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BOFEPUSU, BFTU team up to influence 2019 Elections

Two main union federations the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) have over the weekend separately resolved to sway the impending hotly contested 2019 General Elections in line with their demands.

BFTU made their Council resolutions at Mahalapye while BOFEPUSU were lodged at Palapye. The purpose of the BOFEPUSU gathering was to deliberate on topical issues affecting the workers while BFTU gathered to give a full account of the activities of the Board and Committees to the General Council.

In terms of the resolutions that were aimed at having an impact on the 2019 elections outcome, BFTU noted that in a functioning multi-party democracy, every general election presents an opportunity to all stakeholders to ask those seeking their votes to enter public office, what it is that they have for them. According to BFTU, the General Council of the Federation, on the 26th October 2018, passed a resolution “for the development of the workers manifesto that would be used to inform, guide and ideally influence political parties’ manifestos in the coming 2019 general elections.”

The federation through the Secretary General, Thusang Butale, stated that it must be remembered that public office holders, that is, Members of Parliament and Local Government authorities, are at the center of the process of national governance and distribution of national resources and it is therefore important that trade unions take a deliberate effort to ensure that the interests of workers will be addressed and are safeguarded by those who require their votes.

Although the Federation has no intention to take any political party side, as a stakeholder and a custodian of the interests of its constituents’, the Federation strongly believes that it has a duty to educate and inform its members about pertinent social and economic issues that affect them in order to enable them to ask those running for public office, pertinent questions about the welfare of the workers and as well as desirable solutions.

“To this end a working group/ reference committee was set up to work on the development of the manifesto with a consultant. The working group comprises of General Council members, relevant Civil Society Organisations and representative(s) from the Global Labour University alumni,” it states. BFTU further observed that they intend to lay a road map on how political and socio-economic issues that affect workers and their families should be addressed by those who seek public office.

“The Federation’s General Council has viewed it as of paramount importance that workers aspirations and expectations be placed before all those who need their votes in order to take up national office. In other words, our members votes are not for free and all those who seek public office should know and fully appreciate that,” the federation pointed out in its resolutions.

According to BFTU, the Manifesto will be officially launched on the 1st May 2019, Workers/Labour Day, in Francistown and across the country and to make this well understood and appreciated by those who need their members votes, the workers manifesto will guide workers as they go to the polls in 2019. The BFTU document of resolutions indicate that the approved theme for the day reflects on the demand for a better Botswana, a strong economy that serves the people and stronger Unions for democratic values and democracy.

The BFTU noted that Botswana’s economy has been doing relatively well since the time of independence and has even withstood and survived the 2008 economic shocks. Botswana, according to BFTU has received accolades from the international community and financial institutions for its multi-party system, functioning democracy, good governance and its relative economic prosperity.

However, the Federation observes with disappointment, that this much talked about economic success story has not translated into prosperity for all. They point out that according to the most recent formal sector employment survey report, monthly average earnings for citizens were P6, 038, whilst monthly average monthly earnings for non-citizens stood at P18, 265.

The Botswana Multi-Topic Household Survey of 2015/16 revealed that Batswana continue to wallow in poverty, and social inequalities and unemployment, in spite of the country’s much talked about economic success story, they state. While at the time of independence Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, BFTU contends that after 50 years of independence, Botswana is one of the ten (10) most unequal societies in the world.

“It is the view of the Federation that Botswana is a rich country of poor citizens. The Federation is therefore worried about this state of poverty in the midst of plenty that is found in Botswana today. As if this is not enough, the Federation has been deeply alarmed by reports of corruption and poor governance that seem to have engulfed the country. Needless to say it is corruption and poor governance that are at the center of Botswana current political crisis,” BFTU lashed out in their resolution paper.

Their counterparts, BOFEPUSU in their separate resolutions that were signed by its President Johannes Tshukudu and Secretary General Tobokani Rari also resolved that the Federation should develop a worker’s charter/manifesto as a blue print or guiding document on policy issues to influence 2019 elections. The workers manifesto, BOFEPUSU says will enable Federation structures, leaders to articulate Federation position on such issues and “further to lobby relevant local political organisations on workers agenda and national matters.”

The Governing Council also resolved that the Federation should institute coordinated campaigns against corruption and money laundering that have resulted in Botswana being grey – listed by multinational financial institutions. Further they resolved that there be institution of private prosecution on unprosecuted matters by Government agencies regarding looting of Public servants Pensions Funds and other corruption scandals on public resources.

The Governing Council resolved that the Federation should forge cooperation to initiative with BFTU in an endeavor to form a Confederation of the two Federations in the long run. In addition, in view of the slave wages that workers at the bottom of the pay structures in various industries in Botswana are subjected to, the Governing Council resolved that the Federation should carry out a research on Minimum Living Wage and stage a campaign to have such implemented.

Having also noted that public servants who were dismissed during the 2011 industrial action remain unemployed and are subjected to harsh life conditions, the Council resolved that pressure should be mounted on government to have such workers reinstated and compensated accordingly.In view of the flagrant acts of labour rights violations in the Private and Parastatal sectors, the Council mandated the Central Executive Committee to lobby members of parliament and all stakeholders to speak against labour rights violations within these sectors, and also lobby for the amendment of the labour laws to protect employees and Trade Unions within these sectors.

BOFEPUSU has also noted that the feud between former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama and the current President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, should be condemned by the federation and all progressive forces in the country with the strongest possible terms, as it compromises the sanctity of the Presidency of the Republic and has the potential to divide the country on regional and tribal lines as per the toxic exchanges between the two leaders.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

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.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

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.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

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.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

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.

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