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Students give Minister Ngaka first litmus test

Botswana National Union of Students (BONU) and tertiary Student Representative Councils’ (SRCs) efforts to lead a peaceful protest to deliver a petition to newly appointed Tertiary Education Minister, Ngaka Ngaka, demanding allowance increment, were thwarted by police this week Wednesday.

Thousands of students had turned up for the march that began at the GSS grounds, but they would never reach Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Ministry Headquarters as Botswana Police Services refused to give them leeway. Students allowances are currently P1420 and the union and the SRCs want it increased to P2 000.

BONUS has told this publication that the union had written a letter to minister Ngaka to which a response, acknowledging receipt of the same was sent to the union. The response however did not give clear response regarding the subject matter. “We have written to the Minister asking him to consider increasing the students’ living allowances and indeed the ministry got back to us, acknowledging receipt but with no further details whether our proposal is accepted or not. We expected the minister to respond in an engaging manner but that is not the case,” Secretary of BONUS Tebogo Mmolotsane said.

According to the union, there is need to increase students allowances as students are not able to meet their needs on the current measly P1420, particularly following the hike in public transport fare. In an interview, University of Botswana SRC president Mpho Molokwane said it is very important for SRCs and students from various tertiary institutions to raise awareness and send a message to the new minister who will face stern tests just like other previous ministers on issues pertaining to students’ welfare and living.

Molokwane is of the view that issues affecting students should be tackled accordingly by all stakeholders and therefore the minister needs to take demands presented to his office by student leaders a bit more serious. He further revealed that the plan will be taken further despite efforts by the minister not to consider it a matter of urgency. He added: “This is just the beginning and this will go on until the minister brings something on board, we have worked with the former minister [Madigele] and he resolved every matter we engaged him on in a resolute manner so Ngaka should do as well.”

Quizzed on whether it was not too early to make overwhelming demands on the minister who has just assumed office, one SRC leader said “It is not an issue of being new in office as this matter has been raised long before to other former ministers and what Ngaka should do is to continue with the issue by engaging SRCs as stakeholders. He has taken oath to work and we are not expecting any excuses which have no direction”.

This publication has gathered that minister Ngaka had in fact specified that on the day stipulated for delivery of the petition, his office was not prepared to receive it, as he is still new in office. He also said the matter was still in the hands of the Permanent Secretary and he would only deal with it after it is passed to his office from the PS. For their part, the police indicated that they were only involved to keep order and ensure that things were conducted peacefully and not to necessarily frustrate the students’ efforts to reach the minister’s office.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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State ignores Butterfly P85 million suit threat

26th October 2020

The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.

Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.

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