The main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC,) has upped elections tempo with only two weeks to go by pouring millions in their campaigns, in a spirited bid to wrestle the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) out of power.
This week the party officially launched the Sekhukhu Tour in which it seeks to cover all the 57constiuencies in 12 days. For that to happen smoothly, the UDC through its sponsors has availed two choppers, three open disco trucks and five luxurious coach buses. The fly machines will be used by the President Duma Boko and his Vice Dumelang Saleshando. It is said the three trucks have already been given destination with the other set to cover Kgalagadi region, the other will go to Maun while the last one will go to Kasane, enroute covering all the constituencies along.
The buses which when the tour was launched this week at the bus rank were still cleared at the border and branded, will be used to fetch electorates to the polling stations especially on Election Day. “The purpose of all these is to walk around and interact with the people to understand their worries and this will definitely happens as you have just witnessed with the walk around in Gaborone bus rank. I cannot tell you the estimation of these as one army commander once said; you don’t reveal your strategies to you opponents because they will use the same weapon against you,” Boko told this publication at the event where the Sekhukhu tour was officially launched.
This development comes after untidy skirmishes between the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over the ‘illegal’ flying of aircrafts over Botswana skies by the leader of the main opposition party Boko, in May this year. This time, after the former availed a checklist of temporary admission of aircraft into the Botswana skies to the party’s lawyers, it seems now the dust has settled and the expected fly-machines by the party will be free in Botswana atmosphere.
The not so clean games, which many interpreted as politically motivated by the ruling party saw two of the aircrafts Boko was using for electioneering grounded by the BURS and his pilots interrogated and later fined P50 000 by the tax collector, UDC President Boko took steps to distill the process. The aircrafts were landed to Boko by Waleed Helicopter Services (PTY) Ltd. Boko then instructed the UDC lawyers, Bayford and Associates to ask for a requisite BURS checklist for purposes of temporary importation into Botswana of aircraft intended for use in election campaigns.
Although Boko was once again interrogated by aviation and BURS officers in Maun recently, it appears the party has now ticked all the right boxes and their plan to use two choppers will see the light of the day. Informants close to the developments tell this publication that the script to put the campaigns on steroids the last days has long been drafted but the party was awaiting for President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reveal elections dates. In fact, the UDC targeted the last 45 days of the campaigns to be more intense. However, when Masisi revealed the 23rd of this month as D-day, it was already late for the party but they still vowed to pull a show stopper in the last remaining few weeks.
WeekendPost is reliably informed that the party funders, headlined by Zunaid Moti and others who have preferred to remain back-stage, have availed two choppers for the party. It is explained by impeccable sources that the choppers are specifically for party President Duma Boko and his Vice Dumelang Saleshando.
“The idea is for the two men (Boko and Saleshando) to traverse the breadth and width of this country pushing campaigns. The thing now is our leaders should swap destinations. If Boko was in Gumare launching our candidate there, then he will go to Bokspits to hold a star rally there. This is deliberately done to keep the fire burning,” explained one party member on Friday morning.
The expected fly machines are the same as the previous ones Boko has used in the past, a 2017 Augusta A109SP, which is valued at US$ 5 950 000 which translates to about P50 millions of which 12% translates to P6 million. But depending on their age, other models could come at a lower price of just under P20 million, which would require the UDC to fork out about P2 million as guarantee to the BURS and further ensure that there is no violation of the preset conditions for the temporary admission of the aircraft or face penalties including paying all tax payable.
For the two helicopters this now means the party will cough out P12 million to access them without ‘harassment’ from tax collector and or aviation authorities. The move by the UDC to lure investors to assist them is however being welcomed by most observers and pundits as it is believed this would close the gap between them and the BDP towards election time. For a long time political party, funding has been advocated by many but it has not seen the light of the day.
UDC has also acquired three open disco trucks that will be used for motorcades across 57 constituencies. The trucks are normally used to carry crowds with mounted musical instruments, with revelers enjoying. Just like in 2014 elections when the party acquired a bus from good Samaritans, this time around the party is also anticipating a number of luxury coaches that will be placed at various areas.
These buses are said to be Higer Touring, which their marker price is P2.7 million. But for UDC, the buses will be hired for the duration of the campaign period until election date, it is rumored that for the two weeks that the buses will be here, their rental is estimated at close to P5 million.
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.