For a man well steeped in public relations, Thapelo Letsholo is surprisingly coy about discussing himself.
When we pitch for an interview he insists he could only give it on condition that focus will not be on himself but rather on the things that he is doing for his constituency.
“Covid-19 set back my program for the constituency a great deal. At the core of that program was creating partnerships with the private sector to help the community. When the pandemic set in, the private sector like everybody else froze all their plans. I need a bit more time to finish my program and for that reason, when the party calls for candidates for 2024 I will put my name forward as a candidate in the primaries.”
This is pretty much how Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo opens up the interview.
He says he will need more time to complete his plans for the constituency, before adding that notwithstanding the pandemic he feels he has still achieved a lot.
His motions in parliament have become big events eliciting a lot of mixed feelings.
There are people within his party who feel his motions lend a lot of ammunition to the opposition who in turn use them to whip the ruling party.
The opposition is no kinder to him either. They say for all his rhetoric, he never votes with them when it matters.
Letsholo surprised many when he took a decision to join active politics.
People had come to know him as a socialite famous for his fashion – with elegant bespoke suits and expensive whisky.
He says is aware of existing perceptions that he has paid more attention to national issues at the expense of his constituency, but adds that nothing is further from the truth.
Early indications are that former area Member of Parliament, Kentse Rammidi is likely to challenge Letsholo as will the current Chairman for Southern District, Councilor Thami Chabalala.
It turns out that he is roughly aware of who might stand in the ruling party primaries, but prefers to only say that in the end there could be “seven of us.”
He is also aware that his constituency has a ruthless history of allowing members of parliament to serve only one term.
“I believe I am in touch with my constituency. I am not aloof. I address Kgotla meetings. And I have my hand on the pulse of Kanye North. I believe I will be treated differently from my predecessors because I am different,” he says.
Various reasons have been thrown around to account for why Thapelo Letsholo has been excluded from cabinet.
He refuses to give a straight answer on what he thinks could be the reasons why he has never been appointed to cabinet, instead opting to be philosophical about it.
He says cabinet appointments are made by the president. And the president should not be pressured into appointing anyone to cabinet.
“I asked the people of Kanye North to elect me to be their Member of Parliament. And they did that. I am happy and focusing on my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament for Kanye North.”
He casts aside all insinuations that his motions and questions in parliament might be interpreted as disloyalty to the ruling party.
He says he has always been a loyal member of the BDP, going back to the days when he worked in the private sector.
He has worked at Barclays Bank Botswana, now ABSA. He has also worked at Debswana Mining company. And was also a senior executive at Kgalagadi Breweries.
“As is common practice in the BDP and in any democratic set up, by the way, I often propose ideas and different approaches for consideration by my fellow colleagues to achieve the same goal, but at the end of the day I support the views of the majority with regard to which option they believe will be more effective and more sustainable.”
He says all the motions he has presented to parliament seek to address generic problems faced by all constituencies nationwide. These are unemployment, especially among the youth and also absence of medicines in the government owned hospitals.
Lestsholo has asked several questions in parliament all of them geared towards clearing a path for citizen economic inclusion.
He has previously asked government to reserve tenders and contracts of up to P10 million to citizen owned businesses.
Last week he followed up on those by trying to establish how many citizen owned businesses have since benefitted from his earlier motions that were adopted by parliament.
He says his recent question was informed by a realization that certain government departments had tried to sidestep the Citizen Economic Inclusion Bill ahead of the president signing it into law by engaging in long term contracts that would effectively lock them out of helping citizens for many years.
He is worried that such “sabotage” by civil servants could lead to his party being criticized for not doing enough for citizens.
In his latest motion he called on government to prohibit businesses with the same beneficial owners from obtaining trading licenses within the same value chain.
The goal he says is to achieve an inclusive economy in which Batswana participate in wealth creation and truly benefit from economic progress of their country.