Sunday, June 16, 2024

Dorcus Makgatho ÔÇô political foreigner goes native

By her reckoning, Dorcas Makgatho might just be in the cusp of political elevation.

Her swashbuckling voice underscores a deeply embedded belief inside her that it is finally her moment.

Fresh from defeating the much fancied Botswana Congress Party Secretary General, Kesi Gobotswang to capture the Sefhare/Ramokgonami constituency in Tswapong South – for a time perceived a done deal for BCP – Makgatho now has her sights firmly set on bigger targets.

She wants to become Chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party Women’s Wing.

Chairmanship of the party’s women wing, if her efforts come to bear would guarantee her a position on the party Central Committee. It is a highly prized trophy.

And one that might possibly prove to be a stepping stone to yet even bigger things down the line.

Barely 50, she is already a Minister of Health. And many are beginning to take notice.

For some, given her general inexperience at the political party grass-root activism, her ambition might seem too big a leap into the political milieu.

But she is not fazed.

She has been an underdog before, she reminds me.

Pundits did not give her a slightest chance against Dr. Gobotswang, a smooth operator and experienced political hand with a groundswell of support among his Tswapong brethren.

Yet when the counting of the ballot papers was done Makgatho had trounced Gobotswang quite comprehensively.

“He is a gentleman. He conceded defeat and pledged both support and criticism. I am however unhappy with what I see as unconstructive criticism to have come out of him so far,” she says.

Her gripe with Gobotswang follows an assertion by the BCP supremo that the constituency needed somebody whose attention was not divided and by extension distracted by a cabinet portfolio.

Makgatho is of the view that a cabinet portfolio puts her at the centre of decision making processes that may in the end be handy to the constituency’s overall development.

The fast talking Makgatho is abnormally aware of jabs doing rounds that her ambition might just be getting the better of her, a tacit admission that for all her fast rise, the party has not yet totally warmed to her.

Many in the party still privately view her as a visitor, loaned to politics by the corporate sector.

She dismisses all those as cheap propaganda not worth her engagement.

The Party, she says in reference to the BDP is in need of people with skills, experience and expertise.

As if reading from the same script as Ndelu Seretse who is standing to become Chairman of the BDP, Makgatho says it is important to create a strong BDP to match the executive.

“For too long we have had experience and expertise concentrated at the executive. That has to change. We need both a strong party and government.”

She says her decision to contest the position of BDP Women’s Wing Chair is not the one that she took easily.

It came about after a lot of soul-searching and introspection.

It is a result of a view that based on her performance so far at cabinet

and constituency, then it is only natural that it was time she lent herself to taking BDP women to a new level.

She is not a total newcomer to women issues.

While a sport administrator, she was perhaps the most visible woman in sports.

She was elected the first chair of “Women in Sports.”

She has also been recognised globally for her efforts in sport administration. And in that regards she has from time to time been invited to be a global ambassador of women in sports in quite a number of capacities.

“If you look at our demographics in politics, women are a majority. My view is that if they know their roles, they can strengthen our democracy. I have taken a position that given my past experience and profile, I have what it takes to assist.”

She thinks a lot has to be done to bring more women into positions of power or decision making positions, as she puts it.

“That is one of the tangibles we crafted at sports.”

By wanting to take such a high profile role, is she not jeopardizing her hold at constituency level especially given that she is also a senior cabinet minister? Put more brazenly, does she not think she will become a victim or her unbridled ambitions? Is she not too new in politics to be aspiring to so many offices at a go?

From her gasping for air it is clear she does not take kindly to that set of questions.

“What ambition are your referring to? I just got a constituency for the party and that has given euphoria back to the party. Is that being too ambitious? In cabinet I did not appoint myself.”

Insinuations that she is new in politics feel her with despair. She had to brash them aside in her campaign leading to General Elections.

She has in the past taken her frustrations on the media for spearheading a campaign cast her as a political novice.

“I was recruited in politics by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi in the 1990s.

During my days at Orapa, BDP activists stayed at my house. There are many people in this country who are supporters of our parties but would not want to show it. Do we call them newcomers the day they want to stand for office?

There is too much propaganda in politics and I do not want to engage it.

People look at me without facts and it all becomes propaganda.”

She is adamant that close scrutiny of her career will reveal that in everything that she has done, the end result has always been to take organizations up.

“My ambition is that when I leave this earth I will also leave a legacy where people would say I contributed to the development of my nation.”

While clearly enjoying her time in politics for the time being, much more so her stratospheric rise in it, she says she is in no way lost to the corporate sector.

“Of course I feel that I have outgrown the private sector as an employee.

When I go back, I want to do so as an employer, as an investor, as a shareholder.”

But for now she has her plate full.

Not least because as she puts it she is standing for the position of BDP Woman’s Wing to win.

Her confidence is not to be taken lightly.

Things have been going so well for her so much so that it is almost a given that for most of her short spell in politics she must often be feeling more like a star in her own movie – a character created straight from her own script, written by herself and for herself.


Read this week's paper