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TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS

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Bathobakae“THEY DO NOT CALL ME ‘KWANKWETLA’ FOR NOTHING”

Same Bathobakae has since teenage hood been in love with the Botswana National Front (BNF).

Media shy as she is Bathobakae has never talked to the media about her achievements and contributions to the BNF until she met Mmika Solomon to talk about her political aspirations.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am Same Bathobakae. I am a 57 year old single mother. I live here in Tlokweng.

When did you join active politics?

I joined Botswana National Front (BNF) at 18. I was inspired by the late Maitswarelo Dabutha to join this party.

He was a skillful orator who talked about liberating people from the chains of Botswana Democratic Party.

He even promised us free education. As a young person then, I like the idea of free education so I fell in love with the BNF.

So BNF has been your home since then?

Yes. I became active in 1981. I mobilised the youth in Tlokweng to join the party. We used to do clean up campaigns.

After the clean up campaigns I bought them Oros to quench their thirst. We used to have fun as kids.

At that time I worked for the University of Botswana.

I understand you declared interest in contesting for a parliamentary seat. What’s your motivation?

In Botswana women are shy to campaign for political leadership.

As for me, nothing stops me from contesting.

I volunteered to contest for the Tlokweng Constituency because I have been the area councillor for 9 years.

I am a born leader. I have been a Council Chairperson for the South East South District. If I can lead the entire council there is nothing that stops me from being an MP.

Are you unopposed?

I have an opponent in Rre Sekgopi Bogatshu. We respect each other but we both want to represent Tlokweng.

Little was known about you until you were catapulted into BNF’ Vice-presidency. Where were you all along?

I am a laid back person. I don’t go around making noise in the press so that the nation can pick my mind.

I have worked for the BNF for many years. I know the BNF like I know myself. I was a member of the Central Committee. When Isaac Mabiletsa resigned I was nominated by the same committee.

And then at the Ghanzi congress you challenged for the same post.

I stood against respected men in the BNF such as Dr Elmon Tafa and Otlaadisa Koosaletse and I won.

I was voted by the majority of the people who had confidence in me.

What was your message when you were campaigning?

I told the constituents that I wanted unity in the party.

I told them that I will continue to help the BNF President with the Umbrella project.

I told them I wanted stability in the party and it seemed the majority wanted that. As a leader I can only push the aspirations of the people.

Some say you did not attend the BNF study group?Same

What is that? Whether I attended the study groups or not, it does not matter times have changed.

Where are those study groups? To set the record straight I have attended the BNF study groups. But we should not dwell in the past. We should move forward.

Did Olebile Gaborone’s departure leave you bruised?

I was not happy about it. As an elder he came to me and told me he has made up his mind to join the BDP.

There was little I could do about it. I am the one who recruited him into the party. I made sure the BNF triumphed in 2009.

Is that why you want to contest now?

The thing is the nation is going for elections in 2014 and as a result all seats will be declared vacant. I saw this as an opportunity to go and increase the voice of the woman in parliament.

But you have been so obscured. How do BNF members hear your voice as their leader?

I am not a media person. You are very lucky to have interviewed me. I do my work through organized meetings with comrades.

If I want to address an issue I go through the proper channels of communications in the party. I travelled the length and breadth of this country talking to comrades.

Should you be elected, what will you do for the people of Tlokweng?

My aim is to advocate for Batlokwa in terms of development.

I want Batlokwa to have a land quota reserved for them.

I am not tribalistic. Tlokweng is in the periphery of Gaborone as a result Batlokwa are disadvantaged when it comes to allocation of plots.

We don’t have land. Our land is being given to big business people.

Is land the only thing bothering you?

Not at all. There are many things we must deal with such as unemployment of the youth and their education.

I am of the opinion that vocational education is paramount to the development of our youth.

I will also emphasise that companies that operate in Tlokweng should employ our youth.

You rightly pointed out that Tlokweng is near Gaborone. Are you benefiting from its proximity to the capital city?

To be honest we are not benefitting at all.

We don’t have a Senior School, a library simply because we are told we are part of Gaborone yet we are not. We want a library and a school.

What is the response from the people as you go around campaigning?

Most people tell me about lack of employment.

Some tell me about high rental rates in Tlokweng. I can change some things while others I cannot change.

What are your chances in the next general elections?

My challenge is in the primaries. After winning, there is nothing to stop me from sailing through to parliament. I am confident of victory.

They don’t call me ‘Kwankwetla’ for nothing. BNF is still strong in Tlokweng. We have the numbers and there is no doubt I will win.

Some BNF members are of the opinion that your party should pull out of the UDC. What can you say about it?

It is their opinion. BNF has taken a resolution that we should join the UDC.

We can’t help them because none of them has come forward in a formal forum to express displeasure.

We are all in agreement that the UDC model is the best.

Thank you and all the best.

You are welcome.

Let me take this opportunity to encourage other women to contest for elections.

It is our democratic right as women to also participate in elections. I know it is expensive to run a campaign but I will continue to engage them.