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Kgosi’s fate in Kokorwe’s hands

The Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe will have the final say, in determining whether Isaac Kgosi, the Director of Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services, commonly known as the DIS is compelled to answer the questions as required by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The sitting president too, Mokgweetsi Masisi has the power, as per the Powers and Privileges Act to recuse Kgosi from answering the probing PAC. The committee has failed on two separate sittings to extract information from the DIS boss.
Following a stalemate that ensued in the PAC proceedings, involving the questioning of DIS director, PAC had written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, seeking the permission to invoke section 13 of the Powers and Privileges Act.  

The Act itself grants the speaker the power to use his or her own discretion in ruling on whether the person appearing before a parliamentary committee can be compelled to answer as required by the committee or not. Kgosi in the last sitting last week was not perturbed by acting PAC chairperson Dithapelo Keorapetse’s statement that the committee will seek permission from the speaker to invoke section 13 of the Powers and Privileges Act.

Kgosi was adamant that the Act that established DIS too protected him for not revealing the information to the committee. Section 13 of the Powers and Privileges Act states that subject to the provisions of section 14, where any person ordered to attend to give evidence or to produce any paper, book, record or document before the Assembly refuses to answer any question that may be put to him or to produce any such paper, book, record or document on the ground that the same is of a private nature and does not affect the subject of inquiry, the Speaker may excuse the answering of such question or the production of such paper, book, record or document, or may order the answering or production thereof.
Kgosi has stood resilient against answering the questions because he contended that some information was classified while the other questions had to do with matters before the courts.

Section 14 gives witnesses the privilege of refusing to produce before the Assembly or a committee any paper, book, record or document; or give evidence before the Assembly or a committee, relating to correspondence concerning any naval, military or air force matter; nor shall secondary evidence be received by or produced before the Assembly or a committee of the contents of any such paper, book, record or document.

The DIS however does not fall within the naval, military or air force as specified by the Section 14 (b) of the Act. Notwithstanding that Section 14 (b) of the Powers and Privileges Act exclude Kgosi, the intelligence chief may also receive protection from sitting president against answering the question if the president is of the opinion that doing so will be against public interest.

Ever since 2013, the DIS has been operating under the ambit of the Office of the President as opposed to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security it had been in the past. This was following the battle between the DIS director and then former Minister of Defence, Ramadeluka Seretse. The decision to move DIS from Ministry of Defence has always been viewed with suspicion with many believing that the Office of the President wanted to flex its muscle.

Currently, Masisi too has been fingered in the scandal, with Kgosi Ngakaagae, a lawyer representing Bakang Seretse, having told the court that the sitting president has benefited from the fund when he was still Vice President. The DIS boss’ name is in the mix in connection with the subject of investigation involving the wrongful acquiring of P250 million from National Petroleum Fund.

Kgosi only admitted when questioned by PAC member Ndaba Gaolathe that he had not followed due process by not seeking permission from Ministry of Finance and Economic Development when the need to change use for the money acquired from the NPF arose.

The P250 initially requested by Kgosi’s DIS was meant for building of fuel storage reserves in strategic places but the funds were diverted by DIS boss, requesting for a variance at the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Mineral Resources. So far only three people; Bakang Seretse, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang have been charged in relation to the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) funds.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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