Campaign for this year’s General Elections in Ngami constituency is heating up as the count down to October begins.
CARTER KAINANGURA HIKUAMA of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is facing an uphill battle against the incumbent Member of Parliament, who is also a cabinet minister, Thato Kwerepe of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to represent Ngami people in the 2019-2024 legislative house.
In this interview, the 49-year old retired schoolteacher, who is a first time contender for parliamentary candidacy Hikuama, tells Voice reporter, FRANCINAH BAAITSE-MMANA about his mission.
Five months to D- Day, How is the campaign going?
I am very hopeful. Our campaign is going well.
We have managed to touch all bases in the constituency and all the wards and the response from voters is promising.
In fact there is goodwill towards our campaign. That on its own is a good indicator that we may win the constituency, more so that even our support base as a party is solid, there are no misgivings amongst ourselves, it gives me hope that we are working as a team.
If you look at our campaign; the way we have rolled it, we have organised, we came together as Parliamentary and council candidates, we are moving around as a team and that gives us strength and even the people understand us much better.
What motivated you to contest?
I was motivated by problems facing our constituency. I have long observed that our constituency lack effective representatives.
BDP MPs have represented this constituency in the past seem to lack interest to speak for our people and advocate for positive change.
Take a constituency like Ngami for example, which has a lot of potential in the tourism industry and then you wonder why their representatives in parliament don’t advocate for locals to benefit from such an opportunity.
There are also challenges such as Foot and mouth disease that is killing the people’s cattle, and you don’t hear our MPs talk about those.
I have personally experienced such challenges and I feel that feel our political representatives are not doing enough to address these issues.
The main source of livelihood for our people is cattle ranching and if you kill such industry, you destroy their lives completely and reduce them to paupers.
Where are these BDP MPs going wrong in your opinion?
There is a difference between having a representative and a spokesperson. I believe that all the BDP representatives are spokespersons.
They don’t share our problems. For instance, our current parliamentarian, my elder brother Kwerepe does not live the lives of Ngami, his cattle posts are in the central district, so the challenges facing his constituents do not affect him directly, but rather through association with relatives.
He does not feel our pain and in that way, he cannot be a good representative for the constituency.
But didn’t the same people you are making reference to vote him in?
Yes, they have voted for him. People are influenced by different factors to vote.
Mind you, Kwerepe is the son of the former area member of Parliament, Gaerolwe Kwerepe. He rode on his father’s name to victory.
He is a son to a once popular MP, who was loved by everybody in the area. Kwerepe Senior was a social activist who was close to everybody in the constituency.
At personal level, he was a friend to just about everybody.
That gave the incumbent leverage over everybody who stood against him in the last general elections.
Has that changed?
I don’t think today he can successfully ride on his father’s name because people now know him for who he really is.
Of course it can have an impact, but we are trying to dilute that by making people understand that what they need from leadership is not history, but rather a calibre of a representative who can speak about their challenges and help them find ways to solve their problems.
We are teaching our electorates to vote for people who will bring them hope.
What is the most vital need for Ngami people?
Our constituency needs a lot of things right now, but what is troubling the people the most is poverty and lack of employment.
Poverty is high in this area; even statistics from Statistics Botswana indicate that.
What we have to work on now is how we can reduce poverty in the area and the answer is creation of jobs and eradication of Foot and Mouth Disease.
There is human/wildlife conflict in our area that is a stumbling block and preventing the people from farming because their crops, water storage tanks and boreholes are often destroyed by elephants.
What needs to be done is to reduce human-wildlife conflict in Ngami by way of professional culling and allowing hunting because hunting is a way of managing and controlling wildlife.
We conserve to sustain human life, not for leisure. We are advocating for the re-introduction of hunting.
BDP president, Mokgweetsi Masisi is advocating for the same. He promises to lift hunting ban and allow culling of elephants. Would you therefore say he is thinking along the right path?
If the president really means what he is saying and he is not only pulling a political stunt and simply relishing rhetoric to win elections, then it would be a good step in the right direction. He should implement his ideas and not make empty promises.
Only those waiting to rule can make promises. He should move beyond promises, we want to see tangible results, so we can make sense of his words.
Recently you were calling on Masisi to make changes to the country’s constitution if he wants to bring positive change. Would you care to explain more and clarify your statement?
I was talking about discrimination laws, which are enshrined in our constitution.
The constitution has institutionalised tribalism; it has divided the country along tribal lines.
Generally Batswana are not tribalistic, but at the level of law, the country is.
Regions have been named after certain tribes.
If you look at ethnic groups in our area, in the North West alone, there are over 34 tribes, but the constitution recognises one tribe in North West, Batawana, out of these many tribes.
This alone is discrimination and legalises tribalism because the tribe that is given recognition over others feels that it is the superior enough to be the only one that can call all shots for other tribes.
History tells us that under the protectorate of Britain, every tribe was recognised, but things changed when BDP (the Bechuanaland Democratic Party) took power in 1966.
It forced people through its assimilation policy, which now I feel is an outdated policy, it has failed and they should now revert to modern thinking that can work and recognize and embrace diversity.
You once complained about Masisi’s comment regarding some tribes feeling more superior to others. Are you not contradicting yourself?
Remember that was at the climax of the conflict between him and Khama (former president).
He said so because he believed that Bangwato think they are superior than any other tribe, because he was talking about people who were pushing Venson-Moitoi to challenge him for presidency.
He was singling out Bangwato, which is not the case; the problem is tribalism is enshrined within the law.
As the president, he should rise above those trivial statements and find a remedy to that fault which was created by their predecessors.
You are an active member of Re teng, a group that advocates for ethnic group’s rights. Don’t you fear this could taint your campaign and you may be misconstrued to be tribalistic?
It is true. Orientation of people makes them formulate certain perceptions, which they turn to believe in.
Today when I communicate with my mother language, Banderu, people may think I am being tribalistic.
That is what we have been taught to believe. Our curriculum has taught them that the only person who is not tribalistic is the one who speaks Setswana.
When you say I am not a Mokgatla, but Mobanderu, you are perceived to be tribalistic.
That is the orientation we have been given and we should fight as a nation to break that stigma so we can respect people and treat them as equals regardless of their tribes.
If you were to be a president for a day, what would you do?
The first thing would be to call for a constitutional review. The constitution is the source of our evil.
All the social evils that you find in this country are due to our constitution.
Why do you think the ruling party is so reluctant to review the constitution, which seems to be a stumbling block for our development?
It has benefited them as the ruling party. They have created power around the recognised authorities.
They use these tribal areas as their mobilisation structures. Don’t take these things on face value.
They have organised them in such a way that the kgotla set up is used politically to their advantage.
You will be told politics are reserved for freedom squares, not the kgotla, but a Minister who is a ruling party politician will be explaining a political policy in the kgotla platform.
They kept this status quo to control people because they know if people can be free and self-reliant, they BDP would lose power.
What is your idea of an ideal kgotla set up?
We think kgotla should be neutral place for all the people, not ascribed to a certain tribe, for instance, the main kgotla in Maun, should not be called a Batawana kgotla, but rather a Maun kgotla because it caters for all the tribes in this area.
We should have court presidents as it is done in towns.
Other tribes should be allowed to have their own Paramount Chiefs.