Former Francistown West Member of Parliament, Vain Mamela, has profusely dismissed perceptions that he is political history. The notions are born out of his two consecutive losses at general elections in 2004 and 2009.
Clad in a two-piece khaki suit at The Sunday Standard offices on Wednesday, an unfazed 49-year-old Mamela said it was disgusting that his detractors have begun writing his political obituary when the country still prides itself with far older active politicians than himself, like Motsamai Mpho, Daniel Kwelagobe, Mompati Merafhe and many others who are members of the current parliament.
Mamela was a Botswana National Front MP from 1994 to 1998 and was among the eleven MPs who defected and formed the Botswana Congress Party after a fall out with the party’s embattled leadership at the Palapye Congress.
“I am not political history. I have been an activist for over 20 years and I still am. Politics is my church whether I am a Member of Parliament or not. I am not in politics for parliament. I am in politics to fight against the injustices that Batswana are subjected to by the ruling party. I advocate for Batswana’s improved standards of living and that is what is politically inspiring me,” said Mamela, who will be turning 50 in December. He has maintained that he still has a long way to go politically if his health would allow it.
He said Francistown will continue to be his political base and he is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the delimitation exercise that is expected to follow the population census, which is to be held in August this year.
“If I am elected to contest I will gladly do so. Francistown still remains my political base. I am aware that some people are already anticipating a rift between myself and Wynter Mmolotsi given the ongoing opposition cooperation talks. But they seem to forget that there is a likelihood of the constituencies being increased after the delimitation,” said Mamela, adding that such talk is, to say the least, premature because nobody knows what form the cooperation will take.
On the issue of opposition cooperation, Mamela is adamant that the project is an imperative in order to dislodge the ruling BDP from government.
“Opposition parties must seriously work on cooperation. I just hope this time around it will materialize and yield better results. The BCP/BAM arrangement has shown that opposition cooperation is possible and can work,” said the politician.
He is hopeful that the new BNF leadership will be able to tackle the issue differently because, in the past, it had been difficult for the parties to cooperate as the BNF pulled out of the talks.
Mamela is, however, aware that recently the BNF went it alone when it disregarded the opposition pact between the BCP and the BPP during the Shashe Mooke by-election and accused the BNF of not discussing with the other parties prior to that by-election.
He said the BNF simply claimed it was their area because the candidate whom they were sponsoring had been an independent in that ward before the by-election. He was quick to acknowledge that the BNF fared better in the by-election because the candidate had entrenched himself in the area long before he joined the party.
“It was not the BNF but rather the candidate who performed better. He started much earlier, no wonder they did better,” said Mamela.
While he advocates for opposition cooperation he is quite aware that it is a difficult issue and preferred not to discuss it much preferring to say the BCP has appointed Batisani Maswibilili to lead the party in the talks.
On whether the parties were doing enough to sell the project to their memberships, he said the resolution for opposition cooperation was taken by the party conference in consultation with the people who endorsed it, adding such issues were also discussed at leadership forums.
“Our plans at the BCP are to see the talks concluded by this year so that next year becomes the year of implementation. We just hope this issue is on top of the agenda at the other opposition parties,” the former legislator said.
If there is anything that is keeping Mamela happy it is the BDP split, which led to the formation of the BMD although he was not prepared to discuss whether it was bad or good move.
He is, however, happy that the split hit the BDP hard and weakened it as the country’s biggest political party.
In Francistown, he said the strength of the BMD is not known but what is apparent is that its formation has weakened the party in the city thereby leveling the political playing field.
“The political landscape is unpredictable. BDP can no longer pride itself as a strong and united party as they used to say in the past. Cracks have developed and they have lost the crux of the youth who were the driving force behind it. Their policies are failing the people, more especially in the area of job creation. The opposition must seriously work on opposition cooperation. I just hope this time around it will yield better results for the impoverished masses,” said Mamela.
He is, however, disappointed that the voters of today are completely different from the voters of yesteryear because they are much inclined to material gain instead of clinging to issues that are being advocated to uplift their standards of living.
“The voters want money to improve their standard of living. But unfortunately opposition politicians are poor and are unable to match the BDP strength in this area. One needs to be financially stable in order to be political appealing hence the need for political party funding.
Politics should be about influencing policies and not spoon feeding the electorates,” he emphasized.
He is quick to blame the BDP for the tendency, accusing it of inculcating the dependency syndrome in the voters.
Mamela said he wants to see more Batswana working because he is concerned with the high rate of unemployment, which he describes as disgusting, adding that graduates are working in Ipelegeng projects, a thing he finds untenable.
On privatization, he said the BCP is not against the concept but it is concerned that Batswana will not be able to buy the shares that will be floated.
“The ordinary Batswana will not be able to participate. The economic environment is hostile. It is also unfortunate that privatization is targeting profitable parastatals,” he said.
He also observed that Botswana was lagging behind in many things, citing for example the issue of political funding and adding that the Independent Electoral Commission is suspect as it does not have the power to issue election writs and set election dates.
“We still have specially elected MPs and specially nominated councilors. Those must be dealt away with and it is only the people who were voted by the electorate who should represent them. Our parliament is still not independent. It does not have portfolio committees to deal with particular issues,” said the former legislator.
He explained that if there was an education portfolio committee, last year’s examination crisis would have been averted.