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Gov’t loses millions in Gcwihaba project

The much anticipated Gcwihaba caves explorations, which was carried out by the Government of Botswana has come to a halt despite having splashed monies slightly over a million Pula in the project since its inception.

In their bid to continue to sabotage all the projects which were spearheaded by former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, it is alleged that the current administration decided to put everything on hold and the officers who were deployed at the caves were left in the dark.
It is reported that the dedicated team which was joined by officers from Botswana Museum at the expense of the Government, has just stopped and the

In an interview with WeekendPost this week, former President Khama said the costs of travelling to Gchwihaba and doing explorations is slightly in millions of Pula. In September last year Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) announced that a state- of- the-art facility is expected to take shape at Gcwihaba caves, 43 Kilometers from Xai Xai village in the Ngamiland District. Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama who was appointed Tourism Ambassador, was later stripped of the title at the time leading to the development where a lodge and an airstrip were expected to be built to make it accessible for tourists and selling the beautiful caverns to the international market.

In an interview with WeekendPost at the time, Khama said his involvement with the development is not somehow anything commercial but he was pursuing his work as the Tourism Ambassador and offering his experience with the caves dating back to his days at the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as a Commander.

The former President with his team of soldiers and the Botswana Museum and Wildlife, have been involved in a number of explorations in the area to discover more caves and make them more accessible and attractive to tourists. In the interview Khama said even though the investment is private, the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) will be at the forefront.

Khama said so far the biggest challenge is water availability and access roads. To help the issue of roads they have resorted to building an airstrip so that air transport can help get there faster. The former President also revealed that he did not see government building roads anytime soon, but confirmed that the roads will be graded in the meantime.  “These developments will directly benefit everyone including Batawana,” he said. Gcwihaba caves are a National Monument administered by the Botswana National Museum and protected by the revised Monuments and Relics Act (2001).

Adherence to some basic guidelines will make your visit worthwhile and ensure the continued protection of a part of Botswana’s unique heritage. These caverns were first known to the Qung San and were shown to Matinus Drotsky, a Ghanzi farmer in 1934. Subsequently he published them. The caves formed as a result of natural process that operated and created fascinating geologic formations some 3 to 2 million years ago.

The caverns have been formed in the dolomite marble of the Precambrian Damara super group when wetter conditions prevailed and acidulated water flowing underground dissolved the caverns and later a river forming nearby lowered the water table, emptying them. Rain water highly charged with bicarbonates, percolating through the upper rocks and dripping into the caverns lost its carbon dioxide and chemically precipitated fantastic stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones.

Epic re- flooding, evacuation and dripping have resulted in deposits of different ages forming one upon another.  Presently the caverns are refilling with windblown sand but minor seasonal precipitations are also taking place.  There are two entrances which are interconnected by a serious of caverns and passages covering a total distance of over half a kilometer. The caves are also an important home for a variety of life including different species of bats.

According to UNESCO website, the Gcwihaba Caves have been part of the Kalahari landscape for at least the entire Pleistocene epoch, some 2 million years ago. The cave contains sediments useful for the regional paleo climatic reconstruction. This was found out during the first scientific research undertaken by Cooke and Ballieul (1974). This cave system has two large (more than 5m wide) cavernous entrances, which have allowed access of a large number of bats and windblown sand deep into the cave.

This has effectively buried much of the cave with sediment of up to at least 7m (Cooke, 1975). Adjacent to this cave is a recently discovered cave named !Wa Doum. This has only been researched on a few occasions. The cave's most important feature is the limited air exchange with surrounding atmosphere as it was more or less sealed off from the outside world until researchers entered it for the first time in October 1992. These caves have a very rich variety of secondary cave formations such as stalactites and stalagmites, but also many more unusual formations such as helictites, soda straws and cave pearls, totally untouched by man.

The cave has been resealed after each visit by researchers to safeguard the interior air composition. The current exploration project has delineated a number of caves of which three have been confirmed. In addition, a lot of bones (both fossilized and modern) as well as archaeological finds have been unveiled through excavation programmes as part of the ongoing exploration work.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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