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BDF explains decision to snub Khama

Botswana Defence Force has explained why former President and former Commander Lt. Gen Ian Khama was not invited to the commemoration of the Fallen Heroes held at the Three Chiefs Monument earlier this week.

In an enquiry by WeekendPost the Director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Colonel Tebo Dikole confirmed that they were aware that the Former President was not invited. He established that attendance of BDF events by Former Commanders are strictly by invitation. Dikole explained that Khama’s designation as ‘Former President’ precedes that of Former Commander hence the reason he did not receive an invitation by the BDF despite having invited all Former Commanders to the ceremony.

“Yes, Former Commanders were invited to the Fallen Heroes Commemoration albeit Former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama  was not invited as his designation “Former President” precedes that of a Former Commander,” Dikole said. Dikole said it is worth noting that since the inception of the Fallen Heroes Commemoration in 2011 it is worth noting that since the inception of the Fallen Heroes Commemoration in 2011 when it was dubbed Lesoma Commemoration to date, no Former Presidents have been invited to attend the ceremony.

Precedent has been set where the invite is extended to the current President and his Vice President as was the case on the 27th February 2019. He however indicated that in the past they have had serving Presidents attending with their Vice Presidents (Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and the late Former Vice President Lt Gen MS Merafhe, Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and Former Vice President Dr PHK Kedikilwe, Former President Lt Gen Dr SKI Khama and Former Vice President MEK Masisi), and in 2019 His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi and His Honor the Vice President Slumber Tsogwane were in attendance as it has been the norm.

Khama’s snubbing has polarised the public with some questioning why former president was not invited yet he was the Commander of BDF at some point and that most Fallen Heroes died under his tenure. Khama served as BDF commander from 1989 until his retirement in 1998 to take up a role in politics.

Dikole explained that it is not the discretion of the BDF to control who lays a wreath or pays tribute to its heroes and heroines who are laid to rest in various towns and villages of this country including extension 14 cemetery therefore what Khama did was not erroneous. “Please note that the 14 members who are laid to rest at Extension 14 cemetery perished in 1978 during Former Vice President Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe's tenure as the Commander of the BDF while at the time Former President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama was his Deputy.”

After receiving the invitation Khama, accompanied by Botswana Democratic (BDP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata-Gweta constituency, Polson Majaga, laid a wreath at the Extension 14 cemetery in Gaborone. Masisi had already laid a wreath at the Three Chiefs Monument earlier that day. Speaking to this publication Khama seemed to be surprised as to why he did not receive an invitation from the BDF, stressing that as former commander he had expected to be invited.

“I was not invited, I do not understand why I was not invited because as Former Commander of the BDF it is within my right,” Khama said. Khama, however said not being invited could not stop him from commemorating the “Fallen Heroes” as this is what he usually does every year. “I am doing this because not being invited should not stop me from commemorating the Fallen Heroes. It is what I do yearly and will continue doing,” he concluded.

This event which was known then as Lesoma Commemoration Day was first commemorated in 2011 at the Extension 14 cemetery where the remains of the fifteen (15) deceased members of the BDF lie entombed.  After careful introspection it was changed to Fallen Heroes so as to include other members of the BDF who passed on in the line of duty.

While in Gaborone this commemoration takes place here at the Three (3) Dikgosi monument, other commemorations are also being observed today at Thebephatswa Air Base, Francistown Donga Camp, Lesoma Village and Eastern Military Garrison in Selibe Phikwe to recognize the fallen heroes in different parts of this country.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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