Home » News » Letters » THE RACE TO 2019 HAS BEGUN: GERRYMANDERING COULD MANIFEST ITSELF IN MANY FORMS?

THE RACE TO 2019 HAS BEGUN: GERRYMANDERING COULD MANIFEST ITSELF IN MANY FORMS?

Publishing Date : 26 January, 2016

Author : BERNARD BUSANI

This is a word I have learnt recently after BDP Gaborone region proposal to increase our constituencies from the current 57 to 120 for the 2019 elections. I then found out what gerrymandering was; it is a practice that attempts to establish political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged constituencies as typified by the illustration in the borrowed picture above.

The word was created in reaction to redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then governor Elbridge Gerry in the early 1800s.  Many political commentators have branded the proposal by BDP functionaries to increase constituencies for the 2019 elections as gerrymandering.  This is considered to be so because such proposal was made before by the opposition in parliament and was decisively rejected on the basis that the economy could not afford it.

How can the economy afford it now when it is said to be in intensive care requiring a stimulus package (ESP) for its resuscitation; when we have been forced to tap into our foreign reserves to support our ailing economy?  If the proposal to increase constituencies were to be approved this would give credence to those suggesting that gerrymandering to keep the ruling party in perpetual power is indeed at play.

However, increasing constituencies in order to improve effectiveness of representation of the people is desirable as was previously proposed by the opposition provided that the economy can support it. It becomes devious if it is done for the purpose of gerrymandering. The nation is therefore fore warned; be alert and awake so that in the event that the proposal is accepted, effective systems to hinder and frustrate any gerrymandering are devised by you through your representatives and civic organisations.
What else could be considered to be ‘gerrymandering’?

This intriguing gerrymandering word got my mind working. I started thinking maybe they could be other areas where gerrymandering could be at play in our country. They could be many things that are being done in this country that are similar in nature to gerrymandering and maybe we should find local names for them to. These are things or programs done for political expediency whose only aim is to shift political boundaries in the land by using public resources to manipulate people’s minds and emotions in a way that unfairly favours one party over the other. We therefore as a nation need more than ever to deeply scrutinise certain programs that seem illogical to many people but are being done and supported by seemingly knowledgeable and sane people.

Please allow me to think aloud. I can see a number of seemingly ‘gerrymandered’ programs in our country.  You will find appropriate names for these if you so wish, but for me they smell like gerrymandering dressed differently.

ESP

The way the ESP I mentioned earlier was announced and is being implemented brings a lot of doubt on whether this is a genuine attempt to stimulate the economy or whether it is a package meant to lineup pockets of some partisan functionaries and consequently their political party  to  create financial advantage over other parties? Elections are very expensive, so creating a scheme that will financial benefit party functionaries and the party will help with campaigns and possibly to buy votes especially from the poor and disadvantaged.  We understand that over a billion pula was spent even before the package was endorsed by parliament. How and when were these tenders prepared and adjudicated? Who won these tenders? Was a transparent and auditable process used?

The nation in a strange way was told to register companies in order to benefit from ESP. One wonders how one registers a company for ESP? What expertise is required for one to register such a company and for one to successfully execute an ESP project?  Should we not have rather encouraged already established and experienced companies to get ready by identifying and training Batswana for execution of these projects? We heard from a very senior party functionary through a leaked tape how tenders are created and won in this country for the ruling party supporters through tenderpreneuring.

Tenderpreneurs do not have to have any skill; they only need the political connection; they add no value to our economy. They are given tenders which tenders are implemented by others and a sizable cut from those tenders lines the pockets of these tenderpreneurs. Is this not gerrymandering dressed in public financial manipulations whose aim is to change people’s psychological boundaries to create partisan advantages?
 

Unprecedented Presidential visits to rural areas and showering the poor with gifts and?

It is a known fact that poor people are easily manipulated by simple gestures from authorities. Visiting poor people and talking to them as the president does so often is a good thing, if it is meant to hear concerns and developmental needs of these people but giving them presents is a sure sign of buying loyalty and keeping the poor poorer. These people can be the most loyal people you can come across and are always looking for something, anything from their leaders and giving them presents will surely win their hearts and loyalty. Leaders can easily manipulate them by cheap politics that does not add any value to their lives.

On the other hand, leaders who want to make a difference to the lives of the poor people do not give them soup and gifts, they build clinics, schools, roads and provide employment that pays at least a living wage; the elderly are given living allowances, food baskets and cared for not only by the family members but by the community and the country. These people have done their part for the country and it the time for the country to give back to these people who are now physically and emotionally unable to support themselves.

I often wonder where the blankets that the president doles out during his many visits come from. Do they belong to the country or do they come from the president personal resources? Or are they gifts from foreign companies or those tenderpreneurs? These are just innocent questions that the nation needs to ask unequivocally and wonder if this is not another form of gerrymandering; shifting political boundaries by buying people with gifts they do not deserve or need?
Ipelegeng

The way ipelegeng is conducted leaves a lot to be desired. It is not the ipelegeng that was originally envisaged by the founding father of this republic. Ipelegeng was a self help scheme meant to allow local communities to help the government with short to long term projects that benefited the community directly. Projects like building local roads, classrooms, dams, staff houses; contribution to building the University of Botswana was a typical ipelegeng project that current generations and generations to come will continue to benefit from.

Ipelegeng of today is about spending long hours under shades of trees chatting. Go around Gaborone and see these people at work and see what they actually achieve in a day. To me this is just a way of saying to these people we do not have jobs for you but we shall pay you P400 for registering in this ipelegeng because we care for you, you do not have to achieve anything. This also creates a lazy mentality that will become difficult to shake off.  Why can’t they create permanent jobs for cleaning town roads, like it is done throughout the world?

If you go around Mogoditshane village almost every yard in some streets is a brick yard owned by foreigners. Therefore brick molding is a growing profitable business that requires low level skills as evidenced by these many busy informal brick yards. This is an area that will continue to grow as Gaborone and surrounding areas continue to build new houses and infrastructure. Why can’t government use this ipelegeng money to set up proper brick yards and a support structure in areas such as Mogoditshane and get these people to mold bricks for sale and pay them decent wages instead of gerrymandering with ipelegeng program?

What else?

I am sure there are many other areas where gerrymandering is done in our country. The people need to understand these things so that the perpetuators could be appropriately punished at the polls. The people must know that the government owns no money; the government does not own any resources in this country. The money the country has and the resources that have been bestowed upon us belong to the people of this country equally.  The government role is to manage the financial and natural resources on our behalf; provide and facilitate the provision of all the services needed by the people.

The government is duty bound to ensure that we have adequate roads, adequate transportation and communication systems; adequate health care systems; adequate food; electricity, gas and water; adequate educational facilities and programs; must ensure that people are meaningfully employed to contribute to the growth of their economy; must ensure that we are well represented internationally in order to benefit fully from the global village.

Conclusion

I want to conclude by  quoting from the bible, ‘’ if I give all I possess to the poor…, but do not have love, I gain nothing, love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, it protects, always hopes and perseveres’’ Corinthians 13:3-7.

As a nation let us consider these words and apply them to our situations. Do we really love each other? Do our leaders really love the people or is it all about them using the people for their own selfish benefit?

The government role is not to go around giving gifts to the poor; they are organisations and charities that do that where there is need. The government role is to empower people so that they can create livelihoods for themselves.

Cartoon

Polls

Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?

banner_14.jpg
banner_12.jpg

POPULER BRANDS