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Masisi’s Projected cabinet reshuffle

Some of the Cabinet Ministers who were appointed in November last year, might soon find themselves as mere back-benchers while others may have to acclimatize under new roles. Not only that, some back-benchers may also get promoted.

This comes as President Mokgweetsi Masisi is set to make the first cabinet reshuffle after winning elections last October, as well as increasing new Ministries, Weekendpost has established. Masisi first announced during the 2019 State of Nation Address (SONA), that in order to improve public service efficiency, Government has embarked on a rationalisation exercise of ministerial portfolio responsibilities and functions.

“Government is considering the rationalisation of Government Ministries to improve service delivery, eliminating any duplication and overlaps of responsibilities across sectors, closing any existing structural gaps as well as identifying obsolete functions,” Masisi said. “Moreover, Government will consider a re-labelling exercise of Government Ministries to make their names, easy, relevant and more meaningful to people.”

While information is still sketchy regarding the developments, informants tell this publication that the country’s leadership wants to merge Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development with that of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The former is headed by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi, while the other is held by Anna Mokgethi-the lady who dethroned main opposition leader Duma Boko from Gaborone Bonnington North seat in the last elections.  

Despite merging the two ministries, President Masisi is still forging ahead with the creation of two other new Ministries.  It is expected that while pronouncing cabinet reshuffle in two months’ time, Masisi will also split both Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry as well as Ministry of Transport and Communications. The development is said to be geared towards fulfilling the aspirations of Vision 2036 and improve ease of doing business in Botswana.

Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry will be divided into two ministries, one of which would focus on investment and trade, while the other fragment was to focus on Small Businesses. The new ministry of Small Business Enterprises would house all the consolidated government programmes. The changes in the ministries are aimed at cultivating the culture of entrepreneurship among the locals, which is currently lacking especially in an era where unemployment continues to rocket high.

The ministry will house incubation programmes that would be intensified and land acquisition process eased. Further, this ministry will ensure the citizenry will not be denied opportunities to utilise land in beneficial ways aimed at reviving the economy. Consequently, the government wants all programmes that were aimed at providing the people with funding and technical know-how in running successful enterprises such as CEDA, LEA, YDF, LIMID including cooperatives would be reviewed, aligned to Vision 2036 and be housed under one ministry.

WeekendPost is reliably informed that Kanye North legislature Thapelo Letsholo is poised to appoint into cabinet the resultant process.  “Initially he was in President’s cabinet books but then after some hiccups (known to this publication) Masisi dropped him. But his brightness and passion when it comes to entrepreneurial issues has won the heart of the leadership and he is going to lead the Ministry,” says a source close to this publication on Thursday evening.

The expectation is the Ministry will be catered for during the current financial season. As for the Ministry of Transport and Communications’ split, it is envisaged that there would be Ministry of Communications, which would be housed under the Office of the President. The resuscitation of Transport and Communications ministry is necessitated by the critical role of infrastructure development, transportation and telecommunication networks in a working business environment, Masisi has said. It is said the major focus of the proposed changes would be to encourage local communities to work hard and own all the initiatives aimed at growing the economy.

However, six months after making the pronouncements, Masisi could be somehow contradicting himself as he is also merging two other ministries (Employment and Nationality). Sources say, the government cannot afford to increase the ministries due to financial constraints. “There is no money to accommodate more ministries and as a result the plan is to merge some of the ministries especially that of Balopi and Mokgethi, as a financial prudency tool.

The idea is to take Labour Ministry to that of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs. The two that will be created will also not have a specific budget but will rather get their share from the already parent ministries.” This now leaves the two Ministers, Balopi and Mokgethi tittering on the edge, as one of them- should Masisi’s plan succeed- will now be an ordinary Member of Parliament.

Things however are looking glamorous for Balopi as there are reports suggesting that after the merger, he will be given a more senior position for ministry of Communications. This, if it is anything to go by, this would mean that Balopi is likely to pave way for Mokgethi at the consolidated ministry.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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