Good looking, well spoken, fashionably dressed and fond of the finer things in life, on first glance Kagiso Thutlwe would appear better suited to a career in showbiz rather than politics.
Looks, however, can be deceiving.
On the 5th of December 2014, Thutlwe made history when, at the age of 30, he became Gaborone’s youngest ever Mayor.
At the time, the Botswana National Front (BNF) member called his election ‘a calling from God’, and, with the enthusiasm of youth, he set about implementing his vision of transforming the capital into a safer, cleaner more prosperous place.
Despite an escalation in crime and rising unemployment, re-election followed in 2017 and it seemed the golden boy of Gabs could do no wrong.
However, Thutlwe’s God-fearing image took a hit recently when he was accused of rape by a fellow Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) associate in an incident dating back to 2016.
The Voice’s Francinah Baaitse-Mmana caught up with the under-fire Mayor to discuss his time in office to date and whether the rape allegation had ruined his legacy.
Q. What are your priorities for the city?
My greatest challenge, which we turned into a priority when I occupied the office of the Mayor in 2014, was to see the city being beautified, looking pretty.
We are talking of your western bypass, the cleanliness of the city in general, the roads and electricity.
I don’t believe I could have done it alone.
I believe in the collective and I believe through the support of the city clerk, his officers and my councillors we have been able to do something that is significant within the city of Gaborone.
Q. So are you happy with the current outlook of the city? Do you think it appears attractive to visitors?
I would not say I am absolutely happy, but at least something is being done and that brings smiles to residents of Gaborone city.
Q. Since you took control of the city council, what would you say have been your major achievements?
My major achievement was the issue of road infrastructure through development of roads – that was the greatest crisis as most of our roads had reached their time line and we had to refurbish them.
Not only that, our greatest achievement was to ensure our wards’ internal roads are now all paved, either by bricks or tarred.
When you look at places like Gaborone West Phase 1, Mosekangwetsi to be specific, for a long period of time people have been walking from there to the bus rank on an unpaved road, but as we speak, it has been paved.
You go to places like Maruapula you’ve got nicely lit paved roads and nicely structured streetlights.
You look at western bypass, decorative trees have been planted, giving it a nice look.
Our roundabouts are likable, mostly on holidays, your Christmas and Easter, they are decorated because we have been able to get a partnership with Botswana Prisons who have been decorating them.
Potholes have also been reduced in our major roads. Our CBD was a dark area, but today it is lit.
Our intention is to keep 80 percent of the city to be always illuminated to fight crime.
Q. How have you addressed issues of youth unemployment and other concerns of young people living in the city?
One of the things we are doing as city leadership is that the procurement team have to give young people tenders as a way of fighting unemployment among youth.
Out of 100 contracts given, 60 to 70 of them were given to young people.
We have empowered them with the little funds we have.
Q. You had plans to create a foundation to assist struggling students in continuing their education, what happened to it?
That is true. I believe I have done very well. We have not actually been able to launch yet but we are trying.
We are helping young people. You know they are full of energy, some of them have been kicked out of University for example, but we were able to solicit funds for them so they can go back to school.
Some are working and studying part time and we are helping them.
We may not be putting it out there that we are helping students but as the word of God says, when you give, let the left hand not see what the right hand is giving.
Q. What about your promise to give motivational talks in schools?
I have not yet done that. You know the office of the Mayor’s work is overwhelming, there are a lot of staff on my roadmap and I am still left with a year to achieve my plans.
Q. After taking an HIV test in public in 2015, you were appointed to lead Southern Africa Mayors in the campaign as part of the UN 90-90-90 strategy – how’s that going?
It has been successful and other Mayors have done better than me.
The city of Tshwane, Pretoria in South Africa, Kampala in Uganda, Lusaka, Harare, Lilongwe, they have done very well and I believe I have achieved the said strategy.
Even in Francistown, Mma Muzila is doing well in that regard, encouraging people to test.
Q. Talking of HIV, don’t you think the recent rape allegation levelled against you tainted your achievements and ruined your advocacy efforts?
You said allegations and I should put it categorically clear that I do not wish to comment on the rape allegation – my reason being that the allegation remains exactly that!
Over and above that, let us give a good space to both parties, myself and the complainant.
This is a very sensitive matter, I have released a statement where I clearly stated that I have been advised by my legal team not to make any public comment on this matter, at least for now.
One thing you should know is that I cannot objectively pass judgement to anyone and let us leave it there.
Q. Nevertheless, the matter shook the city to the core and sent social media into a stir. Hasn’t this had a negative bearing on your social status as the father of the city, looking at the fact that you are supposedly an advocate for the protection of human rights?
That is why I called for calm within the city. I still continue to say, I represent the voice of the voiceless.
Q. It’s not the first time you’ve been involved in controversy since taking office. In 2016 you were charged with drunken driving and elected for the case to be heard on camera – care to comment?
I will say one thing, I never elected for the case to be held on camera, that should be clear.
I’ve got no power or authority to determine where my case should be held.
The Magistrate does what she feels fit. I was legally represented and my attorney told me that the hearing of the case in the chambers was a good thing in regards to issues of peace management.
It was an agreement between my attorney, Magistrate and the attorney general’s chambers.
Q. Why should the public send you back to the council after your completion of two terms?
You judge people by what they have achieved. I set myself three or four things I would want to achieve as a Mayor.
Have I not achieved them? One of the things was to advocate for young people, I have done marathon, tournaments, 5-a-sides.
I have done a lot of things, kasi to kasi, I did that. I have achieved the advocacy on getting people to test for HIV.
On infrastructure, I have made the city look better.
So the people of the city know what is best for them, the man who does things with a smile will come again to serve them.
Q. Looking at the recent defections from Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) members to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), do you realistically believe Duma Boko will take the UDC to victory in next year’s general elections?
Comrade Duma Boko has done well since 2010 when he took over leadership of BNF.
He made the party stable and was able to bring together the parties that people thought would never come together, Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Now we have four parties under UDC, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), BNF and BCP.
They are working together for the great betterment of Batswana and I believe comrade President Boko will take us to the promised land, which is not far as it comes in 2019.
Whether two or three have left UDC it doesn’t make any difference. He is like our Moses!