The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has governed this country since independence has retained power under the leadership of Mokgweetsi Masisi, following a bout of rigorous campaign.
However, this time stakes are high and a snooping civil society will watch to see if Masisi can deliver a new dawn as promised prior to the polls. Challenges besieging Botswana have continued to rise over the past ten years, but Masisi has assured the citizenry that he will clean the mess if given fresh mandate. The civil society prior to his inauguration yesterday, advanced a number of issues the President will have to prioritise if he is to take this country to the same level as the Asian Tigers.
There is a lot of optimism from various quarters which mostly emanates from the remarks made by the President in his 18 months in office. Political scientist Professor Teedzani Mpaphi, has told this publication that there will be nothing extra-ordinary, but the country will cut its coat looking at the available cloth.
“It will take time before we can see radical changes, but from Masisi what we expect is a major policy shift that should address a number of issues he was campaigning about prior to elections. There is also a need for the President to draw a road map that will show his priority areas in a chronological order.”
Workers representatives are also watching with keen interest as to what Masisi will dish for them. For the last ten years under Lt Gen Ian Khama’s presidency, the relationship between unions and government was acrimonious. There was a glimpse of hope when Masisi ascended to the top seat last year as he started engaging them, however, the unions are still not convinced and want to see a plan on how things will improve for the better.
“We are looking for an improved relations with government. It has been better yes, but we are saying we shouldn’t be at the mercy of the President, such that when he wants to see us it’s possible but it is not the same when we want to meet him. There are some ministries which are anti-labour movement and we expect a directive from President for them to engage us as and when [necessary],” BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu shared some of their expectations from Masisi in the coming five years.
A recent savingram by the government to freeze any recruitment of vacant positions from October to March 31st next year, due to financial difficulties has left the unions with more questions than answers. “This is a non-starter,” an annoyed Tshukudu quipped and continued; “We should have been consulted. We had an agreement when we made increments and it did not include freezing of filling vacant positions. And like I said, there should be a good relations where we are consulted in most matters and that we believe will happen in the next five years.”
The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), which Masisi promised to resuscitate but never did, is another issue that irks the union and to a further extent portray Masisi as dishonest and want it to be running very soon. “But this can only happen when we have capacitated and made serious reforms within the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM),” advised Tshukudu.
LAWYERS ON CORRUPTION
Masisi, a man who portrayed himself as having zero tolerance for corruption, is also challenged to walk the talk and show seriousness in curbing corruption scourge. “It was his campaign catch phrase and it is there in their manifesto. But to accomplish this you need to have political will. Firstly, the agencies dealing with corruption should have teeth by being granted autonomy. It has long been talked but now Masisi should act,” a private attorney, Mabengano Makgetho posited.
The issue of corruption has become a hot potato of late, this following the P250 million scandal of NPF, with the latest being P4.2 billion found in a personal account of DIS agent, a matter which is currently under court consideration. “These P4 billion issues are proceeds of crime and for Masisi administration to recover these he should be willing to spend to get the best lawyers across the world and investigate these matters thoroughly because it will take many years since the monies are syphoned to other countries,” Makgetho says.
It is believe that there is selective justice in the way corruption is being tackled, as lawyer Kgosi Ngakaagae bluntly put it; “The government is behaving like a typical mafia state where you hurt the other side by shooting its children. No right thinking citizen should allow the pattern of impunity and scapegoating to continue. Let all people mentioned in any case be in handcuffs,” he said referring to the ‘untouchables’ in these cases. “The main thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption”, Masisi said this to his past cabinet ministers. â€¨
“If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it. Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospital while you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), le nna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President,” Masisi warned passionately.
ON CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW
The attorneys and political scientist agree that before the end of this year Masisi should have assembled a law reform commission that will be tasked with revision of the constitution. “It has been long overdue and this time around there is no need for peace-meal approach, but rather the whole of the constitution should be overhauled to cater for a number of developments including the direct election of the President,” Professor Mpaphi explained.
On the other hand, lawyer Makgetho is of the view that the revision of the constitution should be priority for Masisi but says it should be accorded time it deservers including conducting referendum. “There should be a plan on how it will be carried out but all stakeholders should be included and play a big role. There is no need to have some tribes claiming to be bigger and better than others. This is hazardous and it is highly likely to divide the nation.”
Masisi prior to the elections, has repeated the need to revise the constitution. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue at length and all the stuff. The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.”
DIKGOSI WANT BETTER PACKAGES
With Masisi now on a full mandate, there is an air of optimism within traditional leaders that at long last their lament to have better packages could be nearing the end. This, according to Kgosi Maruje III, should they have improved conditions of services there will be no time for Dikgosi to leave their traditional roles for greener pastures which include occupying political office.
“Our welfare should be improved,” he narrated. “There have been views that we should approach the Office of President on this matter so that we can have improved conditions of services and our powers be improved too. If we have addressed these you won’t see Dikgosi going to politics, because even the parliamentary privileges are better than that of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. We should equate Dikgosi to other three arms of government.”
Traditional leaders also demand security equivalent to those given to judges as they do the same toil of solving disputes. Private and personal secretaries must also be availed to the leaders to do their job diligently. “We also need diplomatic passports, if you can avail to athletes and MPs why don’t you give Dikgosi the same.” They also say Ministers should not supervise them but the government should establish the Royal council. Not only this but Dikgosi also want all tribes to be recognized and be included in Ntlo Ya Dikgosi to avoid marginalization of some tribes. However, this will only materialize if the constitution has been thoroughly reviewed.
EMPLOYMENT AND LAND
Youth and graduates unemployment is one challenge that Botswana is grappling with and Masisi has been urged and has agreed that he will give it the seriousness it deserves. “Government should be clear as to what sustainable ideas they have for these group to maintain themselves, not these manna from heaven programs, they need to be reviewed too. Remember unemployment is a threat to national stability and tranquillity and it should be prioritized,” Tshukudu believes. The latest statistics show that Botswana has 17.9 percent unemployment rate.
“I know that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such,” Masisi has told his party members. Allocation of land is another area that Masisi is lobbied to push, especially servicing of land and pushing waiting lists.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.