The night is still young – BDP Cllrs tell Venson-Moitoi
By Aubrey Lute
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) nominated Councillors in the Sowa Township have vowed to hold their own following the announcement by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi that she will dissolve the Council after it failed to execute its duties without just cause.
Three of the eight nominated councillors have taken the Sowa Township Council to court over unpaid mileage claims following the council’s failure to provide them with accommodation in Sowa. Some of the councillors indicated in court papers that they drive from areas such as Serowe, Francistown, and Tonota to attend Council meetings in Sowa.
However Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told Sowa residents this week that her decision was in accordance with the Local Government Act Section 89 (1) Clause C, which gave the minister powers to dissolve the council. The Act states that where the council fails without good cause to perform any of its functions, the minister shall exercise the powers conferred under the section.
The decision by the Minister is unprecedented and interesting at the same time because all the nominated councillors are from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Vice President Slumber Tsogwane was at the helm of the ministry at the time they were appointed.
Venson-Moitoi she took the decision following councillors’ refusal to do work, which they pledged to carry out after taking an oath of office – A charge that some of the suspended councilors who spoke to this publication vehemently deny. Botho Ntirang, a nominated councilor in Sowa told Weekend Post, “the night is still young on this matter”. He said he suspects that the minister is acting on hearsay and does not have the benefit of records. Ntirang is one of the three councillors ventilating his grievances in court.
According to Dr Venson-Moitoi some of the councillors after refusing to do work which they were mandated to do, and further they took council to court regarding their grievances on allowances. Dr Venson-Moitoi stated that while the said councillors had found themselves a representative on their case against the council, they have refused to pass a resolution that would give the Sowa council management power of attorney so that it could also have a representative on the case and any other issues on which the council might need to have a legal representative.
Asked on the matter, Ntirang said, “We will not do anything that contravenes the Local Government Act. We took an oath of office and we were basically pointing out to the Town Clerk that we cannot pass a resolution on a matter that we feel conflicted.” According to Ntirang no councillor has ever refused to give the council power of attorney, “what happened was that when the town clerk brought the issue before council, those who names were at court recused themselves because they were conflicted and the quorum collapsed.” He said they did so because they took an oath which they would have contravened had they chosen to stay and deliberate on a matter in which they are conflicted.
â€¨While the minister has noted that numerous efforts have been made by the town clerk to engage with the councillors to reach a resolution on the matter to the extent that even on mediation with an authorised personnel, she sent, the councilors still failed to adhere to the laws that governed them as representatives of the people, Ntirang disputes that “in fact the council has been very dishonest and they even misled court by filing a false power of attorney.” According to Ntirang the people who should be facing the Minister’s wrath at the moment is the Sowa Town Council management, “not the councillors”.
â€¨Dr Venson-Moitoi has indicated that when the nominated councillors were sworn into office, they took an oath of allegiance that they would be faithful, protect the constitution of Botswana and work fully for the people they were representing. She is of the view that the councillors had refused to do what they had taken oath for hence acting according to the constitution.
â€¨Explaining the process of dissolving the council, Dr Venson Moitoi said she would publicise the decision on the government gazette and in the meantime find people who would ensure the council business continues. â€¨The Minister said she would give Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) three months to have given new names for people who would continue work at the council.â€¨Earlier this year, the councillors passed a motion that had requested council to pay them mileages every time they attend council meetings and other engagements for the council since they could not be provided with accommodation in Sowa.
The Councillors were appointed after the 2014 general elections and they include former cabinet Minister Olifant Mfa. Government has made it clear that it has no money to pay mileage claims to councillors and that it could be costly exercise. However there are nominated councillors who claim mileages in areas where the distance is within certain limits. Indications are that should nominated councillors claim mileage the bill could spring to billions of Pula.
The three councillors are represented in court by David Olatotse of Olatotse attorneys and should they succeed in their suit, they could pocket hundreds of thousands of Pula. “We are still councillors of Sowa Township until the process initiated by the minister is completed. We hope she does everything in a manner that agrees with the Act that empowers her to do that. We cannot stop the minister from dissolving the council,” declared Ntirang.
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Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
â€śIt is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,â€ť said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.â€ť
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.â€ť
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
â€śIn Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
â€śCommunities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.â€ť
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwaseâ€™s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldnâ€™t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephantâ€™s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. â€śThis has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.â€ť
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. â€śThe re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.â€ť
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â€śThere must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.â€ť
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, â€śparticularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.â€ť
Govâ€™t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
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Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
â€śIt is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.â€ť
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when â€śwe reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,â€ť he said.
â€śI commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.â€ť
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
â€śThere are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.â€ť
â€śThese achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.â€ť
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
â€śThese are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our countryâ€™s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.â€ť