HAPPY: Rammidi

Says opposition should avoid at all cost to split the votes.
As the 2014 general elections approach, politicians are earnestly campaigning and some politicians like Kentse Rammidi, Kanye North member of Parliament who feared that his former political home, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was not honoring its promise jumped ship.
Rammidi, who is also the BDP former Secretary General recently joined the Botswana National Front (BNF) after being an independent MP for months. He talks to Francinah Baaitse about his move and his hopes for the future.

Many people thought you would join the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) since it is a splinter party from the BDP and you probably share a common ideology, why did you decide to chose BNF as your politica home?.
If you recall, I stayed for some time without joining any party and I silently studied all the parties, the ambitions, what they want to achieve and I consulted widely in my constituency on which party to join. But there were a lot of people in my constituency who were pointing at the BNF and that was not surprising because in my village there are two major parties, the BNF and the BDP. Other than the two I am not sure of the existence of any other party.

Does it mean then that by joining BNF, you were weighing chances of you winning and safeguarding your political career?
I was encouraged by the fact that opposition parties are working on an umbrella. I also had a consideration and interest to take a decision that would not complicate issues of the umbrella negotiations.  But in the long run, my belief is that whether I had joined any of the opposition parties, if this umbrella works, I was going to be under one formation and so I would still be part of those parties.

In the event the Umbrella fails as it is feared it might, do you have plan B?
Well I am not privy to the negotiations but I believe that nobody has ever expected these negotiations to be easy but this is the time that they would have to provide leadership because they would truly be tested when there are difficulties.
The opposition has realized that they have no alternative but to go to the next general elections united, whether it would be in the form of umbrella or pact, what they have to avoid at all cost is to split the votes.

Where do you see Botswana in 2014, under the BDP rule or opposition?
Look, if opposition could work together as a team in the next general elections, I have no doubt in my mind that BDP would lose the next elections. The new way in which the BDP is being run has really weakened it. I will give you an example. In the past elections, BDP was more worried about more people wanting to be candidates, but I can count ten constituencies that the BDP of today either do not have a potential candidate or any strong character to field.

But still, the BDP has loyal voters especially in the villages. Isn’t that a threat to the opposition?
In the villages that I go to, there is undercurrent discontent among the people. Previously the BDP had a very strong hold of elderly people because such voters are very loyal, but the voter of today is more concerned about bread and butter issues and the future. If a ruling party goes to war with its own employees it does that at its own peril. Most civil servants are currently disgruntled. This time around the BDP is not a factor on who is winning the 2014 elections it is the opposition that could work to win or lose it.

But don’t you think the opposition has to cover a lot of ground then and convince a lot of voters to vote for it in 2014 in order to defeat BDP?
In the last elections (2009), BDP won with a margin of over 1000 in 23 constituencies. Any margin with 1000 is a marginal constituency. This means they can still win them.  But when you look at constituencies in which the BDP lost with a margin of less than 500, they are ten. The opposition leads the BDP in 20 constituencies. With all these issues, which have been going on, the opposition must work hard on the 10 constituencies and make sure they win.That is where power is.

There still remains the issue of constituency delimitations. The ruling Party could use it as a sniper and rearrange the constituency to its advantage. How prepared are you?
We will cross that bridge when we get to it. They could do that of course. But if you were to get my views I don’t think we need new constituencies. What we need to do is re-arrange some constituencies, which are too stretched so that MPS do not have to travel for too long to cover a single constituency. I’ll prefer realignment of constituencies because our economy has not been performing very well and delimitation would call for unnecessary spending. I don’t think we should go that direction more so that the population grew about 200 000 in the last ten years, meaning that most of that number are children.

Don’t you think it is high time our government considers political party funding?
Even when I was in the BDP I always supported political party funding, but the party never agreed. The BDP is being funded by business people and they should not forget that that business people always follow the winner. This decision would haunt them because if they lose they would lose the funds and it would be tough for them.

You were a Council chairperson for the Southern District for five years, what was your experience with nominated Councillors. Do you think they add value to the Councils?
I do. I only have problems with the way the nomination is being done. We should use at least proportional representation.

Do you have any ambition within the BNF. Are we going to see you contesting for the Central committee seat ?
I am not for that now. I have played my role in national politics but where the party feels I could assist then I would.

Do you have any regrets of leaving the BDP?
If you were to ask my doctor, he would tell you that I am more healthier than when I was with the BDP.  As long as the BDP is what it is today, I have no regrets.

Are you aware that some people could be feeling betrayed by your decision to leave BDP?
For this kind of decision you would always have mixed reactions. There are those who are elated and those who hate my guts but I think to gauge the number of those who are happy against those who are unhappy, we should wait for 2014.

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