Former Francistown mayor and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) council candidate for Boikhutso Ward, Motlatsi Molapise, is to date Francistown’s longest serving councilor and one of the most prolific and outspoken representatives in the Francistown City Council.
He once served as the BPP President before handing the baton to Bernard Balikani in 2004.
To date, he serves as the BPP chairman and its only representative in the FCC. He has been a councilor in Francistown, and solely under the BPP, since 1984, and he was right in the thick of things when Botswana’s second city rose from its shambles in the late eighties to become Botswana’s economic powerhouse of note.
Molapise attributes his longevity and apparent power over the people whom he represents to nothing but the truth. Asked what has enabled him to transverse the powerhouse that is the BDP and remain a force to reckon with in the FCC, even at a time when the opposition was said to be sleeping on its laurels, Molapise explains that he represents poor ordinary people whose strength is not their alliance to any political party, but their loyalty and respect for one another.
“The thing about ordinary Batswana who have no pretentions to power, riches or alliances is that they never forget where they come from. As a representative of such a people you only need to stand by what is right, because they need nothing else but the truth from you,” he says.
He explains that when he ascended to the council seat of the then Somerset West Ward in 1984, at a time when national speaker Patrick Balopi was then Member of Parliament for Francistown, he found a predominantly marginalized people who were living in deplorable poverty, unemployment and lack of land.
“This area was a squatter camp. It was considered an eyesore to the otherwise developing city of Francistown and the BDP government was failing to identify land on which to relocate the poor squatters. Their shanties were the first sight that met you as you entered the city from the south,” he says.
It was through Molapise‘s efforts that government reneged on its intentions to unleash the yellow monster on the squatters and relocated them to Gerald Estates. The area, commonly known as Bokowe, was upgraded and supplied with electricity and water. To date, he says, the area is replete with street lights, electricity, water reticulation systems, schools, dust bins and even a clinic. It is only the area that he took over from Botswana Congress Party’s Tabengwa Tabengwa after the delimitation exercise that is still giving him sleepless nights in terms if developments, but he remains confident that they will come in due course.
Molapise explains that he facilitated the relocation of the squatters at the then Matjimenyenga to Phase 6 and Gerald estates. He even facilitated the relocation of the people of PWD to Ntshe plots.
“These people were refusing to budge because they were defying the combative and autocratic approach of the BDP leadership. It was because of my engaging leadership and influence that they finally agreed to relocate. That is the essence of true leadership,” he says proudly.
From the time when he cast his first vote as a young man during Botswana’s first ever democratic elections, Molapise maintains that he has always believed in the ideology of the BPP, and to date he has never faltered.
“The politics of the BPP are the truth and we have never ever diverged from the foundations which were set for us by the founders of this once powerful political party. Even in our political rallies, we strive to articulate important issues on how we can improve the lives of ordinary Batswana, and what we have to offer that is better than our political rivals, and we have never launched any personal attacks against fellow politicians,” he says.
Molapise readily admits that the BPP‘s fortunes and political appeal have declined over the years. But he is quick to point out that the BPP has lost appeal over the years not because its policies were failing, but because the political representatives, who were responsible for articulating and practicing the BPP ideology, failed to live up to the task.
But he remains confided that despite other political parties making forays into his Boikhutso Ward he will emerge triumphant after the October general elections.
”I live among these people and I have been with them, from day one. Despite the voter trafficking shenanigans that the ruling BDP is trying to employ to oust me, I remain confident that with the support base that I have I will be able to retain my council seat. I will still be firing from the hip at next year’s council sessions because I never tire of representing my people,” he says confidently.
Molapise will be standing against Onkokame Mosweu of Botswana Congress Party, Kenosi Mogotsi of Botswana National Front, Martha Motswere of the BDP and a MELS candidate.
Molapise was the mayor of Francistown from 1994 until 1997, when then Satellite Ward councilor Peter Ngoma stole his mayoral chain after defecting to the BDP with the BPP council seat.
Asked how he has been able to remain a thorn on the side of BDP councilors in the Francistown city council and one of the few who seem to have a grasp of government policies, Molapise explains that his wisdom was obtained from extensive research and tireless analysis of not only the BPP policies, but those of the other political parties with whose representatives he is competing.
“In that way, I have always been ahead of the pack in the FCC. Over the years, I have seen ignorant councilors and even parliamentarians, who are completely lost in the bush when it comes to issues of government policies. Some of them fail even to analyze the policies and manifestos of the political parties that they represent.
How do you effectively represent the interests of the electorate when you are as na├»ve as, or even worse than, them? This is the sad reality that is borne by the deplorable tradition of freedom square politics that is prevalent in Botswana,” he says.
When commenting on the present state of Botswana’s democracy, Molapise sadly shakes his head and expresses a wish that Batswana would not only listen to the dominant parties but also take time to listen to what the alternative smaller parties like the BPP have to offer.
“We held our national congress in 2004 under the theme “democracy under threat”, during which we were warning Batswana of the problems that are plundering our country today,” he says.
The BPP will hold its special conference during the president day holidays under the theme “2004 general elections: an opportunity to defend democracy”.
Molapise says that he is saddened by the way Batswana take their civil liberties and their freedoms for granted.
“Batswana have this hands-off and negligent attitude towards democracy, they take it for granted. But they must be warned that every Motswana has a patriotic responsibility to defend democracy and the rule of law, it is not the responsibility of political activists because when civil and political strife descend upon us it is the ordinary Motswana who will feel the brunt first,” he says.
He adds that while political activists and leaders, just like Botswana’s forefathers, will come and go, this country will remain behind. It is therefore the responsibility of every Motswana to ensure that they leave a proper legacy for the future generations and guard against those political sellouts who will sacrifice Botswana’s peace and tranquility for party affiliation and political favours.
Molapise is also saddened by the fact that despite so many years as a democratic country, Batswana are predominantly a poor and gullible lot who are prone to exploitation through the institution of knee jerk initiatives that will only solve their short term needs but in the long run fail to wipe out the presiding issues of poverty and unemployment.
“As we go to the elections we must make sure that we elect representatives who will vigilantly defend the democratic principle that this country was build upon. Democracy starts not with a majority rule, but with a balanced representation that will keep the ruling party under guard,” says.