As time for the general elections approaches, different candidates for different constituencies are on top of their game, campaigning hard. Gaborone Central constituency candidates claim to have different agendas for their voters if elected into parliament.
Last week, they squared off in a debate before University of Botswana students.
Current MP for the area, Dumelang Saleshando, said he has a great obligation for the constituency, adding that Gaborone Central has a diverse variety of people, from industrial workers to high notch, and also young and old and, as such, needs a go-getter of an MP to represent them and this, he said, is what he has done during his tenure.
“In addition, the young are considered as immature, dangerous and are deemed to be those people who can’t hold higher positions, something I dispute. I would like to see young people’s faces in offices,” he said.
Saleshando asserted that one important thing is citizen economic empowerment.
“If retained in parliament, I am going to push for a law, not a policy, that will empower citizens economically. I think what’s happening right now is economic apartheid.”
He further said that one area that needs to be looked at is one to educate people that a business cannot be run on a grant.
“This, in my opinion, teaches one to be lazy as there is no report of how far one has gone with spending the grant. I think we need to transform CEDA and identify areas of economic growth because, as it is, young people are applying for agricultural funds not out of interest but for money,” Saleshando said.
The new entrant in the race, Mr Gomolemo Motswaledi, said that it is his conviction to represent his people without fear and favour. He said, to achieve all theses, there are four levels that ought to be considered. “First and foremost, we need to make sure the basic needs are met, things like health. As I went around the area, I have figured out that there is poor drainage, places of leisure and entertainment are not taken care of and there is also poor road maintenance, which is also insulting to the stature of Gaborone,” he said.
Motswaledi further said that there is need to agitate for a national transformation and for a good culture of learning to be enhanced. He added that he will push for the branding of Gaborone.
“This town has no distinct brand. Towns like Cape Town in South Africa are well known for the events they host, like the jazz festival and, likewise, Gaborone needs something that one will identify with as soon as he gets in the town. Right now, it is just a passage through which people going to places like Moremi, Okavango and CKGR pass,” he said.
Mr Kagiso Thutlwe, another candidate in the constituency, said that people of Gaborone Central should know that he will always use consultations with them.
“I will always remember who voted me into power before talking about issues affecting the whole country,” Thutlwe said. He promised to find means in which UB graduates can practice what they are learning as most of the time they end up roaming the streets with their degrees.
Quizzed on what strategies he brings as a young, rookie Member of Parliament, a student even, Thutlwe said that it is very simple.
“We have VDC, councilors, PTA, SRC and forces. The most important thing is to be in common ground with these structures and all will fall into place,” he said.
Voters had mixed feelings over the public debate by their candidates. Mmoloki Marumo, a student, said that Thutlwe is still young and the constituency is too big for him. He feels the constituency needs someone with vast experience in the political arena.
“I don’t see how he can represent a constituency if he cannot represent a mere UB community. There are a lot of unresolved issues in UB that he could have, at least, proved fruitful by resolving them as the Student Representative Council president,” Marumo said. He further said that considering the atmosphere at BNF, no one is prepared to take a risk by voting a candidate of a party that has time and again failed its supporters.
“For most of his promises since he is from BDP,” said Morumo, “why can’t he talk to his bosses at party level to address the issues? This will show that indeed he is not just promising but can actually also deliver,” he said.
Marumo, however, bashed Motswaledi’s idea of rebranding Gaborone, saying there are a lot of issues affecting people and did not see how rebranding was going to help achieve those problems.
He praised Saleshando saying he had no reason whatsoever to doubt his promises.
“Saleshando has proven beyond measure that he is indeed an embodiment of leadership. I think he deserves to be given another chance to represent the constituency as he is truly a man of his word and has people’s interest at heart,” he said.
Continued Marumo, “This is the man who once took on the government for wanting to privatise Air Botswana. He is also one of the few politicians in the country that proposed a lot of important motions in parliament,” he said.
Another student, Pontsho Gower, shared the same sentiments with Marumo, saying that Thutlwe is biting more than he can chew.
“This constituency needs someone who has time and commitment and Thutlwe, being a student at UB, won’t manage to juggle national issues and school work as there is a lot involved between the two,” he said.
Gower also has his bet on Saleshando.
“Saleshando is intelligent and has very reasonable ideas for this constituency. He already has focus on what he has done so far and what he has to do next time and what other candidates are saying might just be false promises,” he said, adding that from his tenure so far, Saleshando had never let his constituency down and, therefore, it would be unreasonable to vote for someone else.
Yet another student, Phillip Setiko, also quizzed Thutlwe about his level of experience.
He asked why they should vote for him as they do not know of his experiences in politics.
Thutlwe responded by saying that since his primary level schooling, he had been working with the Botswana National Youth Council and believes the experience he got counts for something.