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Inside the CDC cracks

It has been a tumultuous week for the most populous Council in the country, the Central District Council (CDC).  With all the hair raising developments linked to the ongoing feud between President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama, the dust shall only settle post October General Elections.

Councillors are at each other’s throats as they align themselves with the two figure heads – but now a gaslighting approach by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Frans Solomon Van Der Westhuizen has thrown the spanner into the works. Some in the CDC believe that the Minister’s Executive Powers are set to run the 192 councillors at most until the October elections. 

This week the Minister, using his executive powers, rejected a resolution by the Serowe Administrative Authority (SAA) to remove its chairperson, Mpho Kooreme following a successful motion of no confidence. The motion was approved by 17 councillors and rejected by 5. Those in support of Kooreme’s removal are of the view that Van Der Westhuizen has undermined democracy, whilst the Minister argues that their motion and resolution was not in the public interest. Kooreme is seen as President Masisi supporter hence his removal by colleagues who do not subscribe to his “patriotism stance”.

While the Serowe meeting called by some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members who are aligned to Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s campaign bid for the BDP presidency appears to have ignited the flames, it has emerged that the fractious relationships have been peeping out of the words already, with an alleged failed attempt to remove the current chairperson of the CDC, Peter Williams, a BDP seating councilor from Semotswane.

Before the BDP Serowe meeting Williams had reported Kooreme and four others, Gabagopole Sebele, deputy chairperson of Palapye Administrative Authority; Goratamang Masweu, Chairperson of Bobirwa Sub District Council; and Goabaone Bolesitswe, deputy chairperson of Boteti Sub District Council.

Williams, who is not seeking re-election wrote a letter to Minister Van der Westhuizen reporting acts of misconduct against some in the CDC executive whom he accused of sabotaging council business. On the 22nd January 2019 he wrote, “On the 14th December 2018, some members of the Council behaved in a manner that made the council unmanageable. They walked out of the council and influenced the collapse of the quorum, hence failure for the Council to finish critical issues of the Council.”

The CDC chairperson had requested that the minister of Local Government “act accordingly for smooth running of the council”. He further stated that “the principle of the wishes of these are wanting against the Government of the day, and the moral qualities as well as self-dedication to the cause of the Government of the people.”

But Minister Van Der Westhuizen wrote back to Williams, “This letter is in response to your unreferenced letter dated 22nd January 2019, through which you brought to my attention certain occurrences that you deem to be making Central District Council ungovernable, thus requiring my immediate intervention.”

Van Der Westhuizen also made it clear that he has seen the appeal and the alleged misconduct. However he said he is of the view that the laws in place as well as the operational Standing Orders have to be exhausted first before “I can descend into the arena as requested.”
Williams was initially “mistakenly viewed as a Venson-Moitoi or Khama supporter, but it has since become clear that he supports the President Masisi,” said a CDC Councillor who preferred to remain anonymous. The Councillor alleged that CDC is divided and this is likely to affect service delivery.

“You see now the feud between Masisi and Khama almost affected schedule of meetings, one of which was to address the tentative budget for 2019/2020.” Meanwhile Minister Van Der Westhuizen has attracted the wrath of some councillors, especially those from the Serowe Administrative Authority who accuse him of overstepping his mark and “abusing” his powers. They further point out that he applies double standards because he fails to stamp his authority when he was told that Kooreme and company were undermining the Council processes, but was quick to “remember his powers”  when Kooreme was removed through a motion of no confidence just so that he saves him.

“I have read and studied the report presented by the Council Secretary which details what transpired and the deliberations that resulted in the resolution to remove the said chairperson. Having studied the report, it is clear that the resolution passed to remove the Chairperson of Serowe Administrative Authority is not in the public or national interest. That being the case, I have taken a decision to reject the Resolution and duly reinstate the Chairperson of Serowe Administrative Authority with immediate effect.

The said powers being derived from Section 85 of the Local Government Act,” says a letter from the Minister as read by Council Chairperson, Peter Williams to the full council meeting. The ruling BDP goes for a Special Congress in Kang on the 5th of April 2019 where President Masisi is expected to romp to victory against Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, should she get nomination as they battle for the presidency of the BDP. So far Masisi has been nominated by nine regions of the BDP including the central region.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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