The Kanye North Member of Parliament, Kentse Rammidi believes that his new political home, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has what it takes to beat both th BDP and the Umbrella for Democractic Change to win the coming by-election in Sebele ward in Gaborone .
Rammidi is also of the opinion that there is a lot of rot going on in various Landboards across the country. In an effort to unearth the truth Rammidi will be bringing a land audit motion to parliament at the next seating which starts in November.
Q. A by-election is coming up in Sebele ward in Gaborone. Do you think BCP stands a better chance?
It will be my first time to go there on Sunday. But what I can gather from my comrades is that they are working hard to try and win the ward so I don’t have the current feed back of what is going on there. But I believe the party is focused and it has what it takes to win that ward.
Q. BCP is not strong in Kanye and people are wondering how you will fare if you were to stand for the 2014 general elections there?
I am not concerned about the next general elections. I am concerned about principle, policies, what BCP stands for against what the current BDP stands for and I believe that yeah, you could not talk of the BCP being strong in Kanye unless someone is cultivating that and I believe that between now and 2014, it is the right time to activate the existence of BCP in Kanye and probably spell what it stands for, for the people of Kanye.
Q. Is it true that you are likely to be deployed in one of Gaborone constituencies in 2014?
Look, we operate as a team. We get deployed looking at our strengths and weaknesses. We are just like a football team where a coach will pick the best team to win games. Like I am saying, my focus is on cultivating BCP being there in the Southern District and my constituency, Kanye North. In fact sometimes towards the end of October, we are going to have a huge rally in Kanye to introduce the party to the people.
Q. From what I gathered from your pervious debates, you are a strong believer in opposition unity. How did you end up with BCP when it is not in cooperation with other parties?
You have to understand what led to the BCP not working with any other political parties. After the collapse of Umbrella I, I thought it was logical for party leaders to go back to the people and get a fresh mandate. The BCP took that route and it was quite disappointing that the other three parties could not be patient enough to say, “Let us go and consult the people as well and get their say.” Even the BNF youth had stated that Umbrella II would not bear any fruits. I believe that opposition unity should not come in as a catalyst of breaking a party. It was so unfortunate that the opposition talks ended up being a detriment to BNF. I think the leadership handled the whole thing the wrong way. The BNF central committee disintegrated and I believe many staunch BNF members are sitting at their homes and confused over the whole saga.
Q. Are you suggesting that BNF is confused?
There is a lot of confusion in the BNF but you know what? Once this confusion clears and the BNF takes position about how far they want to go with the Umbrella, there will be room for the BNF and BCP to talk. It might not be in the Umbrella model but any other cooperation model like pact. The bottom line in Botswana politics is that, it has to be BNF plus BCP. Anything else will not bring the desired results.
Q. What about the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)?
Look, you measure the party by the number of people it brings to the table. In terms of numbers, we have no historical evidence of how much BMD is bringing to the opposition ranks. We had expected a lot at the Francistown’s Monarch West by-elections because the BMD was set to be a candidate. They said they had great following in that area. Even when they were not a candidate one would have expected the numbers that voted their Umbrella partner, BPP (Botswana People’s Party) going up and the BDP numbers dropping because they always claim to have brought people from the BDP. These two did not happen. I am not saying BMD should not be a player in opposition politics but I don’t think we should overrate what they are bringing to the table. Maybe they will grow as a party, but let us measure them up to what they can deliver now. We only know of its leadership who have rejoined the BDP, but we don’t know of the masses who have since moved back to the BDP.
Q. Yes the BDP has numbers and they continue to upset the opposition even in parliamentary debates where they use their numbers to kill bills brought in by opposition Mps like they did with the access of information bill.
One of the things that made me leave BDP is that I believe in principle and vision 2016 and I don’t think the current administration is committed to the aspirants of vision 2016, especially one on being open, democratic and a prosperous nation. The government does not want freedom of information and at the same time they do not want the public broadcaster to be licensed like any other broadcaster. We know what it means to us. It means instead of the BDP hanging us, it has given us a rope to hang ourselves and that is the most painful part. When somebody gives you a rope to hang yourself, it means with the issue of licensing, we can go to some authorities and complain that BTV for instance has been giving this amount of coverage to so and so and we demand the same. Now taking away the requirements of licensing you can give BDP all the coverage and we cannot complain about it. These are issues that come to play. Without regulations, in terms of business, when a commercial station such as RB2, which uses public purse is not regulated, it competes with other private stations, in terms of doing business and at the end of the day, I feel it is a way of trying to shut down private stations. You can only get freedom of information through a government that believes in transparency, growing democracy and in open society. I doubt if the Minister of Presidential Affairs will bring the bill to the floor of Parliament like he has promised. Look, we talked about the declaration of assets bill and the then Minister, Lesego Motsumi said the government has drawn the bill and it would be brought to Parliament. Nobody is talking about it anymore.
Q. Our government is feared to be planning to host an AFRICOM base, something which has caused quite a stir in the region. What is your comment on that?
I don’t have lot of information on that development. I just read in the papers about that, but hopefully at the beginning of the November Parliament, the Minister would brief the Parliament on those developments. I believe that whatever cooperation we are going into with the Americans, I think it should be in the best interest of this nation and obviously enhancing good neighbourhood.
Q. But Botswana is often viewed to often diagree with other countries in region. What do you think are the consequences of such an attitude?
It is okay to say it as it is. The problem with Africans is that they never want to tell their fellow Africans that this is right or this is not. But I believe that you must balance that with doing so following certain protocols. You cannot have some people making certain pronouncements. That is why the Ministry of Agriculture is not allowing the former CEO of Botswana Meat Commission to talk even though they know he has the right to talk. Before making pronouncements at times it is important for our government to consult and where there is need, collaborate with our neighbours so that we don’t seem to be talking at tangent with what the rest of the region is saying. At the end of the day, no matter how we seem to be the good guys, we must not also jeopardise our own peace within the region. We must be careful because like they say, when you live in a glass house, you don’ throw stones. Are we the ones to cast the first stone? You can ask those who have been sent outside to attend workshops on government’s behalf, sometimes you find yourself isolated in terms of thinking because some countries think that Botswana is not one of them, which I think is not good for the nation.
Q. Lastly, Mr Rammidi, what is your take on the illegal squatters. There has been an outcry throughout the country as Landboards demolish peoples houses.
I am facing the same predicament in my constituency at Goora-Seno settlement. I don’t understand the government and the Landboard’s description of squatting. There is squatting in a true sense that you can see that these people are squatting like in the case of Ramadeluka in Jwaneng. But there is a government policy on settlements, which states that for a settlement to be recognized as a village, there should be 500 inhabitants in that area. It means that, before that place is recognized as a village the Landboard cannot allocate residential land in that area. So this policy recognizes the principles of natural growth and that is how all the villages were founded. All these places that the Landboard don’t recognise, have been recognised by the government evidenced by clinics and schools in those areas. The most unfortunate thing is that these things always happen to the people who are poor, illiterate who cannot access the courts and do not understand what a summons is all about. The poor people are at the mercy of what the Landboard say. Look at what happened to the Molapo crossing commission and River walk. The malls could not be demolished because the owners have Pula power.
Q. Are you advocating for squatting?
I am not advocating for squatting, but if somebody stays in their grandparents yard, let them be. Where is the social aspect of government that instead of dragging these people to court they can access and find the best way to address the problem. It is not like these settlements mushroom overnight.
Q. You were in the Southern District Council for a long time before you came to Parliament and I would think that the Landboard worked hand in hand with the Councils?
I’l tell you particularly about the Ngwaketse Landboard versus Goo-Seno. They said the place was demarcated for Agricultural use only. The Council resolved that it would extend the boundaries of Kanye village to include Goo-Seno. But the Landboard ignored the resolution. In planning areas such as Kanye, it is the Council that is supposed to direct the Landboard, but it is not the case. It appears even the Ministry of Lands is failing to control the Landboards. I think the Landboards have to much powers. We need a land audit because I think there is a lot of rot going on and I will be presenting the motion in the next session of Parliament.