Ex-Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North (formerly Gaborone West North), Robert Masitara has this week declared his parliamentary candidature as an independent contender for the area in the impending 2019 General Elections.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week the politician cum Gaborone Socialite and philanthropist confirmed the move saying the country needs him and his expertise more at this juncture than never before. “I still feel that my skills are needed in parliament particularly the expertise and exposure on corruption,” he asserted while stressing “so the role that I want to play at parliament is mainly to fight corruption.”
According to Masitara, in his short stint while outside of parliament in the last term he became aware of some things that he was otherwise not aware of when he was in the system. “Being outside parliament briefly allowed me to gain some valuable expertise. I learnt that corruption is not only the element of stealing or visible corruption. There is a hidden and subdue corruption that you cannot understand. That corruption is beyond nepotism, extortion, embezzlement and misappropriation. And I want to fight that corruption in parliament,” he observed.
When did he take the decision to stand as an independent candidate?
The corruption busting former law maker stated that he took the decision to seek for a second term in parliament around two to three years back but kept it closer to his lips while being present in the area on the ground. It was about two to three years back, he pointed out to this publication.
He continued: “I have long taken the decision as soon as I got into the forensics and saw the way things are being done and I realised that none of our MP’s understand the dynamics of our corruption the way I do. And none of the people in the oversight duties of government understand corruption the way I do. So I thought my best decision is to go back to parliament to rescue them.
“I am the only person who can help Masisi” – Masitara
The maverick ex legislator said he thanks God for an extension of his life because his assignment to the people is not yet fulfilled and think it will be, under President Masisi. At this stage, he said, “I am the only person that can actually help President Masisi” while adding “I am putting my life at risk I know I am going to have opposition. He contended that his loss, will be a loss to the entire country. “Even if I lose, it will not be the loss to myself alone, but it is to the country. It’s very critical. So they must put me in parliament.
According to the one time ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, the people of Gaborone Bonnington North are different from other voters and that they understand him more to vote him back. “This is the time they need my services at parliament. With the influx of foreigners leading to more corruption, they need me more at parliament. Even if it means joining government it can help – mine is to help to recover corruption money. I will also put systems to block more money from going outside,” he said.
Corruption top priority for Masitara at parliament
Masitara highlighted that corruption will be his priority at parliament because every problem in this country cannot be resolved until they solve the nucleus of problems which is corruption. He observed: “I can draw a matrix of the economic situation of this country; the high rate of unemployment, substandard infrastructure. Everything emanates from our inability to provide corruption. There are no medicines in the hospitals as the supply chain in the procurement system of medicines has been captured. Service delivery cannot be executed as people are busy in demand of a ‘cut.’’”
Why he thinks he did not win in last 2014 elections
In terms why he lost the previous general Elections, the non-conformist politicians justified that there were many dynamics at time. He said, there were issues of public sectors strike that was at hand, but that he managed to garner more than 5000 voters against opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s more than 7000 speaks volume.
“This means I cannot be taken lightly. Remember people were also being trafficked into the area to vote against me because of the strike. Right now dynamics and the landscape have absolutely changed. And so let the electorates decide what they want.”
Some BDP cadres conspired to throw Masitara under the bus politically
When narrating his ordeal, the celebrity politician said he submitted his application at the BDP to stand in the recent primary elections but was blocked. “I had channelled it through our branch committee and I don’t really know where my letter ended. So they blocked it. I was in Pretoria at the time when I put through my letter. But that’s water under the bridge,” he said. He also stated that he believes there was instruction from somewhere in the party high authority saying they should not allow me to stand.
“They know very well that they cannot stand me. The very reason why they did not allow me is because I was not even listened to while I was in parliament. It’s the very reason why I was launched three days before the 2014 October General Elections. I was launched after everybody else have been launched. This explains why,” he lashed out.
Masitara believes that when one is in the Finance department, such as he was in oversight parliamentary committees, there is no way he can/would have been friends with anybody when executing his duty which he says might have contributed to some of his colleagues non-support. He observed: “when I used to say I want people to account I mean it – right from the presidency down. If you become soft people take you for granted. These are public funds.”
Did Masitara fail as the Chairman of parliamentary oversight committee?
The ex-MP said parliament can do so much up to a certain level and that from there government must take over. “If I come as the Chairman of a parliamentary committee implying that there is corruption somewhere and advice for forensic audit to be carried out, and give government the report. My expectations is not to go to government and shove the report down their throat but that they should look at it and see if they can implement as they hold the government purse. So the system did nothing, and what else can I, as an MP do given the set up?” he asked rhetorically.
Senior officials are busy looting while Khama/Masisi fight
According to Masitara, former President Ian Khama and incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi are still fighting this senseless war, which he says he do not even know where the war emanates from although they can speculate, and that this is happening while people are busy looting on the sides.
“Minister, senior government officials are looting. They are looting money through the system. They are doing this because they is no monitoring, who is monitoring parastatals, government departments? Who provides financial oversight over all these institutions?” he further asked oratorically.
Botswana not fighting corruption but only noncompliance to BURS
The corruption fighting specialist went on to reveal that what Botswana is fighting now is not corruption but compliance; it is an issue of non-compliance to Botswana unified revenue Services (BURS) for tax purposes. “I even told the DISS about this. It is about someone owing tax and it accumulated with penalties and interest and now BURS want to confiscate his assets to forfeit, yes they can do but that’s not the duty of the DISS. Corruption and money laundering should make part of their duty.”
On Isaac Kgosi ongoing court case, Masitara said he feels embarrassed that the former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi is only charged for leaking pictures of DISS operatives on duty against the DISS Act while there are strong allegations of corruption involving millions spanning in billions hanging on his head, but no charges have been laid so far. On NPF issue he stressed that it is just a tip of the iceberg and involves small money.
He stated that: “there is a risk that if the State fail to have collected evidence that is permissible in a court of law, the accused persons have a high risk of being discharged on technicalities because of our weaknesses in terms of collecting crucial data. And when they win the case they can even come back and sue government.”
On the famous undelivered promise to build bridge to the electorates
The philanthropist politician also pointed out that the issue was blown out of proportion. “Those are petty issues. I was standing against Otsweletse Moupo back then. I urged the people of Block 5 to vote for me so that I build the bridge for them. It was a simple thing as at the time as I had connections back then to deliver,” he said. So, he added that they decided to vote for Moupo instead and so there was nothing he could do then and he gave him a chance to execute his duties and that it’s now water under the bridge.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.