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2019, the Year of Bloody Politics

As Botswana celebrates a new year, the political temperature will certainly increase as 2019 is the year for national elections.  Never in the history of Botswana has there been so much tension leading to the elections. 

Prior to the elections all political parties will be having congresses/conferences to in preparation for the elections.  The national nlections are expected to be held in October as has been the tradition.  And in 2019, the outcomes are not guaranteed for any political party.
First it starts with the extension of voter registration by the Independent Electoral Commission to March 2019.   A new voter registration window has been opened between January to March 2019. 

IEC has set itself a target of a million voters and currently they are around 500 thousand registered voters.  A key concern for the IEC still remains voter trafficking even with the extended registration.  Some analysts have predicated there may be a further need for a supplementary voter registration later in the year if the IEC doesn’t reach its target.

Key political events to watch are the ongoing cooperation talks between the opposition parties; the winning back of AP to the Umbrella Movement; the BMD fight with the UDC taken to court; the anticipated BDP Congress were for the first time there will be a challenger to the Presidency of the Party; and the phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the courts.

Starting with the opposition, it is fairly safe to say the marriage between the Botswana National Front and Botswana Congress Party through the Umbrella for Democratic Change is intact.  What may linger is the division of constituencies between the two mature political parties in the event that UDC succeeds in its full expulsion of BMD or if AP decides not to be part of the Umbrella Movement.   Some constituencies became free after the UDC expelled the BMD.  These were the constituencies that had been allocated to the BMD previously.  For now, it would appear the BNF and BCP have some sort of a formula in the sharing of the freed-up constituencies.  

What appears to be of immediate interest to the UDC though is not to hurry on sharing the spoils of the freed-up constituencies, but to seek further cooperation with other political parties.  AP has been the primary target, but the effort to get them back to the UDC fold will prove to be a difficult task.  AP is still sulking after feeling betrayed by the leadership of the UDC when they had a bruising fight with the BMD faction of Sydney Pilane.

  They felt the leadership of the UDC could have done more to avert the destruction of the BMD by Sydney Pilane and his followers.  Reached for comment, one political analyst said AP however also needs to introspect, “going it alone may not necessarily be a wise move”.  Some serious soul searching needs to happen early in the year.  The party hasn’t reached the heights of the “Mmono Fever” when there were still BMD. 

Resources have been limited, likewise the penetration of the party to would be voters hasn’t been that exciting.  So, at the end of the day, the party may find it more convenient to be with the UDC then to slug it out on their own.  On the whole, it remains to be seen in 2019 if the opposition will rid itself of its curse of internal squabbles and approach the National Elections as one united front.  

Not that things are any better at the BDP.  Actually, they appear worse at this stage.  The BDP had a difficult 2018 which is going to jeopardize their chances for an increased majority in parliament.  Factionalism and elusive unity are the main challenges.  It all started with the worst transition between the President Mogkwetsi Masisi and his predecessor Ian Khama.  This has now brewed to an open out war between the two Heads of State.  It has become so bad that nationally you are either a Masisi or a Khama person.  This is the new ugly face of factionalism within the BDP.  It has replaced “Barata Phati” versus “A-Team”.  

From the transition, what followed was a complete kindergarten mess of what was Bulelwa Ditswe.   Scores of Cabinet Ministers lost their constituencies to political minnows.  All fingers pointed at Tsholetsa House, and in particular the Secretary General Mpho Balopi.  Even at one stage the President bemoaned the quality of candidates Bulelwa Ditswe produced for the 2019 National Elections. 

Put bluntly, one loosing Minister demeaning said “how could the BDP entrust the primary elections to Mpho Balopi, who is political lacking and one not fit even to lead a Borehole syndicate”.  He even questioned if let alone he has ever been a class monitor before, thereby questioning his leadership qualities. The Secretary General of the BDP has not enjoying any peace.  Apart from him being blamed for the poor showing of the BDP in the 2014 National Elections, he’s been seen as the Achilles heel of the Masisi Administration.  

He has become unpopular with the democrats, with many seeing him as divisive and having a dangerous ambition to eventually succeed Masisi.  He was accused in 2018 for dicampaigning Vice President Slumber Tsogwane, for posing conflict of interest in being party to International State Visits by President Masisi and using BDP donor money for his own use.  Things got out of control towards at the end of the year were he was accused of assaulting a Party Member at Tsholetsa House.  The matter was reported to the Police and is before the courts.

The phenomenon of the BDP vs BDP through the party became a common feature in 2018 and is still frustrating the party.  Kamal Jacobs of Lobatse took President Masisi to court to challenge the constitutionality of Masisi being president of BDP.    The matter is before court and a ruling is expected soon.  In another case, Biggie Butale has also gone to court to challenge the BDP on his loss in the primary elections.  Prior to that, Tshekedi Khama had approached the courts to bar Moemedi Dijeng to stand as a candidate in the Serowe North primary elections.

The highlight of 2018 for BDP is when out of the blue, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi announced she will be challenging President Masisi for the Party Presidency.  This set the cat amongst the pigeons.  But Pelonomi is no ordinary Pelonomi Venson.  She has the full backing of former President Khama, and her candidacy is seen as a proxy for the Khama’s.  Scores of Bangwato descended upon the main Kgotla before Christmas to what was originally deemed an ordinary Kgotla meeting to be addressed by Kgosi Kgolo Khama, but what then turned out to be an unofficial launch of Moitoi.

It became apparent at that meeting that Khama is going to deliver on his promise to take the fight to Masisi, and Moitoi is going to be the first foot soldier.  Team Moitoi is going to rely on the Khama magic, and is also getting resourced by wealthy South Africans.  A notable size of current ministers are going to be part of her team, so will be several other elders of the BDP.

The Serowe meeting makes for a difficult BDP National Council slated for March and an Elective Congress thereafter in July.  Many in the BDP are predicting that Masisi is going to be first unelected President, and that his tenure will end in 2019.  Unelected because he would have run through a mandate of succession but won’t have the votes within the BDP to seek his own fresh mandate at the Congress.  

Those in support of Masisi say he needs to win an election as BDP President and there is a growing school of thought that he needs to be given a clear mandate to govern on his own terms.  What is worrying for his supporters is that, “you cannot be president without carrying both the north and south of the country.  Like in South Africa were you can’t win the leadership of the ANC without Kwazulu Natal, likewise you need the north and central of Botswana delegates to win the BDP leadership.  That’s were the most candidates come from,” said a source.

“As for Moitoi the question remains, is Botswana ready for a female President? And how people view her as being used by the Khama’s to take back power to them? That’s the obstacle she has to overcome.” After all, Botswana enters the new year, electioneering by political parties is going to be intense.  Each party has its fair share of challenges, but nonetheless expect long bruising battles ahead.  There will be few winners especially with the BDP.  The faction that wins will seek to extinguish the rival faction for good, politically and economically.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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