The recent discovery of some registration books in Woodhall ward in Lobatse reveals a clandestine plan that was hatched to grant party favourite, Dr Thapelo Matsheka an edge over Kamal Jacobs in last year’s parliamentary race.
Kamal Jacobs had appealed the elections outcome but was turned down by the appeals board committee, a move that saw him approach the courts citing irregularities in the manner in which the elections were conducted. Jacobs also challenged President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s legitimacy as party president. WeekendPost has seen the four registration books labelled Woodhall Ward with 200 registered names that were reportedly not put on the voters roll.
Sources close to the developments say a plan to remove all the incumbent councillors and area Member of Parliament Sadique Kebonang was long devised as a result of the fallout between Kebonang and branch chairman Jomo Dithebe and branch secretary Tebogo Sesinyi. Both the branch chairman and his secretary were disappointed that Kebonang did not nominate them for specially elected councillors after 2014 general elections.
Investigations revealed that only the chairman and branch secretary general were at the helm of distributing registration books in all the 12 wards a move that allegedly ensured underground dealings that defied all democratic principles of free and fair registration. It is alleged that the branch committee members objected to this illicit practice on numerous occasions but the answer has been that the party secretary general, Mpho Balopi had instructed them to do so.
Some wards were reportedly denied books while others were given plenty at once. Proof has it that the completed books were initially not submitted to Tsholetsa House and the secretary general indicated that there were no registration funds accompanying them even though receipt records provided showed that there was payment. The first meeting with Political Education and Elections Committee (PEEC) representatives indicated that books were not arriving at Tsholetsa House even though the branch claimed that over 100 books were submitted.
According sources, the committee was kept in the dark despite their constant request to the branch secretary that they needed updates. The books started being submitted to Tsholetsa House reportedly after Matsheka started participating actively in the campaign. At this point, it is believed that the party leadership had made their mind and a deal had been struck. There were also reports of voter trafficking from Goodhope-Mabule constituency.
Months after the primary elections more registration books which were not submitted to Tsholetsa House are being discovered and the general suspicion is that more books will be uncovered. The duo of chair and secretary openly campaigned for Matsheka and told voters that he is the party choice chosen by elders and that everyone who does not support him action will be taken at a later stage. When contacted for comment, Balopi said the procedure to take registration books from Tsholetsa House to register and recruit members is the entirely the mandate of every member of the BDP.
He said however for issues of accountability, they have now allowed only party structures access to the books. Balopi said there is a very transparent process of issuing books and accountability on those who are entrusted with them. He said every book has a unique serial number thus they can easily establish which books are missing and from which structures. The BDP secretary general said at the moment only registration books from opposition held constituencies are back at Tsholetsa House.
He lamented that they instructed a cut off in those structures to avoid confusion. However Balopi would not rule out the possibility of some registration books be found at Woodhall ward in Lobatse saying at times this books get lost during the process. He also confessed that at times those in possession of books will squander the registration and subscription monies and not return the books. He further said in those circumstances action will be taken against them because they have defrauded ordinary Batswana.
Lobatse branch chairman Jomo Dithebe could not be reached for comment as all his mobile phones were off the whole time. Jacobs who lost the Lobatse BDP primary elections to Dr Matsheka said he long warned that the BDP system is fraud because they choose to favour other candidates over others and such actions culminate in the standoff or fallout between democrats. Jacobs who has been battling the matter at the courts of law said they have long appealed to the highest structures at Tsholetsa House but their plea was never considered.
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.
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.
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.”