our democracy which are less critical such as the military. Because of lack of funding, our democracy is very much in limbo compared to many countries in the African continent.

I would describe our democracy as a pool of stagnant water. Yes indeed the pool never dries but the water has turned green and not safe for use by both man and animals. We have often been very critical of Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe. But how are we different from them? In Zimbabwe, opposition parties benefit from government grants and this helps them to have a meaningful participation on electoral issues and by extension in democracy.

In Botswana, the ruling party has continued to benefit from generous donations from the business community that has exclusive rights to government tenders. We know that some individuals in that party have pledged their souls to the party because it has literally changed their social standing from being mere village shopkeepers to multi-billionaires. How else can they ignore the party that means everything in their lives?

On this point, Pheto says he could not sell his soul. And this has caused him trouble most of his adult life. That’s a very loaded statement when one takes into account the fact that he has held key positions in both government and the party. After his forced retirement from the force, he was appointed Botswana Consul General in Cape Town, a job he meticulously held.

The opposition must understand that Pheto is a pace setter, not a mediocre personality. When in Cape Town, he made sure that the consulate was held in high esteem. He booked an office in an upmarket street. His residence was in Constantia and in many ways it matched that of the British and Americans. UDC needs to up its game with Pheto in their stable. He is a boxer who does not punch below the belt politically speaking. He is meticulous and pays attention to detail. Above all, he is a time keeper, something that is still taken for granted at his new home of UDC. Pheto believes in delivery and tangible results. As a retired general, precision and an element of surprise are always under his sleeve. But he will now need to play his cards close to his chest because as things are, the plans to infiltrate UDC are at an advanced stage.

It is high time that we break the silhouette of our democracy and reveal ourselves for who we really are. Surely, Botswana’s democratic credentials are at stake.

Richard Moleofe is a

Retired Military Officer

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...

Have a Story? Send Us a tip
arrow up