As is expected of an opposition leader, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) President, Biggie Butale has been extremely outspoken in his criticism of one-time comrade, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his government.
Never shy to voice his opinion, the former Tati West MP sat down with DANIEL CHIDA for an update on the status of his party and air his views on current affairs in Botswana.
You recently co-opted Member of Parliament (MP) for Serowe West, Tshekedi Khama and Lawrence Ookeditse into the party’s Central Committee. How did that come about?
We basically had vacancies in the National Executive Committee as a result of the passing on of our Secretary General and departure of the Publicity Secretary.
We then followed our constitution to co-opt the two people into the NEC.
But Ookeditse’s just joined the party!
It could have been anyone. We cannot all lead at the same time.
We always look at the skill-sets one possesses and deploy on the basis of those.
Actually, no member of our party is complaining as they know his capabilities. Patriots are happy.
What about Tshekedi’s nomination then, are you not sending a wrong message about the Khama brothers?
We do not have a structure in the party named ‘Khama brothers’! BPF is a party that welcomes everyone and also allows space for any capable person to lead and contribute.
We do not have a problem with people from the same family joining the party or being in leadership so long as they are capable and get into such positions as per party constitution.
Further, how does it now become a problem when all along at the BDP, one was President and another a cabinet Minister and also both were in party structures? We will not partake in hating people to fulfill BDP propaganda.
Many new members, especially those labelled ‘big fish’ were said to be on their way to your party. What happened?
We continue to receive members daily but we are being held back partly because of the pandemic.
Once things are in the clear we shall be revealing a good number of new recruits into the party.
Also, I do not know where the idea of ‘big fish’ came from! What I can say is that we value all members equally, we want everyone and we treat everyone with the same level of respect and love.
Moving on, as BPF President, what is your roadmap for 2021?
I will not delve into details of our strategy but I must say we will have a congress and that our work to institutionalize the party will continue.
We will also continue to recruit members into our party while also working with other opposition parties.
You have been pretty vocal in your critique of Masisi’s leadership. However, lately you’ve been noticeably quiet, why?
He has sadly failed spectacularly in his attempts to lead Botswana.
He has squandered what little goodwill he had at the beginning of his ascension and his credibility is at an all time low.
We have never had a President whose word means nothing like this one. His own cabinet does not even believe a word he says.
The nation does not believe anything he says and we are told that his Vice has even began preparing to take over, he doesn’t even trust Masisi himself.
We are not quiet as alleged but we have for instance been among the biggest critics of his empty budget speech and have also offered alternatives. In any case, why flog a dead horse?
So where are we going wrong in dealing with Covid-19?
We failed to get the vaccine on time. That’s our biggest failure as a country.
This failure is totally out of character of Botswana the erstwhile ‘Switzerland of Africa’.
We have also allowed corruption to establish an ugly foothold in our beloved country.
Masisi got the state of emergency that he desired.
But it only served to disempower governance structures and allowed him and his close cronies to basically loot the funds intended for Covid.
Hospitals are in shambles, we do not have oxygen in hospitals, medical personnel do not have personal protective equipment and the nation is perishing from hunger.
We have also more or less run out of Covid testing reagents.
Again this is out of character for the once ever-efficient Botswana of old.
The Masisi regime has failed to put into place a plan that we could all own as a nation.
They thought they’d be celebrated for defeating Corona and had wanted to hog the anticipated credit but they have failed and unfortunately Batswana are dying in numbers that could have been reduced.
The tourism sector, our lifeline, has been decimated due in part to fumbling over creating herd immunity in the populace by a clear vaccination strategy.
Earlier this month, 5 February, the President put an end to the floor crossing debacle by putting his signature to it. What’s your take?
What is done is done. We had our reservations, but it is now law and we will follow it.
It remains an example of the way the BDP governs this country not for the people but for what is in their interest.
They can use law and parliament to advance what basically is in the perceived interests of the BDP.
Finally, what is your advice to Masisi?
It is okay to step down when you no longer have a plan!