Admirable politician

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando needs no introduction.

The incumbent Gaborone Central legislator is ready to rule. In 2004, he was the BCP’s ‘lone ranger’ in parliament and saw the party growing to seven (7) MPs after the 2009 general elections.

Saleshando has a remarkable track record in politicks and is busy lobbying voters for a third term. He is contesting the elections against the BDP’s Reverend Rupert Hambira, UDC’s Phenyo Butale, and independent candidate Sydney Baitsile also known as DJ Sid.

Saleshando speaks to Chedza Simon, at his residence in Phakalane, about his political crusade.

Q: You are not new to politics and need no introduction. As the incumbent Gaborone Central MP and parliamentary candidate in the 2014 general elections, what can you say?

Yes, I have been in parliament for 10 years and in politics a little longer.

Our politics is getting more interesting.

There are developments that challenged the strength of our political institutions as a country.

Clearly corruption is on the increase and the economy is not doing as expected.

It gets tougher economically before it gets better. Nationwide, there is high failure rate for all schools; the health sector is bleeding and key drugs not easily available in most facilities.

So we are challenged as the leadership to bring out our best.

Not only are the demands on the ruling party but there is a greater expectation on the opposition to come out much more clearly on what an alternative is.

Q: You have been in parliament for two terms. What did you do about the challenges you mentioned?

There are three things you can do as an MP. One is legislation.

I proposed legislation on freedom of information.

We went a long way in coming up with a draft law which MPs across party divide accepted when we took through provisions of this law at a workshop only for them to change their mind in parliament because the ruling party decided to oppose it.

I also tried to push for disclosure of assets and liabilities law which I thought would have gone a long way in reducing the prevalence of corruption.

It’s a pity I failed on two counts because my colleagues did not allow it.

Merafhe stood and said they would not allow me the limelight but would do it at their own convenience.

Q: In parliament you pushed for possibilities to depose the DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi. Was it part of your grand plan to fight corruption?

What we were doing is that there was a lot of information on corrupt activities relating to Isaac Kgosi.

We then circulated a petition that we wanted to deliver on the floor of parliament.

We had collected over 800 signatures from members of the public and on the last day, parliament came up with some standing order and it made it difficult for us to proceed.

That was part and parcel of fighting corruption.

Q: You were very vocal in your first term and took a more docile and laid back position in your second term. Why was that so?

Well, if you look at the record it’s different. It’s just a perception. In the first term I never attempted to present any law.

In the second term I made three attempts which are amendment to the BDF, Police and Prisons Act.

That marked a difference in approach. The perception could have been driven by the fact that I was the only one from my party.

In the second term there were eight of us. Whatever package we had for parliament was not entirely on my shoulders.

There were seven other capable cadres among them Aaron Bagalatia, Kentse Rammidi and Gilson Saleshando who presented motions.

We achieved much more; I was not a lone ranger.

Maybe people miss the days of a lone ranger but those are gone.

Q: Why as the BCP President did you decide to split the votes and not join the umbrella?

First of all we have a track record on issues of cooperating with other parties.

I don’t think the Umbrella issue should run ahead of our record.

If you look at the BCP we have Botswana Alliance Movement; Social Democratic Party; Botswana Progress Union which was in Nkange; MELS and NDF.

Surely six parties being more coercive makes sense than three parties.

If anyone is looking for a party that presents a coercive united front of different formations, that’s the BCP.

We had our own differences with the UDC. First of all it was the issue of incumbency; look at what it did in Tonota.

Had we joined that maybe BDP opportunists would have jumped the fence and our people would have rebelled.

Secondly, we started negotiation in 2011 and by the end we had not reached an agreement.

We suggested we try other models. But they refused. We are now in 2014- do you know the symbol for the Umbrella.

There are so many symbols.

Q: Is there a possibility of reuniting and forming a coalition in the future?

Certainly, well we said where we are not contesting our members will vote for the UDC.

But they are refusing to support us where they are not contesting. Who are they supporting?

The only possibility is that they are supporting the BDP. We have said should there be a hung parliament we will cooperate with the UDC but they are unable to make the same commitment. Why?

Is it because their president met Khama and claims to have been talking about government of national unity when Khama says he wanted to join them?

The truth is between the lines. Those who are saying the Umbrella is fighting the BDP may be wrong.

Q: Some say the BCP is green outside and red inside like a watermelon hence the nickname Legapu. Perception out there is rife that you are also aligned to the BDP?

Well I’m talking about facts on the table. There were two secret meetings between Boko and Khama.

Had the BDP not exposed the meetings, Boko would have kept quiet. I have never had secret meetings with Khama.

I met him as Leader of Opposition. The day I met him I made a press release that I met him and these are the issues we discussed.

Others claim I have business transactions with the BDP but no one can name a company and say I am in partnership with the BDP.

Even if I know how to hide companies can I do it better than DIS head whose companies we all know? Why can’t people name one such company?

Q: Let’s get to your constituency. Why should you be voted back into office?

I have a track record. In terms of infrastructure, Gaborone Central is ahead of most constituencies.

When I got in, we found too many households using pit latrines in the centre of town and that’s a campaign I made in the first term. I pushed aggressively.

Akanyang Magama, the then Gaborone South MP was also pushing hard. As I speak the infrastructure has been put up.

Gaborone did not also have a regional hospital but only a referral hospital. As I conclude my second term, we are about to have a regional hospital in UB.

I have been absolved. Other plans have been impossible such as in Maruapula where they needed a clinic.

The Health Minister addressed them and the project has been shelved.

Q: The UB students are saying you have failed them in terms of allowances and most of their concerns. What do you say to that?

That’s not true because in 1998 the allowances were slashed by the Ministry of Education and this accusation comes from the BDP which is responsible for slashing allowances because of shortage of funds at the time.

There are records where we have been saying go back on the issue. In fact, Bagalatia whom we designated as a lead person on Education has presented a motion for allowances to be revised upwards.

That motion succeeded and what can I do as an MP. There are other things I did for UB students.

In some instances I have talked to colleagues who are lawyers to represent the SRC in court for free. What more can I have done to help?

You seem not to have a strong competition following the demise of Gomolemo Motswaledi..After his passing on, you kept quiet and seemed not to have been shaken or affected like other people. Why was that so?

If people were asking me to cry more than the bereaved family and hope to get votes out of it, no!

If I were to cry people would say crocodile tears. If I were not to cry, people would say I was celebrating.

I don’t want to have a running commentary on Motswaledi’s death.

He may have been a public figure but at the end of the day he has a family and out of respect they must be allowed to mourn privately.

The day I pass on, I don’t think it would be in the best interest of my wife, siblings, parents and children for them to be a 100 days commentary on newspapers on so and so killed him, so and so is happy, so and so must have done that.

They need closure and that’s what they pleaded at the funeral especially Gomolemo’s father.

That’s why I don’t want to make a running commentary.

Q: If you had respect for that, why did you walk out then?

I gave reasons because the environment was not conducive for my continued stay.

Maybe I could have stayed there and people clapping hands that even in the face of hostility he sat down but the programme may have been disrupted.

I think the family appreciates what I did.

Q: Do you now see a strong competition in Gaborone Central after his demise?

Yes there always has been. It’s mainly on the basis of the parties that have been there.

The first step is the foundation of the party. If you look at BDP’s numbers in the last elections, she almost pulled the same numbers as Mma Nasha.

I know I am still facing the party that came second when I won in 2004 and in 2009.

Q: Is the UDC a threat?

I don’t know why they would be a threat when they do not have a base in Gaborone Central.

I have never known them to have a base in Gaborone Central. The UDC base in Gaborone Central is the BNF.

I came out with over 6000 votes in the last elections and the BNF came out with less than 2000.

So you need not put your eyes on the noisiest competitor. I am putting my eyes on the ball and I know who the strongest competitor is.

There is of course a very noisiest competitor and noise does not translate to votes.

Q: If voted back into office, where are you taking Gaborone Central?

People here don’t need basic infrastructure. We still need to deal with SHAA areas which have roads that are not tarred.

They are an eye sore. We need to reposition Gaborone Central also to become a centre of the city and an attraction to tourists.

Take the Mma Ramotswe book series. It remains untapped for people who have read the book but they ask where is Zebras street which features in the movie.

No one knows about it. There are also issues of entertainment.

Less than 10 years ago I was passionate about having a nice time on Fridays but government wants to close this off.

There is also the issue of education. Some of the oldest public schools are performing badly like GSS where Kwelagobe and Mma Nasha schooled.

The school is registering a pass rate of 40% while just across Maruapula is producing a pass rate of 90%.

Q: What best describes you as a parliamentary candidate?

I am very passionate and apply principle. I have clear basic un-negotiable positions in politics.

Policies must address social justice and create opportunities to move up the economic ladder.

Q: Any parting shot?

A lot has been done and I am still working hard to change this country.

Thank you very much sir.

You are welcome.

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