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My political journey

My political journey
AMBITIOUS: Hon Biggie Butale

With some of the motions he proposes for debate in parliament Member of Parliament for Tati West and Assistant Minister of Investment Trade and Industry Biggie Butale may be mistaken for an opposition party member.

Some of the controversial motions that surprised many included when he challenged the Act on sedition and when he called for the late Gomolemo Motswaledi to be honoured.

The Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana pastor was relatively new to the party when he contested for his constituency, but he managed to defeat BDP heavyweights Peter Ngoma, Farai Bonyongo and Robert Muzila in the party primaries in 2014 and won the general election.

Before he could settle in parliament the youthful Butale stood for the party chairmanship elections and most people thought it was a dangerous ambition.

This week he speaks to The Voice Reporter, Portia Ngwako-Mlilo about political journey.

Q. Good day Hon Butale. You have over the years established a reputation more as a man of the cloth than as a politician.

What inspired you to take to the freedom square and how do you juggle your time between the two vocations?

Growing up, my uncle Chapson Butale as my mentor, I think he had a lot of influence in me joining politics.

I wanted to be a member of parliament for North East just like him. Politicians go to church and do the Lord’s work.

It is very important as God will protect and guide you to make wise decisions and have a positive input in the development of the country.

So I am still a man of God and I make sure I balance the two.

Q. You were not known much in the BDP until you stood for elections, when did you join politics?

I joined politics when I was doing my first year at University of Botswana at the age of 18.

I was part of the team that revived GS 26, Botswana Democratic Party structure at UB with the likes of Botsalo Ntuane and Bolele.

I quit politics when doing forth year to focus more on my studies and I also became born again.

My love for the Lord just over powered everything. It is very strange, I had thought I was done with politics but when I became a Christian, there was a prophesy at church that I will be in the leadership of the country.

He said he saw me at Organization of African Unity. One day I was watching parliament session on television with my 11-year-old daughter who was 5 years then in 2012.

She asked me if I did not want to be an MP. I told her ‘people have to vote for me and I will not be at home most of the time and you will miss me’.

She encouraged me to stand for elections and that she will give me the support.

I had lost my membership card and I went to BDP office to make another one.

In 2013 I stood for the primary elections.

Q. What was people’s response when you first told them you are contesting?

They were saying it was too late and that other candidates have been campaigning and that people do not know me in BDP.

I told them I was ready and I worked extremely hard with my team. I won primaries in early 2014. It was not easy.

I was standing against people who had experience and were better known Iwas in politics.

The first person I recruited was an old lady called MmaEga in Moroka Village I was told she was very influential and she endorsed me.

That was how I got strong hold in that area.

I prayed and God opened doors for me and I believe electorates also trusted that I would be a good leader.

My political journey

Q. When you stood for the party chairmanship some people thought it was a dangerous ambition. Was it not?

I thought I was coming at the right time, the party had not done well in the previous elections and I thought I was the Moses to rescue them.

The funny thing is that I got 20 votes out of a thousand but I had a campaign team comprising of 200 delegates.

The week before we had a retreat in Palapye, I booked 100 rooms in a hotel.

My target was that if one of them could bring two delegates we would still win but instead of getting at least that 200, I got 10% of that.

I do not know what happened, it was a mystery. BDP is a conservative party with its customs and culture.

I was coming in almost against that and they thought I was an upstart and they put me in my place. I think the party lost big time.

Q. You tabled controversial motions challenging the law on sedition and calling for the late Gomolemo Motswaledi to be honoured.
Were you not scared that your opinion could anger the party leadership?

I believe that I am in a democratic party and country. I figured some people might not like the motion but I was not troubled.

Q. We have five women in parliament. What is your take on women empowerment?

Batswana women are very strong but I believe we are not doing enough to empower them.

They can be good leaders and they are capable of doing that.

In the coming elections I will try and encourage as many of them to stand for elections.

Q. You are an advocate for media Freedom. What is your opinion about media freedom in Botswana?

There is media freedom in Botswana. It s just that currently we are having a relationship problems with private media which I think can be sorted.

Personally I believe that there is a perception that private media is out to ensure that BDP loses the next election.

Obviously as the ruling party when we hear that we will try to defend ourselves and that is why there is friction.

Q. Don’t you think the law on access to information is long overdue in this country?

Yes I do and I should think that is on the cards.

Q. Kindly take us by hand through the recent controversy involving Mr Motlhaleemang Moalosi’s proposition for industrial hemp?

For some reason Moalosi believes that I can help the hemp industry to grow in Botswana. Hemp is a close cousin of Marijuana.

It is much closer than oranges and lemons in the genetic code. Some people say if you grow Marijuana in a certain way it becomes hemp.

I am a Christian and I cannot be seen to be encouraging something similar to the illegal thing.

He felt my religion was taking Botswana backward.

Q. Word has it that your ministry banned and eventually lifted the ban on Moalosi’s hemp import permit. How true is that?

I don’t know who banned it but it was not me. I do not have a hand in it and I had no interest in doing that.

Q. Does that mean those who are not Christians should not benefit from the initiative because of your beliefs?

I am Christian and you say I must grow something similar to Motokwane. I really can’t process that.

He can go and grow it but not ask me to help put the seed on the soil.

Q. What is your take on homosexuality?

It is a sin in the eyes of God. In Botswana it is taken as an unnatural act so I am against it.

Q. What is your comment on the recent merger of UDC and BCP?

it is a real threat to hegemony of us as the ruling party. I believe if we up our game we should be able to beat them. It won’t be easy.

Q. Should BDP be worried about this?

Their merger makes them more potent and they are more dangerous as opposed to when they were fragmented.

It calls that we should up our game and if we do not, there might be heart breaks in the next elections.

Q. You were part of the campaign team for Mma Moitoi for AU elections. Where do you think we lost it?

I think we need more resources to compete with our opponents. We need a policy that Batswana who stand for international elections should be funded.

Some companies and individuals did help us with money and it helped.

We have learnt a lot from this and the experience on how you lobby in Africa.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?

I will be spending time with my family, it relaxes me.