Saturday, September 19, 2020

Season of Bulela Ditswe generosity officially over

With ruling party tenderpreneur-cum-politicians having broken up primary-elections camps across the country, alcohol sales across the country will certainly have dipped to their lowest in months.

Beginning with the first round of primary elections in opposition-held constituencies, the second election season saw an unprecedented number of tenderpreneurs vying for political office. If manna from heaven fell upon you, you can certainly afford to show voters a really good time and tenderpreneurs had been buying them alcohol, fashion clothing, airtime credit, motor fuel, food and other goodies. On an almost daily basis, candidates were bar- and Chibuku-depot-crawling through the constituency and “making it rain” in the language of urban youth.

The Botswana Democratic Party’s second and last round of primary elections (dubbed Bulela Ditswe) is officially over. The irony of it all is that losers should count themselves lucky because they will be spared another and more expensive round of electoral generosity to essentially buy general election votes.

By no means is electoral season generosity confined to the ruling party. On August 15, the Leader of the Opposition and Gaborone Bonnington North MP, Duma Boko, announced through his Facebook page that he will be opening a legal clinic at his constituency office for free consultations. Before Botswana was awash with cash, this peculiar generosity was limited to slaughtering cows and feeding voters but over the years is being remixed in various ways. Former Gaborone South MP, Robert Masitara, doled out both cash and food, setting up a round-the-clock soup kitchen in a medium-cost house along the Western Bypass. Provision of free professional services (a la Boko) would have been originated by the Mmathethe-Molapowabojang MP, Dr. Alfred Madigele, when he ran against the incumbent, Peter Siele, in 2014. A medical doctor, Madigele provided free medical consultations to constituents. Ironically, five years later, one of his constituents and victor, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, used the very same method to endear himself to constituents. A veterinary surgeon, Dikoloti travelled around the constituency to provide free veterinary services. Historically, this generosity ends on the eve of election day.

Ironically, politicians that use overly generous largesse as a campaign tool have a legitimate expectation that people they purposefully got hooked on overly generous largesse should suddenly become independent after elections. Last year, MPs, including then cabinet minister and current vice president, Slumber Tsogwane, took turns telling sob stories in parliament about how constituents leech off them.

“I know exactly how much an MP earns and how much an MP suffers in terms of being an MP for a longer time,” said Tsogwane, who has been Boteti (and later Boteti North MP) since 1999. “When you visit your constituency, everyone is expecting that you are carrying a bagful of money. They think that you are paid a very lucrative salary. I stand here today to dismiss that myth and make it very clear to the public that MPs are not paid lumps of money as people may suggest. They are paid even far less than the public officers they are supervising.”

Likewise, Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi said that like some other MPs, he “share[s] the little money” he earns with his electorate during weddings, funerals and by providing vehicular transport for constituents. Interestingly, people die and get married during the campaign season and candidates are always more than willing to extend material and other assistance.

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