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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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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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