Botswana: Masisi Upbeat Ruling Party Will Win Elections, Accuses Predecessor of Intimidation

Left: Former Botswana leader Ian Khama. Right: President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is upbeat his party, which has fielded candidates in all 57 constituencies, will get a majority come October 23.

"We have every confidence that we will win these elections. There are lots of good reasons. If you have lived in Botswana and you understand our politics, you would understand why.

Former president Ian Khama has been critical of his successor, enraged by, among other things, by his refusal to let him use state resources like jets.

The former military officer, Mr Khama, has also been critical of a decision to lift a hunting moratorium he placed in 2014.

After months of countrywide consultations, President Masisi lifted the hunting ban citing the human-wildlife conflict had heightened since the move in 2014.

"I am not going to be intimidated while wildlife kill our people," he said. Official statistics say 49 people have been killed by elephants in the last 10 years.

"Batswana are proud people, they jealously guard the sovereignty of their country and it is the BDP that is most resilient in its assurance of that sovereignty," President Masisi added.

The Botswana leader believes in his 18 months at the helm, the BDP has transformed and its policies and solutions are more in step with the expectations of Batswana.

Political analyst, Mandla Mzimela says under Khama, the BDP had lost sight of its traditional mandate--serving people and not the elites--but this has been restored.

The incumbent is running on a platform of zero tolerance to corruption.

Transparency International has described Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa.

"My administration does not tolerate corruption. All those who are implicated are investigated and those who should face prosecution will have their day in court," President Masisi said.

Former President Festus Mogae, a revered statesman in the diamond-rich nation, called Mr Khama "a strong-headed, manipulative and divisive character who throws tantrums if he does not get his way."

Unify ruling party

Mr Mogae said he had appointed Mr Khama to succeed him to help unify the BDP, but instead he did the opposite. "Ian is nothing like his father, he is a disappointment," he said.

Interestingly, Botswana's four presidential candidates--President Masisi, Boko, Butale and Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance of Progressives (AP), have much in common.

They all are well educated and sophisticated. Mr Boko has a law degree from Harvard University, President Masisi a master's degree in education from Florida State University, Mr Butale is a pastor and has a law degree from the University of Botswana, while Mr Goalathe, son to the late former Cabinet member, Baledzi Goalathe, has a business degree from Wharton in the US.

President Masisi says his first order of business is job creation.

"We are focused on attracting foreign direct investment. In the recent past, we have created over 7,000 jobs by attracting 3.2 billion pula ($292 million) of FDI into the country. The mining sector is showing positive growth and we are also looking at the possible reopening of Selebi-Phikwe mine with private investors. We will transform the economy, make it more investor attractive for both citizens and international investors."

Saleshando said the UDC's target was to deliver 100,000 jobs in their first 12 months if they win power.

"For such a small population of about 2 million people to have unemployment in excess of 20 per cent in an economy with the richest diamond mines, best tourism offerings in the world is not right. We believe we can turn it around," he said.

He said they also want to introduce a living wage based on the cost of living, which would be about $270.

In the build up to the elections, Mr Butale has repeatedly lambasted the BDP for abusing state apparatus like the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) sleuths who he claims routinely stalk him.

"When I hold talks with businesspeople soliciting for funds or any form of assistance for our party, they complain that security services harass them over their association with me," he told The EastAfrican.

On the other hand, Mr Gaolathe has said the nation faced the challenges of rot in governance that has left many destitute without a reliable source of livelihood.

Education system

"If elected to lead, AP will invest in an education system that will be more skills and wealth creation oriented."

The AP leader also believes the economy should be diversified through forming robust strategic partnerships with institutions in tourism, technology and agriculture of the kind that Japan has with Toyota, the world's top car maker.

Botswana Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson Osupile Maroba said preparations for the elections were on course.

"We just concluded our major preparations and are on schedule. We have our ballot papers in place, we've completed the training of polling staff and their logistics are taken care of," he said.

An IEC official and opposition leader Arafat Khan were arrested over collusion in releasing voter details and their contacts without authority.

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