Youngest MP makes social media her entry point in parley

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

The newly appointed Specially Elected Member of Parliament Bogolo Kenewendo (29), has singled out social media as her vehicle for reaching out to the young electorate out there. Speaking to the media, Kenewendo said “her intentions to open up her social media pages to the youth for better interaction. Once she is settled in her new job, Kenewendo looks forward to social media chit-chat with her “constituents” she said. She is the youngest MP to take the oath of office since independent in 1966. 

According to Kenewendo, top on her list in her social media communications is likely to be some of the most complex high level economic stuff such as government budgets, public debt, international trade as well as everyday life challenges such as unemployment that the youth and women in Botswana face.   

The world over, the prevalence of social media in politics has made elected officials and candidates for public office more accountable and accessible to voters, according to critics and political pundits. “And the ability to publish content and broadcast it to millions of people instantaneously allows campaigns to carefully manage their candidates’ images based on rich sets of analytics in real time and at almost no cost,” they say.

Prior to her appointment, she has been involved with a lot of awareness talks especially those revolving around Trade, Economics and finance. She holds an MSc in International Economics from the University of Sussex in the UK. That was after she completed her BA in Economics at the University of Botswana (UB). While at the University of Botswana, Kenewendo also studied with the Pitzer College in the US. She studied European Integration at Tor Vergata at the Jean Monnet international Summer School in Rome, Italy, and did Economic Freedom Philosophy at the Foundation for Economic Education.

She is also a recipient of several prestigious programmes including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office International Leaders Programme 2016 designed to forge links and build cooperation with international leaders from around the world and a Chevening Scholarship alumni 2012/13 group.

Reports say “following her encounter with the US First Lady Michelle Obama during her Yale pre-Mandela Washington Fellowship in 2011, she formed the Molaya Kgosi Women Empowerment. 

 “I am a trade economist. So obviously I would like to serve either at trade or finance ministries. But then again, I am more into youth matters, so the ministry of youth will also be ideal,” she is quoted as saying.

However, in New Zealand, a young MP has opted to steer clear of social media after a little misunderstanding. Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, 24, has had a steep learning curve since he arrived in Parliament some months ago.

It is believed that perhaps the biggest lesson came when he posted a comment on his Facebook page, appearing to ridicule current affairs show Campbell Live. A petition to save the show was launched after TV3 parent company MediaWorks announced it was conducting a review into its future.

Barclay posted on Facebook: "No surprises that it's only Labour Party MPs scrambling to keep Campbell Live running ... #goodjobmikehosking." He later took the post down, replacing it with an apology: "I stand corrected; Campbell Live does have a lot of supporters. I guess it's down to personal preference etc."

Barclay said the post was meant to be light-hearted humour, and he never meant to offend anyone, taking the post down as soon as he got a glimpse of the reaction to it. “Social media has reshaped structures and methods of contemporary political communication by influencing the way politicians interact with citizens and each other. However, the role of this phenomenon in increasing political engagement and electoral participation is neither clear nor simple,” said a source.


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