Botswana: Masisi Begs Bakgatla, Trade Unions

Democrats descended on the Kgatleng capital of Mochudi on Friday afternoon where party President Mokgweetsi Masisi wasted no time before pleading with civil servants to bear with his government, and later begging Bakgatla to remain patient as he works on ensuring the return of their paramount chief.

The occasion was the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national conference. Officially opening the conference, Masisi told delegates that government is going to engage public sector trade unions to conclude negotiations over Conditions of Service and Salary adjustments because as the ruling party they need votes of civil servants.

Masisi revealed that his administration has resolved to review the repressive essential services laws, which were expanded at the height of the ill-fated 2011 public sector strike which saw thousands of workers fired from public service by the Khama administration.

"We have resolved to publish an unaltered essential services bill, which will be presented to Parliament," he said.

Masisi's statement comes at a time when public sector trade unions are consulting their members around the country regarding the failed negotiations on Conditions of Service and the implementation of the recommendations of the PEMANDU report. He said the BDP will do everything in its power to win the hearts of the workers. "We too want the votes of the workers. What is wrong with that," he asked rhetorically.

The decision could have come a little too late because by Thursday civil servants had resolved to engage in massive demonstrations in the near future to object to government's reluctance to negotiate in good faith. Such displeasure can directly affect the ruling BDP negatively at the 2019 polls due in just three months.

Kgafela back

President Masisi has reiterated his promise to ensure that Bakgatla paramount chief Kgosikgolo Kgafela II returns to Botswana. Without elaborating how this time around he will ensure that Kgafela returns, Masisi said his party, the BDP, respects the institution of bogosi. "I will spare no effort in ensuring that Kgosi Kgafela is embraced in the bossom of his motherland," he said, repeating a promise he first made during a retreat organised for BDP parliamentary candidates in May.

The latest declaration was clearly calculated to calm down and soothe Bakgatla's wounded egos, preparing ground to introduce Kgafela's younger brother Mmusi as the BDP parliamentary candidate for Mochudi West in the upcoming general elections.

"I kindly request you to give him your vote. I do this mindful of the fact that he is also from the royal family," said Masisi, adding that it is a testament that the BDP respects the institution of bogosi and dikgosi. Mmusi will face the incumbent Gilbert Mangole of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Tona Mooketsi of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Kgafela II went into exile in neighbouring South Africa fleeing persecution by the Khama administration after a warrant of arrest was issued against him for failing to attend court where he was facing multiple assault charges relating to unlawful flocking of some residents of Kgatleng by the notorious Madibelankwe regiment.

The regiment, acting under instructions from Kgafela, had unleashed terror on residents under the pretext of restoring order in Kgatleng. State prosecutors have repeatedly ignored pleas to withdraw the criminal charges against Kgafela to pave the way for him to return home, despite evidence submitted proving that the complainants in the cases have since reconciled with the accused persons and agreed not to pursue the court case.

Term limits

Meanwhile, Secretary General Mpho Balopi revealed at the conference on Friday that the BDP Youth Wing has proposed amendments to its constitution calling for MPs and councillors to serve an aggregate period not exceeding 10 years. The BDP Youth Wing has also proposed that the term for members of the Central Committee be limited to five years.

Balopi also announced that going forward the BDP has introduced a requirement for a non-refundable registration fee of P5000 for those who want to serve in the party Central Committee. On other issues he said the women's wing have reiterated their endorsement of Masisi as party president. "The Women's Wing have proposed that the party should benchmark from other democracies on how the 'First Past Post ' FPTP and proportional representation political systems have worked for women in their countries," he told the delegates.

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