One time Francistown South MP, Vain Mamela of the BCP speaks to Dubani-wa- Dubani about why his apparent excitement about his party going it alone in the next elections instead of joining an opposition coalition has nothing to do with him protecting his candidacy and therefore being self seeking.
Q. You went into parliament for one term and then lost subsequent elections with numbers suggesting without the opposition vote split you would have kept your seat. Don’t you think working with other opposition parties would help you in the next elections?
It would but it has failed. That was the reason our party went into the Umbrella 1 talks. We had hoped that things would work well but they didn’t. We tried our best to save the situation but we couldn’t. With all the compromises that our party made we failed.
Q. Some political observers say the talks failed because of self seeking politicians who are more concerned about getting themselves a council or parliamentary seat than anything else.
That does not make sense because the negotiating teams were not composed of candidates only. For instance in our case the Party Chairman as leader of the team, Dr Bulayani was there but he has never been a candidate. Attorney Busang Manewe and Dr Rasebotsa were on our party’s negotiating team but none of them have ever been a candidate. I do not know what they mean when they say the negotiations failed because of self seeking candidates.
Q. Talk is that you were one those self seeking candidates
I was not in the negotiating team and I am not a member of the executive which made the final decision on the matter. I was never part of the discussions up to until talks collapsed. Those who say I am self seeking are just being malicious.
Q. So personally you would have no problem stepping aside and let somebody else from another party in the opposition stand as Parliamentary Candidate in your constituency?
There was nothing personal. It was about the organization.
Q. What do you think of our constitution as it stands?
It must be reviewed. A lot of reforms have to be done on it.
Q. Is there any specific parts that you feel should be reviewed?
Yes for instance there is need for direct election of the president. There is need for the independence of the IEC. There for a lot of things, minority rights and so forth. Actually the constitution needs an overhaul, a complete overhaul!
Q. Politics is perceived by some as a dirty game. Even President Khama has called it that. Do you also think it’s a dirty game?
I do not know whether it is dirty or is it the players that make it dirty.
Q. Talk is that you are one of those whose language at freedom square has been said by some to be unpalatable.
I do not insult anybody. If anyone feels insulted they have the right to go to the police or to the courts. And you may be aware that when I am addressing rallies there are police officers around recording the proceedings. I do not know what they mean when they say I insult people. In politics there is a prevalent use of analogies and analogies are allowed in politics. People make statements and when they get a response they cry. I cannot insult anybody I am a disciplined person. I do not insult anybody but if somebody misbehaves I manhandle him or her politically.
Q. What does manhandling somebody politically mean then?
Q. So if somebody called you a fool you would also call him that?
I would call him something suitable!
Q. How do you finance your political campaign?
We do fundraising and get donations from party members. Little donations from our members and fund raising have carried us through. It’s very difficult in the opposition but thats how we do it.
Q. Do you not have funds from abroad? We understand you are (The BCP) funded by the British Labour Party.
The British Labour Party has been assisting us technically. When we have workshops they sponsor us. We are not given cash. Not for campaigning.
Q. What do you think of President Khama’s Leadership at the moment?
Q. Bad… can you explain that to us?
He doesn’t consult. He does his own thing. He runs government through friends. All sorts of crazy things.
Q. Can’t you at least acknowledge and point out at least one good thing that Khama has done!
He is wasteful. Look at this Ipelegeng thing!What do you get out of that? Nothing! Spending money! Wasting money!Nothing else! P29 Million. Purchasing Magwinya. He could have used that money for something else!
Q. Something else like………
Even increasing the wages of those poor people who are said to be employed on that thing, that programme or scheme.He could have increased pension wages for the elders, instead of wasting money purchasing Magwinya for people. Now they are talking out buying radios. Two band radios. This is just a total waste.
Q. Most elderly people cannot afford radios……..
There should be a comprehensive social welfare security programme that addresses such misfortunes not ad-hock decisions made almost on impulse and not only for pensioners but for other disadvantaged groups as well. Not some piece meal arrangements!
Q. Some politicians suspect there is a motive behind giving out radios. Do you also think there is a motive behind the move?
He is campaigning. Clearly buying of votes!
Q. Are you interested in sport?
Yes I am. I was a participator during my youth days. Of course I like football.
Q. What do you think of the constituency league programme?
My view is that if there is money, that money should be channeled through the BFA to run proper programmes that will be acceptable to all. This one is an elections campaign programme. It is not sustainable. Come 2014 and beyond and it will disappear. They will come up with something for the next elections.
Q. Now let’s talk about the politician’s social life. There was a lot of noise when president Khama appeared at MP Botsalo Ntuane’s wedding. But should politicians from different parties socialized with each other.
I have no problem with that myself
Q. Would you invite the President to your wedding or any other celebration for example?
He is not my friend. I am not close to him and I never associate with him.
Q. Do you have BDP friends?
I have relatives who are BDP, not friends.
Q. One would wonder why you don’t have a friend in the BDP.
I do not have one currently but I wouldn’t mind to have a friend there.
Q. Sir what do you think of the government’s handling of the current education crises in the country?
I think the entire government including the minister responsible should find a better way of approaching the teachers and the entire educational system to try to involve everybody. There should be a dialogue on education and what it is that we want to achieve. The way they are bulldozing things will not help. Their authoritarian approach says “I am in charge I am the Minister, I am the Director.” It won’t help the situation. We need to involve all stakeholders.
Q. Some parents feel that opposition politicians are supporting the teachers against government at the expense of the plight of the children. What is your comment on that?
We care about the children and we also care about the teachers. That is why we supported the teachers because we want them to be paid such that they can teach without stress and frustrations about poor pay. You can’t have a productive teacher if during class time this teacher is worried about their debts and is poorly paid. Such a teacher cannot be productive.
Q. There is a rising concern about the seemingly rising number of unmarried leaders. The president has been taken to task about that. One would wonder if Mr. Mamela is married.
I am not the president. (laughing) Do not compare me to him. I am just an ordinary man.
Q. But if you become an MP you will no longer be an ordinary citizen. Are you you not married yet?
That is a personal one.
Q. So you won’t answer that one
Q. It seems some councilors and MPs from both ruling party and the opposition are more concerned about the pay cheque than serving those who elected them into those positions. Your comment on that sir.
There are those who do not care and there those who do care. There are Mps and councilors who care about the voter, they visit their electorate and consult with them on issues, table motions and work hard for the good of the voters. I wish it were possible for the electorate to recall any an MP or councilors whose service they are not satisfied with and not have to wait for 5 years to do so.
Q. Which brings us to the issue of floor crossing. The opposition has for some time wanted the law changed so as not allow politicians to take their parliamentary or council seat with them when they cross to another party. Now the BDP has taken up the issue and wants the law changed. What your comment on that.
This time it’s being done for opportunistic reasons. This thing has been there for years and the BDP was refusing to change. I remember in 1975 there was a bill that was presented to parliament by Kwelagobe when he was still Minister of Broadcasting Services and Information. By then the BDP was benefitting. They were receiving councilors and Mps from other parties and they refused to have the law changed. Now that they are at the receiving end they come rushing and say let’s change the law. It is not being done in good faith. Personally I think to avoid this floor crossing we need to change the entire electoral system and may be use proportional representation which would allow parties to recall those who cross to other parties.
Q. The BDP is accused of enticing opposition politicians by offering them money to join them. One would wonder if you have been approached.
No and I do not wish for it to happen. What I know for sure is that they entice people with money making opportunities which are said to be easier to come by if you are a BDP card carrying member. Things such as Tenders, jobs, certain committees at which they are financial benefits. That is how I know they do it.