Accommodation arranged by Government for all the 63 Members of Parliament (MP) at the exotic Avani Resort and Casino, pending the refurbishment of the parliamentary village flats is likely to guzzle an estimated P8,418,060 from the already ‘dry’ Government wallet.
Following their victories from various constituencies on the 23rd of October, the MPs checked-in at Avani the following week to take oath and to nominate the six Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMP). Another business they came for was to elect the Speaker of the National Assembly as well as his Deputy. That was on the 28th of the same month with President Mokgweetsi Masisi opening the parliamentary business with State of the Nation Address (SONA) on the 18th of November. Since that date until the closure of the ongoing parliamentary meeting on the 20th of this month, the legislators would have stayed in the luxurious rooms for almost two months (54 days).
WeekendPost can authoritatively reveal that the MPs are lodging in Avani rooms which are 27 square meters on size. The rooms can carry three people (two adults plus one child) and it has Wi-Fi. There are other complimentary services which sees the room costing P1, 020 a night. Calculations by this publication from the 28th of October to the 20th of this month, show that it would have been 54 days which amounts to P3, 470,040.
The second meeting of the next session is expected in the first week of February next year until April. This is normally presided by a Budget Speech presented by a Minister of Finance and Development Planning. Mathematics has once again projected that the legislators will stay in Avani for a prolonged period of 75 days. For this period only (3rd February to 17th April) Government will cough up P4, 819,500, which will see the total amount including expenses of the current meeting at P8, 289,540.
For the MPs to be staying in Avani is a government effort to ensure that the honorable members have a decent accommodation and environment to stay in. For now, it is said, the parliamentary village flats are far from being ideal for MPs to occupy. The flats’ windows, tables and other properties which were damaged by the 11th parliament occupants will have to be replaced. Weekendpost however at time of going to press was yet to unearth the total budget for the renovations.
A memo reminding the legislators to leave the flats has long been issued for them to see how they will rescue themselves but they decided not to respond. As is Weekendpost is reliably informed that most of the legislators have now vacated the flats with only few remaining. his, a source says is the main reason stalling everything. “This is a process, the houses should be inspected and all the assets inside should be valued and registered for auction sale. But for now there is nothing that could move with some MPs still refusing to leave, this should be done at once.”
This also means that the contractor to refurbish the houses is yet to be appointed, hence projections say the flats will only be ready mid-year 2020. Questionnaire sent to Parliament Public Relations Unit was not responded at the time of print, despite various attempts to allow the Parliamentary Secretariat to comment. The Parliamentary Village is a residential complex in Gaborone where MPs are housed free of charge for their entire term of office, to execute their duty with ease. Earlier this year, it was revealed that MPs are failing to pay electricity bills amounting to around P200, 000.
It was said since 2015, the MPs defaulted and it appears that those who have lost General Elections intend to leave Parliament without settling the bills. It is not clear which mechanism the government would use to force the MPs to pay the bills before Parliament is dissolved for the General Elections. Parliamentary sources on the other hand tell this publication that they have received letters requesting them to pay the bills with July set as the deadline for all to have paid.
The arrangement between MPs and the Government is that the cost of electricity used by an individual member should be borne by the member in full. It is said they should foot the bills every month, something which they did in the formative months in Parliament before defaulting. However, in some instances it is said some legislators claim not to be aware of such agreement despite almost five years residing in Parliamentary Village.
The Botswana Parliament is created by Section 57 of the Constitution and it is composed of the President and the National Assembly. The role of Parliament is to make laws as stipulated in Section 86 of the Constitution, which states that: ‘Parliament shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Botswana.’ In this way it means Parliament exercises legislative powers as one of its core mandates. In addition, Parliament performs functions such as representation, scrutiny and oversight.
OP STATEMENT ON MPs HOUSING IN AVANI
The public is informed that, since the Parliamentary Village that ought to accommodate Members of Parliament is currently under renovation following the departure of the former tenants, the National Assembly had no option but to house the newly elected legislature at a hotel in Gaborone. Since the MPs were accommodated together with their Conditions of Service, the hotel accommodation could not be revoked when the MPs retreated to Kasane for the one week orientation.
The departure process of the former MP tenants at the Parliamentary Village, coupled with personal circumstances that are common to vacating residential premises, contributed to the delay in carrying out renovations in time for the newly elected MPs to take up residence at the Village. Currently, the MPs are in the process of vacating the hotel to occupy the temporary accommodation arranged by the National Assembly pending the completion of renovations at the Parliamentary Village.
OP DISMISSES BUILDING OF NEW STATE HOUSE
The office of the President further regards as absurd, allegations of astronomical expenditure relating to official travel by His Excellency the President since any such expenditure is a product of accountable budgetary processes. The allegations about plans for the construction of a new State House are equally false and prepopsterous.
Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.
The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.
He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected
“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.
The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.
Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.
He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them. “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.
“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.
“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”
To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.
In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.
“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.
Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’
Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.
So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’
Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.
“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.
The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.
The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent
“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”
The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.
“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.
For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.
In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.
In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.
The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.