BCP’s woman on a mission
When Daisy Bathusi, the current president of Botswana Congress Party Women’s League left her job at Debswana in 2011 the plan was to run her business.
However as fate would have it, she found herself chanting slogans and preaching change. Her story is not that of her finding politics but of politics finding her.
In this interview with The Voice, Bathusi traces her political journey, shares her hopes for a village she calls home and dreams for a better Botswana.
Q. When did the political bug bite you?
I joined politics in 2011after moving to Letlakane. This was after quitting my job at Debswana where I was working as the Business Services Manager.
When I moved to Letlhakane I was appalled by the poverty in the area despite it being home to a diamond mine. I saw this as an anomaly and something pushed me to action. The only way I could bring about any change was to join politics and be actively involved in community issues. I then joined BCP (Botswana Congress Party) because it’s the only party I can identify with.
So you left your job, which I presume came with good perks to join politics?
No, no, no. I left my job to pursue business interests. I have fully furnished apartments that I rent out. Politics was not part of the plan but like I said I was pushed to join politics to correct some anomalies in Letlhakane.
Q. And have you achieved that?
Obviously things cannot change overnight but there have been positive changes. I approached Debswana to adopt Letlhakane Secondary as it was one of the worst performing schools and had poor infrastructure.
They did that and its grades have significantly improved. There is no sewer system in the area so people use septic tanks and pit latrines. Emptying the systems was around P1500 and I lobbied the community to sign a petition for the rates to be reduced.
We now pay P500, which is still a bit high but at least it’s better than before. The struggle continues…
Q. BCP is now interested in unity talks with UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change), why now and not in 2014, is it because of the party’s dismal performance in the last election?
BCP has always been pro-unity. Previous talks collapsed not because we didn’t want to be part of the umbrella but because there wasn’t much time to widely consult our members. That is why our leaders are in talks so that whatever needs to be ironed out can be dealt with before 2019.
Q. So you reckon in 2019 the opposition will be a united front and tables will turn against BDP?
Yes, we will be a united front but our victory is not given. We will need to work hard to win the general election because the BDP will also fight with all it has to retain power. Stakes will be high but I am sure our unity and hard work will not go in vain.
Q. And what are some of the things that your government will change assuming the opposition wins the election?
Of course change will not come over night as people might expect.
But some of the things that will need immediate attention include ensuring maximum benefit of our diamonds, creating a strong work force that will meet the needs of the market and revamping the education sector.
If the current trends in education continue then I am afraid we are heading for disaster, we are regressing as a nation instead of progressing.
Q. So for you the BDP hasn’t done anything good?
We are not saying it’s all doom and gloom but we could be better off than what we are now if there were sound policies in place. We could be benefiting more from our diamonds than we are right now.
We wouldn’t be talking of high unemployment rate if there were beneficiation of our diamonds. Why should people in Jwaneng and Letlhakane for example live in abject poverty when diamonds are mined right in their doorsteps? These are some of the wrongs that need to be corrected.
Q. You stood for parliamentary elections in the last election and lost, still going to try your luck again in 2019?
Remember there are primary elections and there is also UDC, which we are highly likely to be part of, meaning that the issue of candidates might change but if I am chosen to stand, I will do so.
Q. What lesson(s) did you learn in the last election?
That it’s not easy to campaign against the ruling party especially in its stronghold such as Boteti East because they have means and money and can easily buy votes.
It’s also not easy to campaign as a woman. A section of Batswana still hasn’t accepted that women are equally capable.
Q. Talking of women and politics, how rife is sexual harassment in politics as there is a belief that it is rife and that sexual favours could be a ticket to political positions?
That takes us back to what I have just said, that some sections of society don’t have faith in women as political leaders.
In this day and era some people think women have to sleep their way to the top, quite sad and unfortunate.
And this is not only in politics, even in the corporate sector, eyebrow rise when a woman is promoted even when the woman is qualified for the job.
But look I am not saying there is totally no sexual harassment as there have been rumours, but personally I haven’t experienced it.
Q. One of the female members of the BCP youth league late last year said she was actually leaving the party because “go jewa stock” (slang for bosses sleeping with subordinates)
We are still investigating the issue as we take such allegations seriously.
No one has however come forward to lay a formal complaint against anyone.
But it must be tough for women in the male dominated field of politics.
Maybe for other women, for me the environment hasn’t changed as I grew up in Orapa surrounded by men.
My advice to women is that they should never feel intimidated by anyone, be it a man or woman and they should never give in to sexual advances if ever they are faced with such.
They should always be assertive and stand their ground.
Q. Still on women and politics, the opposition now has veteran Mma Nasha in its fold, have you interacted with her and what have you to say about her jumping ship?
Yes, I have had a chance to meet with her and I must say she is one brilliant woman. Her coming on board is a huge gain for the opposition and a big loss for the BDP.
Q. Politics now seems to be more for personal gain, are you also not it in for financial gain?
What financial gain? There is nothing like financial gain in the opposition, in fact its financial loss because we don’t get funding from anyone.
We finance our meetings, travels and campaigns.
I used a lot of money campaigning in the last election and even if I had won, the money that I would get in parliament wouldn’t be enough to cover what I had spent.
Maybe those in the BDP are the ones who are in it for the money because they are actually getting tenders and ‘eating’ as they would say it.
Q. BDP like any other party seems to be recruiting, have they ever tried to recruit you?
Of course they have on numerous occasions but I have turned them down. They always say ke gana dijo (saying no to food).
This goes to show that it’s all about personal benefit and not serving people’s interests.
Q. Earlier on you spoke of lack of funding, are you in support of political party funding by government?
Of course, that’s part of democracy and besides, which would guard against getting illicit funds or ruling party abusing government money.
Q. Ok good luck in your political journey and thank you so much for your time but before we go, what’s up for the weekend?
Saturdays I normally attend party meetings then Sunday I go to church, I am the chairperson of the Roman Catholic Parish.