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I didn’t chicken out

I didn't chicken out

Since becoming a specially-elected councillor in 2014, Andy Boatile was widely touted as the next Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) candidate for Francistown South.

However, when the moment to put up his hand finally came earlier this year, the former BDP Youth League Chairperson recoiled into his shell – a move that had many writing him off politically.

Fast forward a few months and Boatile has resurfaced in his home village of Tonota where he’ll be contesting for a council seat.

In this interview with The Voice’s Kabelo Dipholo, he clears the lingering questions about his sudden disappearance from Francistown South and touches on his relationship with deposed Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe.

Q. There are allegations that the reason you did not stand in Francistown South was because you were scared of incumbent Winter Mmolotsi of the Alliance for Progressives. Is it true that you chickened out?

Not at all! It is true that initially I had interest in Francistown South and I harboured ambitions of campaigning for a parliamentary seat in the constituency.

However, after soul searching and evaluation of the constituency and watching the political trends, I thought it would be unwise to stand in the constituency.

Q. So you realised that your chances of winning were slim?

Not really. I simply felt I needed a different route to serve politically than campaigning to be an MP in Francistown.

One of the reasons was that I felt I never knew what it took to be a councillor voted in by the people.

I was a nominated councillor, and if you know my track record I believe in taking baby steps to rise to the top.

It started from GS26 where I later became the SRC Vice President.

I’d then take my first job as a Political Assistant at Tsholetsa House and later a Treasurer at Botswana National Youth Centre.

I rose to become BDPYL Chairperson, which earned me a nomination to Council.

Q. Why did you relocate to Tonota?

It was the most logical thing to do. I was born and bred in Tonota and I’m better known there than in Francistown.

I decided that it’d be wise to serve as a political representative in my home village where the people would relate with me better.

I also have to state that initially my special nomination was supposed to be in Tonota, but I couldn’t make it and Francistown, being the closest to Tonota, I was therefore nominated in the second capital instead.

Q. There’s a belief that Tonota MP Thapelo Olopeng influenced you to relocate as he intends to groom you to take after him when he quits?

There’s absolutely no truth in that. I respect my MP, we have a very cordial relationship but he had no influence on my decision to come back home.

It is not a secret that I’m an ambitious politician but it is too early for me to be talking about taking over from anyone.

Q. What have you achieved in your five years as a specially elected councillor?

I have achieved a lot. I came up with a motion to turn Francistown into an educational hub which was adopted by the house.

This motion received overwhelming support from other councillors, both from the ruling party and opposition.

I also moved that Council and local authority should support local businesses.

I moved that bottled water served at the council chambers should be sourced from a Francistown supplier for as long as they comply with the Botswana Qualifications Authority standards.

Q. You are now a village boy. What differences can you draw between village and city politics?

Village politics are more people centred. It is all about bettering the living standards of the people and the village itself.

There are two key things you find in the village. The first is consultation.

It starts from cell to ward levels, and everyone feels they are a part of whatever decision is being taken about their lives or the village.

One thing you have to quickly understand is that being a leader does not mean you are smarter than the people you lead!

The other thing people in the village want is authenticity; they want the real you. In the city it’s more of ‘mind your own business’.

Q. What are BDP’s chances in 2019?

There’s still no alternative. With the state the opposition is in, Batswana will never hand power to unstable organisations.

Our secret at the BDP is we can agree to disagree. You don’t have to like me to vote for me, we vote for and protect our party.

Q. Lastly, you have an intriguing relationship with former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. Are you friends?

I treat him more like a father. I first met him in 2014 at Victoria Falls and he’s always had a soft spot for me.

Even when we got invited to Zimbabwe as Youth League leaders he always found a moment to chat me up.

It became even easier because I became friends with his elder son.

Away from politics he’s a caring and very humble human being!