Officially, Nelson Ramaotwana has retired as the Botswana National Front Youth League president because of his age (he turns 38 in September), plans to practice as a lawyer, wants to devote more time to his family as well as give Young Turks an opportunity to “make mistakes, learn and grow.”
However, there is no shortage of less-than-charitable theories about why he left office last Saturday.
One is that the party’s leadership is disillusioned with the manner in which the BNFYL manages money entrusted to it. Personally, Ramaotwana is said to owe the party P800 which he borrowed from funds that the party provided for the commemoration of last year’s Day of the African Child in Francistown. The former Gaborone mayor is supposed to have acknowledged that debt at a recent BNFYL meeting in Kanye and promised to repay the money.
However, he denies he owes the party any money.
“That’s a lie. If anything, it’s the BNF that owes me; not the other way round,” he says.
To back up his assertion, Ramaotwana says that over the years he has spent an awful lot of his own money on party business. It is nothing he regrets because the money was used for a good cause.
“I feel good about it because I was not using the money to buy prostitutes or alcohol. I was using it to serve the party. It was good sacrifice,” he says.
When details of the alleged debt come out, Ramaotwana wants to know the source of the information. That is impossible and that point is made to him in unequivocal terms. Past that point, he suggests that the “ghost speaker” must have an ulterior motive.
“What’s his motive and why is this issue being brought up now? The ghost speaker must produce evidence that I owe the party,” he says.
According to Ramaotwana, the BNFYL has been most proactive and enterprising under his leadership. He quotes as examples quarterly press conferences (a first in the BNFYL, he says) and commercial production of a party songs CD.
The latter example is problematic. Ramaotwana says that the copies of the CD are sold by the party’s head office in Gaborone. On the other hand, the ghost speaker says that there has been no proper accounting of how many CDs were made and how many were sold before those remaining were delivered to the head office.
Some time back, the BNFYL mooted the idea of undertaking a nationwide tour but the party leadership, which would have provided funds for the exercise, was opposed to the idea for two reasons. Firstly, there was concern about the league’s financial management track record and secondly, the central committee feared that the tour would be used to mobilise youth sentiment against party leader, Otsweletse Moupo.
Ramaotwana confirms the tour plans but refuses to discuss details. The nixed tour is supposed to have caused a rift between the central committee and the anti-Moupo group which enjoys a majority in the BNFYL.
Ramaotwana now has to worry less and less about BNFYL politics but he will continue being active in the party that he joined in 1991 as a Form 3 student in Mater Spei College.
Time away from the BNFYL would present him with an opportunity to explore non-political areas that would enable him to self-actualise. For someone who, by his account, was an A student from primary right through to secondary school, Ramaotwana feels that he is supposed to have done better for himself. His passion for politics (during this interview he carries, in the front pocket of his shirt, Chairman Mao’s little red book) became a bit too much for his parents when he came to Gaborone to start his studies at the University of Botswana. The house of former BNF president and socialism guru, Dr. Kenneth Koma, was not very far away from campus and the old man was ever happy to receive and school UB students on the political philosophy of Karl Marx, Lenin, Mao and other such thinkers. A good number of today’s opposition leaders graduated from Koma’s University of Socialism.
The result of Ramaotwana taking virtual residence at Koma’s house was that his studies suffered and, at one point, he had to drop out of varsity. At a later stage, when he decided to re-enroll, Ramaotwana says that his parents expressed misgivings that he would spend more time at Koma’s house than on campus and suggested that he take a clerical job at Standard Bank instead.
He did but after some time, returned to UB to continue his studies. After a few hiccups, he finally completed his LLB programme last December. He blames his involvement in politics for his extended stay at UB and says that had the case been different he would, like former classmates, have established a successful law practice by now.
The only student mayor in the world during his stint, Ramaotwana says he wants to put this law degree to good professional use. Going into private practice is an option.