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Iron lady with a golden heart

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First opposition woman in Parliament prepares to make a difference

I am fulfilled helping people and my life is free of relationship related drama and stress, and that beats having a boyfriend anytime.”

‘If you want something said ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman,’ is a famous line from the Iron Lady of British politics, Margaret Thatcher.

It is a quote a political heavyweight closer to home, Same Bathobakae would agree with.

She is the first woman from the opposition to enter parliament, and as MP for Tlokweng South East is itching to get things done.

From a relatively unknown woman working behind the scenes in the Botswana National Front structures for years, Same rose though the ranks until she made the leap into the national political arena this year.

Voice Editor Emang Bokhutlo spoke to this fierce but friendly woman at her house in Tlokweng a day before her work as the representative of the people was to start in earnest.

Q: When you stood up from your seat to go and be sworn in a few days ago there was laughter in parliament. Tell us what the joke was all about?

Bathobakae: When I went past Tshekedi (Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism) because of my fuller figure he asked: “Are you sure you are not from Serowe?”

We all laughed and then everybody started saying my nickname “Kwankwetla” and I just played along and went “Kwa, Kwa Kwa” with each bold step I took to the podium so we all laughed some more.

Q: So you don’t mind those jokes about your body or do you?

Bathobakae: No, I can take a joke. Besides they can laugh all they want but they will soon find out that certainly my presence in parliament is not a laughing matter.

I am there to represent the interests of those who sent me to parliament and that I shall do just that, jokes or no jokes.

Q: Ok, jokes aside, you are the very first woman from the opposition to win a seat in parliament in a general election. How does that make you feel?

Bathobakae: Hahaha Some BCP supporters are trying to minimise my achievement by giving that tittle to Mma-Hubona, but in case they have forgotten Mma- Hubona won in a bye-election and lost the general election.

She won on a technicality and that is why she lost six months later.

I am the rightful tittle holder of the First Opposition Woman in Parliament.

It’s of course a fulfilling achievement but I am used to being a pacesetter.

They don’t call me Kwankwetla for nothing! (Laughs out Loud) I was the first woman from opposition to chair the South East Council, the first woman from opposition to chair the physical planning committee and the first female Botswana National Front Vice President.

Q: What attracted you to the rough and tumble of politics?

Bathobakae: It was the eloquence of Maitshwarelo Dabutha back in the BNF heydays.

Dabutha who was fondly known as Bombshell would announce a rally and promise to drop a “bombshell.”

First time I heard of the bombshell promise my friends and I were so curious to hear Dabutha’s big revelation that we walked several kilometres from Tlokweng to Broadhurst to listen to him speak.

We were disappointed that there was no bombshell after all, but Dabutha had a good message that got me hooked on the BNF forever.

He talked of how the BNF was advocating for free education and promoted BNF principles so beautifully that they were an irresistible force.

Same-Bathobakae

Q: What are the main problems affecting this area and how are you planning to tackle them?

At the top of my list is the Tlokweng land issue. Gaborone and its greater areas has an acute shortage of land both for residential and commercial purposes.

Batlokwa don’t have land and my priority is to vigorously advocate for the 70/30 land allocation quota system.

I want 70 percent of land in Tlokweng to be reserved for Batlokwa and 30% for outsiders.

And this is not tribalism as some may want to believe, but simply a way for us to preserve our culture, our land and our heritage.

It is also my mission to fight the corruption that is endemic at the South East land-board to make sure that people, especially the unemployed don’t lose their land unnecessarily.

Q: Any specific plans for women?

Women and youth are always at the forefront of my concerns.

I have been assisting these two groups to form income generating syndicates already, but Ill take this a step further and make sure the land board allocate them land to do business.

I will also want the same for street vendors so that council can stop arresting and harassing them for trading at the wrong places.

Q: What qualities do you have that have helped you in your career?

Bathobake: I am focussed and resolute when I set my mind on something. I live and breathe politics and I love people.

I love my supporters and I love interacting and helping them when I can. The people of Tlokweng are my family.

They come to my house and go as and when they please.

Q: For people to be able to come to your home and go as they please, does that rule out marriage?

Bathobakae: Hahahaha – I have no wish for marriage or even for a lover or romantic partner.

I have one grown up daughter who is married with two kids.

I live with my grandchildren and I have three university going children that I have accommodated.

These are my family.

Q: Don’t you feel lonely and long for a companion at times?

You speak like my daughter. Out of concern she sometimes encourages me to give dating a chance, but I am really not interested.

(Tsena Mosadi Tsena!) Shouts a supporter passing by. “Tseeena” she shouts back in the middle of the interview.

You see! I have no time to listen to a man wasting my time with lies about love when I receive and enjoy genuine love from supporters like this one.

When a man tries to interest me in dating I become so impatient.

There’s a better cause to dedicate my life to and be happy.

I am fulfilled helping people and my life is free of relationship related drama and stress, and that beats having a boyfriend anytime.

Q: Don’t you feel a physical need for a partner at all?

Bathobakae: No. Since 1994 I have been on my own and I am 58 now.

Sex is the least of my concerns. My voters come first – besides men find my strength intimidating, and I am not about to dumb myself down to please anyone.

Q: What do you think of the recently ended show of hands case that the BDP just lost in court?

Bathobakae: The Lehenza case was good. I take it that it was some form of political funding for my president Duma Boko since the state now has to pay the defence lawyers costs, and as one of them he will benefit financially.

There’s no more than five women in parliament right now. What is your advice to women out there who might want to go into politics and hopefully make it to parliament?

Bathobakae: Stop believing that women don’t support other women because they do.

But if you believe they don’t, well the likelihood is that you will live your truth and women won’t support you.

Be polite and have a genuine love for people and they will no doubt love you back.

Learn to tell the truth and share what you have, but remember that although a political campaign needs money, one can’t buy votes.