The ruling Botswana Democratic Party, the main opposition Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party this week raised the political tempo in the Gaborone South constituency as they attempted to gain control of ‘Old Naledi’, a segment of the constituency riddled with abject poverty, ahead of the national elections scheduled for October 16.
The home of a considerable number of residents living a month away from poverty, Old Naledi was recently dealt a devastating blow when the government halted the Ipelegeng programme.
The government initiative was designed to assist the unemployed by providing menial labour, including de-bushing and decoration of the area at a minimum fee.
The project was stopped by government officials citing depleted public coffers, relegating the residents to the old days of debilitating poverty with nothing to put on the table.
“These politicians think we are stupid. They want us to create jobs for them while we wallow in poverty. They stopped our livelihood in Ipelegeng and we too should refuse with our vote,” said Mmapula Setlhare, a disgruntled teenager and a casualty of the halted programme, as she sneered while passing by the BDP launch of Gaborone South parliamentary candidate, Kagiso Molatlhegi.
She currently darts from one firm to another in search of a job to feed herself and her son.
Similar sentiments are expressed by Martha Kebonang who prefers to go home to Palapye to cast her vote for faces she is familiar with.
“These city politicians, they want your vote during the election time only to disappear and emerge again during the election period. We want employment, not lip services,” she declared.
That notwithstanding and with the clock ticking fast towards election D-Day, party loud speakers can be heard from afar, inviting residents whilst also pointing accusing fingers at one another for the constituents of ‘Zola’ or ‘Ditakana’, the popular common names for Old Naledi’s make-shift shacks littered around the area, often without a stand pipe or a relieving toilet.
However, since the water system toilets showers are now taking shape in the so-called mall, the residents can now breathe a sigh of relief despite a minimal charge for use of the facilities.
Officially launching Molatlhegi at the weekend, the Vice president, Mompati Merafhe, slammed the BNF leadership, particularly the past immediate MP, Akanyang Magama, for the social ills currently pulling the area to its knees since 1984 when the party took control.
“You, the people of Old Naledi, are also equally to blame for all this misery you currently undergo for you snubbed us for quite a considerable time giving the vote to the opposition BNF which, to date, cannot show anything worthwhile during their subsequent tenures since 1984.
“Your area MP, Magama, whom you gave your vote in the previous national election to represent you never reverberated in Parliament except to lobby for proportional representation,” Merafhe said to ululation from the high table, which was predominantly comprised of the vanquished A-team.
“When he comes here ask him what he has been doing all these five years. Your problems in this area are insurmountable but never at any time did your MP ask for public funds to redeem you from this poverty. When he comes here, ask him when did he do that,” insisted Merafhe, adding that his government is not stingy.
BDP governance, he said, was responsible for the ongoing massive reconstruction of the water drainage system which would soon be followed by the reconstruction of the tarred roads.
Although admitting the adverse effects of the financial crunch, the vice president maintained that about P260 million was designated for Gaborone South with about P30 million earmarked for the building of 200 houses, which will create more employment for the residents.
In his defence, Magama boasted that his party was responsible for the developments currently underway.
“We fought for these developments during the era of the late Kenneth Koma and to date I still fight for more developments, including the connection of electricity in the streets and in the households. Presently, I am lobbying for a 24 hour service at the local clinic to cater for the patients because the area is vast and Bontleng clinic is far,” Magama rebutted.
As regards his silence in Parliament, the MP argued: “Molatlhegi could not say we failed to develop this constituency. If anything he could count himself amongst the individuals who failed the residents of Old Naledi since he was handpicked to become a Specially Elected councillor whose contribution was below average as he did not even propose a single motion,” Magama retorted.
While accusing the BDP of neglecting Batswana since independence, including the residents of Old Naledi, by ushering in poor quality education which would not take them anywhere, the BNF incurred its share of blame from the leader of BCP, Gilson Saleshando, on Thursday at a political rally, accusing the latter of cohabiting with the ruling BDP.
“Instead of coming into an understanding with other opposition parties and fight the enemy (BDP), BNF decided to go all alone with nothing in mind but to split the votes. You can see with your naked eyes that this party is going to bed with the BDP. For all these reasons, you the people of Old Naledi should punish these parties during the Election Day and cast a BCP vote,” appealed Saleshando, who is vying for election against BDP candidate, Kavis Kario in Selebi Phikwe West.
Although the T-shirts displaying the portraits of contesting candidates are popular amongst the residents, it is difficult to decide the party allegiances of the voters who wear them as is the case with Rramalebogo, who wants nothing more than to cover himself.
“Tomorrow you will see me with another one from a different party. That is what you should do if you are poor,” he argues.
Though Old Naledi has been a BNF stronghold since 1984, the numbers at the political rallies seem to suggest that all the contesting parties and candidates have a fair chance of winning on October 16.