The Gaborone City Council (GCC) Town Clerk, Lebuile Israel, finds himself implicated in an unusual development at Town Hall. A couple of days ago, some staff members – some of them staunch supporters of the opposition – received an unusual item in their email boxes: a pdf copy of the 2019 election manifesto (all 56 pages of it) for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The accompanying note from the sender read: “We have been advised to know the BDP manifesto in order to know what their expectations are so ke a lo romella le o lebe le tlhaloganye le o share le your staff we’ll discuss further details in our Friday meeting which is now scheduled for 09h00 sharp.”
The Setswana means “I am sending you the manifesto to read, understand and share with…”When appraised of this matter by a source, Sunday Standard was told that Israel was the source of this instruction because the manifesto originated from the Town Clerk’s Office. However, on being quizzed about this issue, Israel himself expressed shock and hinted at an ulterior motive on the part of those peddling this allegation against him. His explanation is that at a meeting of heads of departments that he addressed, he stressed the need for these heads to drive the mandate of the current government by familiarising themselves with official documents in which developments projects and programmes are articulated.
As he recalls, he made such statement during the course of speaking about citizen economic empowerment.“What I said was ‘let’s look at our own programmes and see how we can economically empower citizens’. I gave an example of outdoor advertising business which is dominated by non-citizens and said that we should work to empower citizens in this business,” says Israel, adding that he also raised the issue of open spaces that are used for welding and asked for the relevant officers to determine the nationality of the people who currently occupy those spaces.Twice Israel stated that never once did he say that GCC officers should familiarise themselves with the BDP manifesto, which he says he never even mentioned in his address.
At the time that Sunday Standard contacted him, he said that he was not even aware that a copy of the BDP election manifesto was being circulated among GCC staff.“But some people have their own agendas,” he said in distancing himself with an unusual development that he has been associated with. At least on the basis of this explanation, it would appear that one or some of the people attending this meeting understood Israel’s words to mean that they should read the BDP’s election manifesto. Sunday Standard learns that the manifesto issue was raised at the meeting of one GCC department which – like any Botswana workplace, is staffed by people of different political persuasions.
The officer chairing the meeting had first suggested discussing contents of the manifesto but some at the meeting suggested that it be sent to individual staff members. It did and became the issue it is now. It remains unclear how an election manifesto (which is basically a set of broad and often false political promises that have not been distilled into practical policy) would have been implemented. From what Sunday Standard learns, the issue has been referred to the secretariat of the Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union, which we were not able to get a comment from at press time.