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BCP calls for suspension of the current “unlawful” parliament

Opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has filed a notice calling for the court to suspend the current “unlawful” parliament on urgency basis.

The party through its dual legislators; Selibe Phikwe West law maker Dithapelo Keorapetse as well as Ramotswa Member of Parliament Samuel Rantuana says the parliament is unconstitutional and therefore, in particular, the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi is not a substantive president.

Through its esteemed attorney Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners, they state that the Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe has therefore, against the constitution, failed to convene parliament for the election of the president seven (7) days after Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama resigned. Upon Khama’s resignation in March 31, Masisi then as per automatic succession, assumed the presidency of the country on April 1, 2018.  

“The National Assembly, as represented by Kokorwe, has declined, failed and refused to exercise its singular powers (for parliament to dully elect the president) under the relevant provisions of the constitution,” Dingake on behalf of the duo, and the party, stated in the filing notice before High Court, a copy of which has been passed to Weekend Post.

The BCP says “the Speaker of Parliament and Attorney General have failed, neglected and/or refused to meet within the set (seven) 7 days and to respond to the correspondence (from the party).” The party contend that the application before court therefore is to address the alleged constitutional violation by the Speaker of Parliament and seek the Court’s intervention in; directing that the ordinary rules relating to form, time and service be dispensed with and that this matter be heard as urgent.

They also want court to direct that “pending the final determination of the relief sought in: Parliament be suspended.” Dingake said in the filing notice that the court should declare that following the assumption of Office of President by Masisi under Section 35 (1) of the Constitution the Speaker of the National Assembly is constitutionally required to convene the National Assembly for purposes of Sections 35 (4) and (5) of the Constitution of Botswana.

“The court should also declare that the National Assembly is constitutionally prohibited from sitting and or conducting business for any purposes other than that of Sections 35 (4) and (5) of the Constitution of Botswana,” he stated. On April 1st, 2018, Dingake on behalf of BCP once again by operation of Section 35 (1) of the Constitution, said Masisi assumed Office of President of the Republic of Botswana but he did not assume the functions and duties of that office.

“I reiterate that since the day of the inauguration of Masisi, the National Assembly has convened on every working day since April 4th, 2018. On the April 4th, 2018, the National Assembly convened to endorse and swear in a Vice President Slumber Tsogwane that was nominated by Masisi. It is clear that the National Assembly is not prorogued or dissolved at this stage and should adhere to the Constitution obligation to convene for purposes to elect a President.”

According to the party, currently in terms of the law, there is no president in Botswana. The BCP Secretary General Akanyang Magama stated in the party filing affidavit before the court that: “I am advised by my attorneys of record which advice I verily believe to be true and correct that the office of the President is currently vacant due to the failure to implement the constitutional requirements of Section 35 of the constitution.”

According to the BCP as represented by law expert Dingake; in its passive non-compliance with the provisions of Section 35 of the constitution, as read in its entirety, the Speaker of Parliament undermines the foundational value of supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.

“In as far as the Speaker Kokorwe has not complied with the mandatory provisions of Section 35 (4) of the Constitution; the continued exercise of presidential functions and duties by President Masisi is not sanctioned by a valid parliamentary process, and is ultra vires the constitution,” the party emphasised through their highly valued attorney.

The attorney points out in the court papers that: “it is important to note that per Section 57 of the Constitution, “parliament” comprises of the National Assembly and the President. For there to be a lawful parliament, the two (National Assembly and the President) need to be enjoined by the endorsement process, in this instance, as prescribed under section 35 of the constitution.”

They continued: the failure by Kokorwe to conduct an election of the President (dully) in terms of Section 35 (4) of the Constitution renders parliament, as currently is construed as it is unlawful. According to Magama, the BCP Secretary General, by way of a letter, dated April 10th, 2018; he instructed his attorneys to remind the Speaker of the National Assembly’s constitutional obligation and called upon her to convene the National Assembly to elect a person to the office of President, the warning which Kokorwe failed to take heed of.

In the letter the BCP warned Kokorwe that “our clients opine that there are four (4) types of Presidents envisaged under the Constitution, and these are; a Section 32 President; a Section 35 (1) President; a Section 35 (2) President; and a Section 35 (4) President. As provided for by the Constitution, Dingake observes that only Section 32 and Section 35 (4) Presidents are substantive holders of office with the power to make appointments (revoke the appointment of Vice-President) or dissolve Parliament.

“His Excellency President Mokgweetsi EK Masisi is neither a Section 32 nor Section 35 (2) President. Further, he did not ascend to the office of President following an election by Parliament. And to this extent, does not qualify as one (President) under Section 35 (4) as read with Section 35 (5) of the Constitution,” the lawyer stressed in the warning letter to Kokorwe.

The revered attorney added that President Masisi therefore is remains and has always been a Section 35 (1) President; and must be treated as such. The Constitution, he said, in terms of Section 35 (3) provides that a Section 35 (1) President “shall not exercise the powers of the President to revoke the appointment of Vice-President or dissolve Parliament.”

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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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