Meet Gaborone’s new mayor

Sharon Mathala

This week Gaborone got a new face, and it is not the new zebra crossing or main mall artefacts, the Gaborone City Council (GCC) nominated its new Mayor, Austin Abraham.

Fresh from nomination, The Voice’s Sharon Mathala spoke to new capital city chief.

Congratulations, on your nomination as the mayor of Gaborone, how do you feel?

I am overwhelmed with emotions and congratulatory messages I am receiving from the people.

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I am thankful for my new journey and I am excited for the future as well.

For those who have never heard about you, please introduce yourself?

Born in Ramokgwebana but raised in Gaborone, I grew up in Bontleng until I graduated from the then ATTS now BCET as an Auto Mechanic (NCC) 1998.

I then went for Basic Military Training Course at Pandamatenga as a recruit private Intake 48 of 1999 in No 2 Platoon of Alfa Company.

Upon passing out I went to work at Garrison workshop Francistown specializing in SK 105 and Scorpion light tanks (Armor Section) until I was transferred to Mogoditshane where I was specializing in SK 105,V150 and Piranha still in the armor section until 2006.

Please tell us about your political background?

I joined active politics in 2008 as a member of cell 1, Moselewapula Ward under the tutelage of Former Specially elected Councillor Honourable John Mazabathi Mokandla.

This man taught me a lot with regard to politics, In 2009 I was voted as the Deputy Treasurer of Gaborone West North Branch, and a leading member of Robert Masitara campaign team and we won the constituency.

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I then moved to Gaborone North Constituency where I stood for the Chairmanship of the branch and lost to the current chair, Dominic Gombalume.

I went to contest for the primary elections at Sebele Ward where I was victorious. I was representing the mighty red machine (Botswana Democratic Party) in 2019 (Masisi ware bitsa) elections and garnered 1250 votes, Ae jeke party!

Why did you contest for the mayoral seat?

I was approached by fellow colleagues in council who believed I can lead the council to the next chapter and I agreed.

Furthermore, I want to tackle or improve the process of service delivery, which has been really slow through the years.

What does the office of the mayor mean to you?

It means a lot but mostly working for people and branding the city, just to do what we are getting paid to do (to provide for collection, management and disposal of waste, to maintain public roads and streets and name of all roads and streets within Council area in consultation with the community.

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Meet Gaborone’s new mayor

Moreover, to protect, administer open spaces as well as establishing and maintaining common markets.

In addition the council has to establish and maintain recreational grounds, parks and other public places, manage matimela (stray animals) and other domestic animals and provide social and development services.

What sort of changes can we expect from you during your term?

Our main focus will be service delivery, since the outbreak of Covid-19, things have not been going the way we expected them to go hence we are going to try and speed up service delivery.

Things have not been going well in Gaborone; an example would be a prevalent issue of damaged roads and street lights around the city.

We want to improve that aspect as it of paramount importance.

The capital city has been a target in terms of cash heist and armed robberies, what will be your strategy to reduce this and restore law and order so that the city can became the peaceful place it once was?

I agree with you that Gaborone is now a hub for criminals. I think the most important strategy would be to work together with the community to assist police officers who are sometimes thin on the ground.

The neighbourhood watch initiative which was introduced by the government should be helpful as well but we are going to engage all law enforcing offices to help us make Gaborone a safe place again.

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Some say that Gaborone as the capital of the country needs a face-lift. Do you agree with this?

Our biggest aim for us with regard to that is to make Gaborone a diamond city, but we will have to meet with all informal sector traders to come up with plans of how we can give the city a face-lift.

In your acceptance speech sir, you talked about working with SMMEs to increase economic participation, can you expand on this and how and what you mean by this?

We need to develop and empower informal sector traders as our ambition is to improve the livelihood of Batswana as the outbreak of Covid-19 affected most people.

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Can you share with us your targets and time lines, i.e. what do you hope to achieve and by when?

We aim to alter and maintain public roads and streets, to name all roads and streets within Gaborone City, to provide for collection, management and disposal of waste and maintenance of street lights.

Furthermore we want to make Gaborone a great diamond city hat would be able to attract tourists.

We also want to promote clean environments around the city.

Leading up to your election, there was rather chaos at the Gaborone City council seating, in another seating councillors walked out of the meeting while others were chased out, what do you think led to these deep divisions and how do you intend to keep the house in order going forward?

I will not dwell much on what led to the divisions but I will focus on mapping a way forward so that we become united and stand together as unity is key to success.

Also leading up to your election sir, there was an alleged faction called Janjaweed, were you a part of this faction and why?

I am not aware of any faction called Janjaweed in the mayoral office, however, I have only read about it in the newspapers.

On a lighter note, are you a family man? Tell me more about your family?

I am married to my lovely wife Sesi and we have twin daughters; Pauline and Polinah Tapiwa.

What do you get up to when you are not busy with the GCC duties?

I stay home and listen to my favourite music genre (reggae) Joseph Hill, Culture and Winston Rodney just to mention a few.

Botswana is joining the world to commemorate pride month, your message to the LGTBQi+ community?

We are one family, one community one city one country, one nation. We must respect each other’s sexual choices and freedom of association

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Are you for or against death penalty?

I agree with the death penalty, anybody who take the life of another person does not have the right to live.

Corruption is one of the biggest challenges faced by councils countrywide, how do you intend to deal with this?

Yes, we do agree that corruption is a big challenge in our country; we will engage the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) to help in promoting corruption free city.

We will also look at our policy to see where we have loopholes so that we can close those and curb corrupt activities.

What will you be up to this Friday?

I will be chilling with my family and friends.

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