She is undoubtedly one of the brainiest and bravest woman to emerge from Botswana politics.
With over 30 years of experience in opposition politics, Motsei Rapelana has become an asset and an inspiration not only to her party but to women folk at large.
As the BCP first female Chairperson, Rapelana strongly believes she has what it takes to lead.
In an interview with MMIKA SOLOMON she minces no words in talking about her future aspirations in politics.
Q. When did you join active politics?
I joined active politics in 1974. At that time I was with the Botswana National Front (BNF). I was in Mochudi.
I joined the study group which was taught by Simon Mogowe who was a teacher at Linchwe Secondary School.
Q. But you later left BNF as one of the founding members of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Why?
By the time I left the BNF, I was already in the party’s central committee. In 1993 I was the Secretary of Public Education, when I left BNF in 1998 I was Deputy Secretary General, a position I contested and won at BCP in 1999.
Q. What can you tell someone that doesnt know the BCP about your party of choice?
We are social democrats, that is why we work with the Labour party in the United Kingdom because they are social democrats.
Q. That’s all?
Let me put it this way, BCP fights for the rights of the people across the spectrum.
As an example, when BCP realised that Survival International was terrorising Botswana government, we sent our own delegation to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) to familiarise ourselves with the issue at hand, which was the land of the Basarwa.
We advised government that they cannot win a war against Survival International because they are a single Non-Governmental organization.
Q. What do you mean by a single Non-Governmental organization?
What I mean is that Survival International thrives on issues of minority tribes.
That is their business.
As a result we as BCP stepped in and drew government to the attention of her Master Plan that clearly states that Basarwa can survive alongside wild-animals.
Q. So if BCP by grace of God is voted into power what is it that you will give preference to ?
As BCP, we want a land audit and we believe in transparency.
We want to know who owns the land, we don’t want a situation where a few people have massive land whilst majority do not own a single piece of land.
As it is right now the land board is giving plenty of land to Botswana Housing Corporation which is a state owned enterprise. Basically we will focus on land distribution.
Q. What about programmes targeted to to the youth?
For a long time Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government has imposed unattractive programmes on the youth.
We are not going to make such mistakes of forcing the youth into farming.
The youth of this country do not own land, nor do they have access to land.
Times change at the time we take over government or rule we shall have programmess that are in line with the demand of that time in place.
Q. You made history by being the first woman to become the Chairperson of BCP what changes should we envisage from you madam?
I am not going to change anything.
Just because I am a woman does not mean I have to bring radical change.
First as a chairperson of the party it does not mean your role is to chair meetings as we hear from some quarters.
You have to know the party in and out. All the structures of the party should be able to relate with you.
And as the Chairperson you should be able to keep all the structures alive.
Q. You are a woman.
Shouldn’t you therefore be advocating for affirmative action or you dont believe in that?
The truth is I am for women empowerment. In the BCP, we have a quota of 30% reserved for women.
This quota is being implemented across all the structures of the party.
In the central committee we have been able to achieve that.
I can’t claim that I will implement that quota whilst the party has already taken a decision to empower women.
Q. Does that mean that you do not believe in special treatment for women when it comes to leadership positions?
I believe in equality.
Men in Botswana politics are used to being leaders, that is why BNF split in 1998, because certain men who were not voted into power could not imagine themselves outside the ambit of the Central Committee power.
Our women especially in the lower structures are leadership shy. Some of them are even afraid to challenge for leadership position at the top.
It takes more than a woman to challenge for leadership position.
Q. What’s so special about being in the Central committee that people use all their resources to campaign to be in it?
Central Committee is the administrative wing of the party. It is where the power is.
People have access to privileged information because they sit in the central committee.
They will be the first to know whatever happens in the party.
Q. I always thought the power was with the people.
Was I wrong?
Not at all.
The power is with the people, but the Central Committee is privy to certain information that the ordinary masses is not.
Q. Give an example.
At the moment we are discussing with MELS Movement.
Only people who sit in the central committee know what is happening.
Q. Shed more light on the MELS issue.
I can only say we have drafted a memorandum of understanding that needs to be signed by both parties.
We are waiting for MELS to get back to us, after they meet with their central committee this weekend.
Q. 2014 is the year of the national elections, are you vying for parliamentary seat?
I am going to stand for parliamentary seat in Gaborone North.
It will be my second go at the constituency.
In the last elections I lost with a small margin of 200 votes.
Even the incumbent developed some goose bumps because I am a strong challenger.
Q. What are you offering to the electorates?
Gaborone North is a cosmopolitan constituency.
It has Ledumang which consist of relatively poor people, Glen Valley which consists of the soldiers and Phakalane consists of rich people.
You can see the constituency needs somebody who has some high level of intellect like me.
I can easily relate with them all, because their needs are not homogenous.
Q. Can you be more specific especially about the Ledumang residents?
There is an urgent need to put up a sewerage system in Ledumang.
The issue of pit-latrines needs to be attended to as a matter of urgency, they are not only a health hazard to the people but they are affecting the environment.
BDP lied to the people in the run up to 2009 elections and now that the elections are nearer they are saying they are working on rectifying the issue swiftly.
Q. So when elected what are you going to do with these pit-latrines are you going to uproot them?
I will see to it that there is a sewerage system, and the toilets are eventually phased out in the long run.
We have two councilors working on the issue at the moment, the issue is so urgent that we have started attending to it even before I can get to parliament.
Q. The last two past general elections in Gaborone North have shown that people appreciate BDP as opposed to the opposition.
This time around what would have changed?
It was my first time contesting in Gaborone North, but now, you will agree with me that I am more popular in the constituency than the MP.
What worked for the BDP then was the issue of incumbency now constituents want me more than before.
I am also more ready than before because they understand that BDP has fooled them for too long.
Q. BCP is said to be stubbornly refusing to join opposition coalition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) dubbed national project. Why?
UDC is not a national project. Where are the statistics that indeed it is a national project?
These parties will be walloped by BDP.
They will forget their torn umbrella. Batswana have never said they want UDC, so at BCP we are not fooled by that rubbish talk.
We have made a decision to have a go at elections alone.
Q. What really broke the camel’s back?
We did not agree with the issue of allocating constituencies based on incumbency.
We felt that was not going to be fair on us. We are not apologetic about it.
BMD at the time was still dreaming that some BDP members were going to join them and that will make those fellows incumbent in constituencies where we as BCP felt should be contested by us.
Q. Can you manage to wrestle power from BDP alone?
We have merged with BAM, we are in partnership with MELS.
The answer is simple we shall wrestle power from the BDP. We have since increased our presence in parliament.
Q. Where will you get the finances?
I believe the opposition do not have the financial muscle to take on the mighty BDP.
Batswana, know very well that we in the opposition we finance democracy from our own pockets.
We use our family resources to advocate for their rights.
If the government was funding political parties the playing field could be level.
Unlike today where the business community finances the BDP because the party is in power.
The business community fear that if they finance BCP, they will lose out on government tenders.
Q. Lastly, do you aspire to be a President?
I will become the President of BCP in future. Women are ready to lead, there is this perception that only men can become presidents. I will change that.