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UDC threatens to walk-out of Parley committees

The main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), is resolute and will fight to the bitter end with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), to have an equitable and proportional representation in the Parliamentary Standing Committees.

There are 23 Parliamentary Committees from which five are Inter-Parliamentary Committees and already the latter’s members have been elected with 18 committes expected to be voted for next week. It is from the five international parliamentary committess that the UDC has read malice from their counterparts and raised a complaint.

“We have already submitted a complaint over the unequal representation of the inter-parliamentary committes in which you will have five BDP members against one of us. There should be equal and proportional representation in these committees, the BDP is ruling how can they police themselves,” UDC spokesperson on Parliamentary Reforms and Culture, Pono Moatlhodi asked rhetorically.

UDC which ammased 15 constituencies from last month’s General Elections, is unwavering in their stance and has threatened that should the BDP maintain ‘selfishness’ in other committes to be voted for next week, they will walk-out. “If our complaint fell on deaf ears, we will defintely walk out of those Standing Committees including from the inter-parliamentary committees because clearly it will be all about the BDP. But remember we were all voted for by Batswana to oversee their assets,” Moatlhodi who is also the opposition whip threatened.

The 2014-19 Parliament had a bad start owing to the selection of committee members. Back then, all the 20 UDC members walked out of the committees as a way of protest to show their displeaure on biased committee selection. The then Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe refused to soften her stance, leaving opposition only with Public Accounts Commitee, to Chair. The Standing Orders compels that the PAC be Chaired by an opposition member.

 “If they do like what happened in the past we will even write to some of the international organisations so that they know that there is unfair practice in Botswana, despite being hailed as a shining example of democracy. That way, we know that they will not be allowed to have  a say in those events,” posited Moatlhodi who is representing Tonota constituency at the National Assembly.

The selection was made this past Thursday, with the results expected to be out on Friday (yesterday). This week all the legislators wishing to be in any of the 18 committees, submitted their names to the National Assembly Secretariat for consideration. The voting is done by the August House accross the political divide.

As is, the BDP which has 38 MPs plus six that were Specially Elected as Members of Parliament (SEMP) has 18 members eligible to seat in the committees. On the other hand, UDC has 15 while Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) has 3, with Alliance for Progressives (AP) with a single member. It is from this corner that UDC wants reasonable representation.

Apart from unfair representation, the UDC laments that it is Batswana or Parliamentary business that will suffer the most. This, Moatlhodi says, is because if a member for instance is sitting in five committes and they (committees) clash, the other one will be at a disadvantage.
Following the protests immedeately after the 2014 elections, the BDP through its then Chief Whip, Fedilis Molao compromised so that the National Assembly business could not be compromised. Out of 18 Standing Committes BDP got 9 while the remaining 9 was divided between UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) MPs. The storm was over, and business continued. This could be what Moatlhodi is hoping for this term.

While the opposition is adamant that it has a case to abandon Parliamentary committees, the BDP on the other hand, is of the view that the opposition should understand that they are a party in power. The BDP has always been of the view that the commitee representation numbers should reflect the number of one’s seats in Parliament. The BDP Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay told this publication that they are likely to have  a 50-50 representation but revealed that it is all about democracy as those with many members will win.

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

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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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