Botswana: 50-50 missed in cabinet reshuffle

Botswana: 50-50 missed in cabinet reshuffle

Date: April 18, 2018
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By Gomolemo Rasesigo,

Gaborone, 16 April: Botswana’s new president Mokgweetsi Masisi missed the opportunity to make good on Botswana’s commitment to gender equality in his recent new cabinet, but had social media agog with his appointment of a young woman to the post of Investment Trade and Industry. Masisi is Botswana’s fifth president. The women’s movement had hoped for the appointment of a woman Vice President. That did not happen, and the representation of women in cabinet increased by a mere one percentage point to 18%.

Botswana remains one of the countries in Southern Africa with a low representation of women in parliament and cabinet. According to the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer 2017, women comprise 10% of parliamentarians and 19% in local councils.

Cabinet is a test of political commitment because the president has the latitude to choose, although in Botswana cabinet ministers must also be Members of Parliament.

Previously four of the five women parliamentarians were in cabinet. The incoming president allocated cabinet seats to all the women in parliament. The women elected into cabinet lead the Ministry of Local Government and Rural development as both Minister and deputy one as a Minister the other Assistant Minister; Ministry of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs; Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development. Four are full ministers; the fifth is an assistant minister.

The ground breaking appointment by the new president is Bogolo Kenewendo, a 31 year old woman appointed as the Minister of Investment trade and Industry. The women’s rights movement welcomes the appointment.

She is the youngest MP in the Botswana National Assembly. She completed her BA in Economics at the University of Botswana and holds MSc in International Economics from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and was a recipient of a prestigious Chevening Scholarship in 2012. Her areas of expertise include: Macroeconomic policy, public debt management, trade policy, export development, trade in services, regulatory frameworks, trade related issues, trade and investment policy, industrial development policy, institutional frameworks for policy formulation, poverty alleviation, financial sector development,

She brings a new and youthful energy to the Botswana cabinet having had come in as a specially elected member of parliament under the former President Seretse Khama Ian Khama. Her appointment to the ministry that contributes most to the economy underscores a new era for this diamond-rich country.

Dorcas Malesu is now the minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs becoming the first woman in over 10 years to lead the ministry. Botswana, whose previous President Khama was not married, had been without a first lady for 10 years. Neo Masisi will now fill that role. She is passionate about womens empowerment.

As Botswana prepares to go to elections in 2019 it is necessary to step up efforts to break the cycle of women’s low political participation. In the coming week Gender Links will engage in dialogues with political leaders for possible solutions such as the implementation of the quota system at party level and training of women candidates among others.

Gomolemo Rasesigo is Gender Links Botswana Country Manager. This article is part of the GL news and blogs service.

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