There is Setswana saying that goes Tsholofelo ga e tlhabise ditlhong. There is no shame in hoping for the better, even when things don’t look right. Hope for things to turn around for the better. So do not wonder my friend, why women of this country are hopeful for better future.
Time and again there is that glimpse of hope that we will in our lifetime, experience the true meaning of gender equality. This hope, not wishful thinking, was aroused this past week by our neighbours, South Africa. When South African’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa lived to his promise to ensure a 50/50 gender representation, announcing that half of his Cabinet members are women, we, in Botswana must have made the biggest noise.
Yes, we are well aware that we are not South Africa, and do not wish to be. But as our neighbour, big brother of sorts, South Africa’s direction in many ways has influence in neighbouring countries as Botswana.
As a ‘dependent’ little sibling, South Africa influences us in many aspects. Economically, we are nothing without South Africa. Culturally and socially we may time and again stick our necks out, but we are very much dictated to by our neighbour.
You just have to see how music venues fill up at the mention of a South African artist, most times at the expense of our own. Therefore, it is not surprising that the appointment of South African Cabinet has most of us excited. We even look out for “our own” as we claim the likes of Dr Naledi Pandor, Thabang Makwetla, and even Ramaphosa’s wife and her rich siblings, the Motsepes. It then does not surprising to find a lot of us excited and engaged in debates as to the political happenings in Mzanzi. I would not be surprised in population percentage-wise, more Batswana than South Africans follow the antics of Julius Malema and his red brigade, at times even wanting to emulate them.
So when Ramaphosa announced the achieved target, gender activists were, rightfully so, all over the show, noting and appreciating that feat. A great feat indeed, and a call was made to all political parties, bidding for government in October, to take leaf out of our neighbour’s action, which is not the first in the African continent.
Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania have taken lead in the emancipation of women in politics. In the Southern African region, research has shown that electoral reforms, are seeing the evolution of women occupying high positions in politics. But we continue to fail the test. Countries progressing in this regard, as those that have discarded the first-post-the-past system we are dearly holding to, and applying the proportional representation (PR).
The PR system, which South Africa adopted at the dawn of democracy in 1994, has ensured that there is some fairness in bringing different players to the game – women, youth, the disabled and so forth. That is why Ramaphosa is able to have a pool of women and young people to draw from. Not in Botswana.
Our system, which is truly ancient, has disadvantaged these groupings. In the political battle out there, it is mainly a man’s world, and monied ones especially, so much that women who make it, post the party primaries, must be a special breed.
As alluded to here before, we are headed to this year’s general elections with even less women representation.
In parliamentary contest, the Botswana Democratic Party leads with only four women – Dorcus Makgato, Anna Mokgethi, Nnaniki Makwinja, and Talita Monnakgotla, followed by the Umbrella for Democratic Change with three; Daisy Bathusi, Mathodi Modisapudi and young Dr Mpho Pheko, with the Alliance for Progressives fielding Theresa Mbulawa and Maria Sola.
If by the grace of God, these nine women make it to Parliament, they would make only 15% of representation. Far too low to make the 50% of cabinet, unless it is reduced to 18, and all are included. A dream really, as is wishful thinking to have all winning. In my analysis, at most, only three will survive.
Then hope will be on ensuring that all six posts of Specially Elected Members of Parliament are given to women. Then we ask, what is SEMP intended purpose? To bring in much needed skills while also catering for the disadvantaged groupings – women, youth and people with disabilities.
Maybe just maybe, we will have a true caring and fair President, who will ensure that these four areas are covered by women, who bring in much needed expertise, while also covering the disabled and youth. Just a thought!
But before we get to Cabinet, and Parliament really, we need to look at our political parties. Just how much are we committed to gender equality? In the past elections, the Botswana Congress Party had tried to apply a 30% quota system, and subsidising women and youth candidates in the primaries.
It did not work, because shouts of the system being “undemocratic” echoed the most.
Without electoral reforms to allow for fair competition, the only thing us women need to think hard about, is how we can ensure those carrying the torch now, make it. A controversial call, which has been made many times before, is for us to walk the talk, and vote for fellow women. If wishes were horses! For now, we can only work hard to force change to our electoral system.
*Let’s engage on [email protected]; Facebook page, Pamela Dube or WhatsApp no 77132086