Charismatic Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader Dumelang Saleshando has stated that the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in its current form cannot win elections in 2019 General Elections.
Saleshando emphasised to Weekend Post in an interview this week that the UDC should re-formulate if they are to compete effectively in the coming elections of which the voter registration exercise commences this week. He said: “we are about to get into voter registration period, which is possibly the most critical stage of the campaign, and one finds it difficult to answer questions from the members of the public as to whether registering with intention to vote the UDC is a worthwhile undertaking.”
The BCP leader continued to point out that “I think at the end of the day, the fact is that we took long not to admit to the problems and I don’t think there is anyone who can say it is well in the UDC – it is unwell. It’s got to be fixed. If it can’t be fixed lets present a plan B to the nation.” According to Saleshando the UDC should accept now that this platform called the UDC may not be the right vehicle for 2019 General Elections and accept that there is instability and that they must explore an option B.
He told this publication: “the option B should ensure that at the bare minimum we should have the BNF and the BCP as strategic partners under one formation for 2019. It should not be an exclusive BCP/BNF arrangement but rather that, to the greatest extent possible, include other formations which in our view would add value without de-stabilising.” In terms of the model he said they will cross the bridge when they get there.
Saleshando: the nations is frustrated by the UDC tricks
The BCP leader continued: “I am genuinely frustrated by the impasse we find ourselves in. I am genuinely concerned about it. I even got people asking us whether the decision to join the UDC was really the right one.” “But I think we shouldn’t be asked such questions but they are being asked because the BMD leadership in particular is placing a number of bobby traps or roadblocks that make it difficult for the UDC,” Saleshando pointed out.
“We are not even walking; we are kraaling to 2019, as things stand. And I think our nation shares this frustration that we have long wanted an alternative and the opposition seems determined to deny us the alternative we need.” He added, “One can only say, maybe out of this dark cloud, and within the time remaining we can find a silver lining. But I think steps need to be taken.” So all these really point to the need for the opposition to get all its act together, he asserted.
UDC lost support of labour movements
The former two time Gaborone Central legislator also observed that there is too much animosity in the UDC to the extent that it has lost a critical partner in the labour movement. He observed: “Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) it appears to me they have walked away quietly and that Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Sidney Pilane talked about them and they dismissed him out rightly – which was more revealing.” According to Saleshando, the current UDC doesn’t even have the confidence of people that supported it in 2014 and chances are it may not do well at the next polls.
Saleshando’s position on BMD leader Sidney Pilane
Saleshando described Pilane as thus: “the facts speak for themselves. The issue of Pilane has broken hearts, lost hopes. If you follow Pilane’s footsteps, you will see a trail of broken hearts, broken dreams, broken aspirations; it’s a broken record, starting with the BMD, BMD Youth league, not even sure if there is BMD Women’s league to talk of under his leadership.”
Also in the UDC, the BCP President continued: “you will see a bloody trail; you will see blood stains everywhere there is Pilane or where he has walked with the UDC. The glory days that we had before he came on board, of those massive rallies, where there was new hope are no more.”
We now have or rather say the glory days are now replaced with what we saw in Gabane, Saleshando said adding that Pilane has now turned the UDC into World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and that he is forever happy to be called when there is another show of opportunity for muscles by one comrade on another.
According to the BMD leader, truth be told, in politics one of the things you really need is integrity but “I don’t think the BMD leadership brings that integrity that we need in the UDC.” People ask me everyday gore naare le isa kae Pilane? Meaning people ask why Pilane is still part of them in the UDC, he said.
“Pilane’s attitude can be understood to be in the context of the fact that he leads a party that split. And because he knows that organizationally he has been severely weakened. His aggression may be a strategy to avoid questions being asked about the BMD. But again we may choose to ignore that but in ignoring it; we are going to have a repeat of Moshupa by election.”
In Moshupa Saleshando said the BNF tried to appeal to the BMD that they have strong numbers and asked them to stand but they refused and went on to lose the area. So he believes the weakest link was presented as the face of the UDC and cautioned that if they continue like that, Moshupa will be replicated in a number of areas.
Saleshando also highlighted that the BMD leader has shown determination in taking steps to undermine UDC president Duma Boko’s leadership especially in terms of the contentious issue of UDC constitution. He said: “I think it says a lot and I think Batswana will ask whether the UDC government will perform if given the mandate to rule if a subordinate (Pilane) undermines the UDC president and it becomes business as usual.”
Certainly, Saleshando pointed out that it is that kind of culture that is foreign to BCP; even the inaction by the UDC leaders is totally foreign to them. He said nonetheless they accept that in a coalition there is a shared space and one cannot impose their preferred way of doing things but hopes they will be able to impress upon other UDC colleagues on the need to “act” on some of the things before they got more toxic.
BCP leader speaks about Ndaba and AP
The UDC Vice President said he has not worked much with Ndaba Gaolathe, but when he looks at the public perception, which is very critical in the same way as the fact that the public is suspicious of Pilane; the public, it appears to him, does trust Ndaba. “I think we better with AP’s Ndaba than with the BMD so unfortunately with the benefit of working with the current BMD, there would add the spark that we need. I do think he has talents that the opposition needs,” he said.
He also pointed out that, so, whether by walking away from the UDC was necessary or not shouldn’t be an issue really, as it amounts to crying over spilled milk. So the question should be can those talents be part of the reformulation that we need for 2019, and we need that reformulation, and so I think yes we do, he emphasised.
In the same token, Saleshando pointed out that the AP also needs to reflect, and do self introspection, as it’s not enough for them to say they were right on Pilane. “That alone cannot get them the votes. The reality of it is that the electoral system that we using will dissipate AP in 2019 should it stand alone, it may not survive beyond 2019. Politics is not a sprint but a marathon and how you run it is critical. Batswana are not looking for prophets on who was right on Pilane but they are looking for combined opposition that can offer alternative to the BDP. We also knew about Pilane’s track record.”
BDP is at its weakest, UDC should capitalise
On the BDP, Saleshando said the party is at its weakest point. “We can say it (BDP) presents what we can call mana from heaven for the opposition. It’s not the first time in the BDP that there are many casualties in primary elections as the members of cabinet just suffered. The message by Batswana is that they have lost confidence in the BDP leadership, and it’s a strong message countrywide particularly as most of them were on the first terms in parliament when they lost,” Saleshando asserted.
He also said that, more worse is that the BDP is going into the coming elections with a grumpy former president Lt. Gen. Ian Khama, a former president who want to be treated as a sitting president, and wants to co-pilot with the sitting president in the cockpit. “He wants full access to OK 1 (official aircraft) and military planes. But like I said before, this is a case of chickens coming home to roost for the BDP as they created Khama. They are reaping what they have sown all these years and my response is that so ‘let them lie on the bed they prepared.’”
On Masisi, he also attacked him saying he is simply a beneficiary of an undemocratic system whereby one person elects his preferred president on our behalf adding that “I am not even sure if Masisi would have been anywhere in the race if it was purely a democratic race.” According to Saleshando, even though it cannot be justified he said he can understand why Khama is an unhappy man at the moment because of Masisi.
“Khama is possibly thinking that Masisi was totally unknown and irrelevant when he fought for his victory in 2014 and that he catapulted him, while he was a political novice and politically malnourished, and went on to make him Vice President and Chairman. Then now he uses the energy he secured for BDP victories to reverse everything he did. I am not saying is justification but it maybe what going though Khama’s mind now,” he said. He also said Masisi should take stern action on Khama and not play naïve or ‘hear or see no evil’ when the clearly the former president is bringing down his lieutenants.
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.
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.
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.