(as it appeared on my ULTIMATE REALITIES COLUMN of the Echo Publishing Newspaper of the 11th April 2013)

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim!
I must confess that I did not see it coming. Comrade Filbert Nagafela of the Botswana National Front (BNF) representing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has lost the just concluded Letlhakeng West Parliamentary Bye Elections to Ngaka Ngaka of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). I had all the confidence that Letlhakeng West residents will provide the nation with an opportunity to have Leader of the opposition. Such has not been possible. Congratulations to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the lead BDP Letlhakeng West Bye Elections Campaign Coordinator, Honourable Mephato Reggie Reatile.

The people of Letlhakeng West Constituency have opted otherwise. They have opted to return their area back to the BDP. It’s their choice. Besides, very little if nothing affects their lives; inflation is not their language, civil liberties is alien language to them, the history of their geographical, tribal and cultural presence has never been around the epitome of human rights, economics does not exist in their vocabulary. Their low self esteem has once more resurfaced. We obviously expected too much from them!

Letlhakeng West Constituency is like many of those Constituencies in Botswana which do not know anything besides poverty thus can’t compare their lives to anything or anyone. Literacy is not necessarily adored thus, education standards means little or nothing at all to them. Land ownership remains communal and not valued and hence lands redistribution not an issue with them. Their health and well being is still rooted in traditional doctors, witchcraft beliefs, herbs man and false prophets that the promise of a provision of adequate health amenities by opposition parties does not ring a bell to them. Many of them remain Herdsmen and Domestic Helpers thus food and clothing is supplied by the owners of livestock and households who mostly reside in Gaborone. The issue of food and clothing is thus so not a concern to them. The promise of a better life by the BNF and the UDC affiliating parties to the people of Letlhakeng West thus was more of a fairly tale. It served no purpose. They once more chose the status qua. Poverty!

I did not want to find myself thinking about this painful truth, the painful truth that if no Member of Parliament from the opposition defects to either; the BCP, the ruling BDP or to any of the UDC affiliating parties, then it shall mean we travel a sad journey to the 2014 General Elections without Leader of the Opposition. I am continuously ashamed to be a part of a nation that continues to see nothing wrong with a National Assembly without leader of the opposition. It really says a lot about the level of our political dispensation as a country.

There is yet another unheard of possibility of any Member of Parliament from any of the opposition parties resigning from the National Assembly. That will certainly break the tie and hence produce a Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. Unless only in the event of any Member of Parliament from the opposition defecting to either side. Not wishing to sound unorthodox, another possibility for the nation to have a Leader of the Opposition shall arise only when any Member of Parliament dies. I don’t like the sound of what I just said; unfortunately it is the ultimate reality. I am not sure why ruling BDP seems top be the one hard hit with such unfortunate incidences. Like any other Motswana, I have a fear of discussing death least I find myself being cursed and insults hurled at me.

It has been and remains a common phenomenon for electorates in the most poverty stricken areas of any country to vote in favour of the ruling party. In most of such cases, the said parties are led by elites. I still recall with a fresh mind the Tonota North bye elections. Letlhakeng West Constituency just like Tonota North Constituency is poverty stricken area. Unlike in urban and semi urban areas the electorate is not necessarily looking for depth, the electorate unfortunately views that current moment of electoral hype clouded with; free food, free alcohol, free lunch, free transport to clinics and shaking hands with those in power. Unfortunately, and for reasons already alluded to by many other people; the electorate in the deep poverty areas of any country never think of tomorrow. They live in the moment and they make decisions that shall impact their long lives in that moment.

The leadership of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSO) had also brought much hope and optimism towards this bye election. BOFEPUSO leadership announced after they had lost their famous case against the state at the High Court of Appeal that they shall encourage and instruct their members in Letlhakeng West Constituency to vote for Comrade Filbert Nagafela of the BNF. This was their show of protest against the ruling party. I do not doubt that there was a collective nod by BOFEPUSO members at this announcement. I am simply of the view that most of such members had not registered to vote in that constituency. Some have been transferred, some have sadly passed away, some have been expelled from their jobs and are somewhere at their cattle posts and fields trying a different living. One can only hope that BOFEPUSO shall continue to show an active interest in the political affairs of the country. Workers being the economic centre of any nation must take an active role in the affairs of their countries despite their political partisan belonging.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership had also announced their party resolution to support the BNF candidate following the BCP’s candidate, Thuto Thuto’s ineligibility to contest the Letlhakeng West Bye Elections. Such remains a good faith spirit deserving repeated applauds. Some might choose to take such a position for granted. I take it very seriously. Possibly because I am still sad that there has been a failure for a total opposition cooperation, that we have allowed egos to stand above reason! Though the Letlhakeng West Constituency is not necessarily vested in a reading culture, it was ideal for the BCP to issue a press release communicating with its members in Letlhakeng West Constituency to vote for Comrade Filbert Nagafela. We might choose to deny the positive in that but it shall not go away; that is the beautiful thing about truth.

Opposition political parties must not despair. It is the nature of bye elections for the incumbent party to retain its position in bye elections. Only when the resources of opposition parties have not been too stretched as in council bye elections shall we see results being more positive in favour of the challengers. The Letlhakeng West Constituency is very vast, horribly wide and resource consuming. The nature of the electorate in such areas is also not helping. The opposition must learn from this in moving forward and getting ready for 2014 General Elections. This was also the first time that the UDC affiliating parties seriously contested a Parliamentary Bye election as a united front. I choose to ignore Mahalapye West.

Letlhakeng West Bye Election has shown and taught the UDC affiliating parties what they will be going through in 2014; how people view the UDC marriage and how the ordinary voters understands to UDC marriage. This has surely helped and contributed significantly to the growth and awareness of UDC as a brand and thus was a great opportunity to present a united front by the UDC affiliating parties. As for the people of Letlhakeng West, you have confirmed that which we all thought but feared to pronounce, your love of; poverty, starvation, malnutrition, landlessness, minority belonging, handouts, thirst, hunger, and low self esteem. Allahur Akbar!

Rasina Winfred Rasina
Email: rwwrasina@gmail.com
Mobile: +267 71886794

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