PHIKWE WEST MP ASPIRANT
Dithapelo Keorapetse, a Political Science and Public Administration lecturer at UB (the University of Botswana) since 2008 will be contesting for a Parliamentary seat under BCP (Botswana Congress Party) in Selebi-Phikwe West Constituency.
The BCPYL (Botswana Congress Party Youth League) President is also a board member on a number of committees; Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), University of Botswana Academic and Senior Support Staff Union (UBASSSU) and the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions.
He also served as an Assistant Anti-Corruption Officer (Corruption Prevention) (DCEC) 2007-2008. The Voice Reporter Daniel Chida spent time with the determined candidate to hear what he has for the voters.
Q: Welcome to Politically Speaking, before we start there was a time when you were addressed as Dr. but the tag was later dropped. Can you clarify that for our readers and those you are contesting against?
People, including some in the media, assume that all university lecturers have doctoral degrees or are professors. The mistake started with BTV journalists but I insisted they correct it. It may also be an indication that I am due for an honorary PhD.
Q: When and how did you end up in politics?
It was inevitable growing up in the mining town of Selebi-Phikwe. My father allowed me to sit and listen to discussions he had with his friends about labour and political issues. I heard about the heroism of Ditiro Saleshando as a unionist and Gilson Saleshando and Kenneth Koma as politicians. I was in the debating team at Meepong CJSS and Selebi-Phikwe Secondary School and I grew politically. I became active in the BCP in 1999 but couldn’t vote because I was only 17-years-old. Most people who saw me growing up (teachers, neighbours and relatives) are not surprised that I became a politician.
Q: You are coming up against Opelo Makhandlela, a former Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and a businessman in Moeti Mohwasa how do you fancy your chances?
I grew up in Selebi-Phikwe around the BCL area because my father worked there for 35 years and therefore I resonate well with the masses in our town. I am young, vibrant and BCP and that is exactly what Phikwe needs. Politically and in some aspects such as civic activism, trade unionism and human rights advocacy I am more experienced than the BDP candidate. As for the UDC or BNF, I only know that BNF died in 1998 in Phikwe and no one can resurrect it – ask Otsweletse Moupo. The unending court cases have made things worse for the Umbrella (UDC).
Q: Which of the two do you regard as a threat and why?
Honestly? Neither one. But the BDP is not to be taken lightly; it has resources including vehicles, money and other incumbent advantages such as the abuse of the media. It has already started buying voters with food and alcohol. However, the people of this town are tired of the BDP and no amount of food or alcohol can change their minds.
Q: How is the campaign going? Given that you have to travel a long way from your work in Gaborone?
It is a challenge for many candidates, not only me. Fortunately I have a team of dedicated campaigners and volunteers. We have a way of mitigating that and I can’t divulge the information.
Q: The majority of BCP candidates are based in Gaborone whilst they campaign far, for example, Nevah Tshabang in Nkange, Taolo Lucas in Bobirwa and you too; don’t you have quality candidates around?
You can’t blame us for our quest to develop our home areas and not Gaborone. Skewed development has compelled many people to work in Gaborone and other urban areas. The message we are communicating is that we are not and never have been attached to Gaborone except for work. If the second university was in, for instance, Phikwe as experts advised the government I would probably be working there. Whilst you in the media and elsewhere see us as people of Gaborone, the masses who raised us know very well that we went to Gaborone for school and employment only and that is why I won primaries and I will win Phikwe-West.
Q: Since you are taking Gil Saleshando’s constituency one would expect him to assist you in the campaign but he is busy helping those campaigning in Maun West, why?
Who said he is not assisting us in Phikwe? Remember he is a party elder and he is needed by the party not just in Phikwe but across the whole country. I can assure you that his assistance here is immeasurable.
Q: Did you get his blessing?
Yes! He groomed me in the party; I am his student and disciple.
Q: Tell us more about the BCP Youth League (BCPYL).
The youth league under my leadership has been active in representing the youth voice in the party. We are expecting the party to infuse affirmative action into the party constitution in July. We have held the BDP and government accountable on many issues and have been the most vocal against youth unemployment and underemployment, corruption and non-accountability.
Q: You have been made a Shadow Minister of Youth and Sports, how did that come about?
Ask BCP President Dumelang Saleshando; it was his sole prerogative. I am however, humbled, honoured and deeply moved by the recognition.
Q: Is it the Ministry you wanted to shadow as a Political Science lecturer?
If you are deployed as a cadre of the movement you serve with honour and distinction. It is not about what you want as an individual but about your ability and the recognition by the party that you are capable.
Q: If you made it into government what would you do as Minister of Youth and Sports?
If I am called to serve in that capacity I would develop sports through public and private sports academies and introduce a competitive schools league in all sporting codes to identify and nurture talent at early stages; professionalise sports through grants to premier league and first division teams and attract investment and sponsorship through the enactment of a corporate social responsibility law and evenly build sporting and recreational infrastructure (stadia and facilities) to create a conducive environment for competitive sports and recreational activities.
Q: Back to your Constituency, what developments do you want to bring in?
I will advocate for diversification of the town’s economy through copper and nickel beneficiation, mining tourism, agriculture and services for job creation for the youth; the expansion of the Selebi-Phikwe Technical College, the upgrading of the airport, hospital and the stadium; the establishment of an Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs manufacturing plant promised by President Ian Khama in 2009. I will speak for the welfare of BCL (Bamangwato Concession Limited) mine workers such as advocating for a minimum wage for mine workers and medical aid for retired miners; I’ll advocate for the welfare of soldiers in the Eastern Military Garrison, police officers, teachers, nurses and civil servants at government departments and Selebi-Phikwe Town Council.
Q: How do you intend to achieve it looking at the fact that government always complain of lack of funds?
There is a lot of money in Botswana and what is needed is its prudent management. It is just that government priorities are misplaced; they waste a lot of money in projects such as the Palapye Glass Project, Morupule B, BMC etc. They buy arms of war when we are thirsty and illuminate with candles, and worse they steal our money to build personal airstrips.
Q: What compelled you to run for Selebi-Phikwe West constituency?
Phikwe is my home and I want to play a meaningful role in its development and resurrection. Without urgent political intervention the town will become a ghost town at the end of mining activity like Kolmaskop or Pomona in Namibia. Many residents are in a state of despair because of poverty, unemployment and underemployment, slave wages paid by the BCL mine and other employers, dilapidated schools and poor infrastructural development. It is against this backdrop that I am running for this constituency.
Q: You were once criticised for taking sides while employed by a local publication, what is your advice to Journalists who want to be active in politics?
I have been in the media industry for over 13 years as a freelance reporter and columnist and a consultant. The criticism came from one political party whose spin-doctor owned a publication which was extremely biased and was used to fight intra-party wars. Journalists must do their work without fear or favour and adhere to journalistic ethical principles of objectivity.
Thanks for your time, Sir.
You are welcome.