Phenyo Butale has big shoes to fit.
It may not be easy to replace the late Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Gomolemo Motswaledi as the Gaborone Central parliamentary candidate, but Butale has taken the bull by the horns.
He is in the process of quitting his plum job in South Africa as the Executive Director of the Freedom of Expression Institute to contest the elections.
Butale is known as an avid media freedom fighter as well as a freedom of expression advocate.
He is a seasoned journalist whose experience can be traced to his days at the mass media complex where he worked as a journalist.
This all rounder, agreed to speak to The Voice reporter Leonard Matota about his political ambitions.
Good day, kindly introduce yourself sir.
My name is Phenyo Butale. I am from Moroka Village in the North-East district.
I am mostly known for my media activism which has been close to my heart for years now and will not rest until I see that the media operates in a vibrant and free environment.
I am also known for advocacy of an open, transparent and accountable government that is found in a well functioning democratic environment.
Q: When did you develop interest in politics?
Throughout my work as a reporter and journalist my inclination has always been on political and developmental issues.
That was my area of interest.
As a result I moved into doing a political show called Matlho-A-Phage at BTV which interrogated politicians on their plans and vision on whatever promises they have for those whom they are seeking the votes from.
Q: I hear you are now the Gaborone Central Parliamentary candidate, why did you decide to get into politics?
My love, interaction and passion for politics is anchored on activism for a better country for an all and inclusive government in which the capabilities of every individual is taken into cognizance when policies are drawn.
I am also encouraged by the understanding of the people that there can never be an opposition that will single handedly dethrone the BDP.
There is need to end this fragmentation and need to reward the efforts made by the UDC partners over the last year.
Q: What makes you believe in the Umbrella so much?
UDC, just like me, we don’t give up easily.
They knew the coalition was not going to be easy which is why some opted out along the way when the going got tough.
But you see those who have faith and commitment to the umbrella went back to the drawing boards to see to it that the projects that Batswana have been longing for see the light of the day.
This project is a solution to Batswana’s problems, as it gives them an alternative to the BDP.
Q: What is your view about the current government?
The current government does not allow people to utilize their talent and their passion to achieve their dreams.
There is a hindrance in the current regime and there is exclusivity as to who can succeed and who can take part in economic activities and who cannot.
There is a lot of secrecy in the current government such that when there is a tender at the BDF for example, it is only known to a limited few individuals who will be the only ones to tender while ordinary Batswana are left out.
Q: But this is the same government that you represented for so long, while working at the DBS, why feel different now?
That is why I left in the end and pursued another vision of fighting for the rights of the media and freedom of expression.
In a democracy there has to be dialogue as a nation and we must continue a dialogue amongst ourselves, charting and curving the way forward as a nation.
It is very unfortunate that rulers of today want to loath dialogue.
They want to curtail people from expressing themselves.
People are now afraid to hold and share opinions.
Q: The DBS is called the state media, what is your take on that?
That is very wrong in all the ways possible.
It is regressive and out of tune according to international standards, but that is the tragedy we find ourselves in today because freedom of the press and freedom of expression become the first casualty on the way to dictatorship.
Now the current government is trying to silence the people and dictate what information they get through abuse of what is suppose to be a public service media.
They abuse it and turn it into a propaganda machinery and deny the nation an opportunity to get information about what’s happening in their country.
Q: You started live debates at BTV, what’s your take on live parliamentary debates?
That is something that I intend to push and advocate for because one of the things that this country has struggled with is voter apathy.
That’s mainly because people don’t know what parliament is all about and they are not on board in terms of decisions that are taken there.
Live parliamentary debates will give Batswana wherever they are an opportunity to watch their MPs and make an assessment of how they are performing.
Those who are perpetually absent and sleeping buddies in parliament should then face the wrath of voters in the next coming elections.
Q: Now, what should people in Gaborone Central expect from you, while you have not been active in the constituency?
Gaborone Central is a critical constituency in the capital city.
It is the mirror of the capital city and if we want to make Gaborone a world class African city this is the area where we can concentrate.
We have students whose allowance issues come a long way and workers from prisons who have issues of structures on their conditions of work.
There are workers form CTO who have been in limbo since government took a decision to privatize their services.
There is also SHAA and we don’t expect pit latrines in a middle income country but there is a reluctant government which still says to the people, ‘take your money and connect a sewage system’ when we know they don’t have the money.
I am going to advocate for all these things and the Segoditshane river so that it can give Gaborone the heart beat, turn it into something likeable and there are citizens whose proposals of rejuvenating that river have been turned down before.
Q: How can you be trusted when you haven’t quit your job fully to avail yourself to the people?
Noo! We need to appreciate that when you are heading an organization you don’t just pack and go.
You need to do proper handing over.
I am in the process of doing so and will be full time here from the 1st of September, which goes on to show my commitment to the people of Gaborone central.
Q: Do you fancy chances of winning through a sympathy vote from Motswaledi’s followers?
I don’t call it sympathy. Its people continuing to vote for Motswaledi’s vision which I carry and believe in.
I must see to it that it is accomplished.
This is not an issue of sympathising, it’s an issue of sharing a vision for a common course.
Q: You just joined politics at a time where there are allegations of hit list, are you not afraid?
I am more than willing and have made peace with it because one of the things I have learnt from Motswaledi is servitude.
I need to learn to serve and make a difference in the next person’s live and only then will live become meaningful.
If we pursue our own personal gratifications then life will become meaningless because those that need us to hold their hands will have no one and there won’t be anyone to step up to the plate and say here I am.
Thank you very much for the interview. I wish you all the best.
Thank you very much and to the people of Gaborone Central they should expect commitment to their course and I will leave no stone unturned.