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Cabinet fears DIS – former Minister reveals

Former minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang has revealed this week that members of the executive fear the intelligence organ of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

The DIS, in terms of the Intelligence and Security Services Act, was established to investigate, gather, coordinate, evaluate, correlate, interpret, disseminate and store information, whether inside or outside Botswana, for the purposes of detecting and identifying any threat or potential threat to national security. They also advise the President and the Government of any threat or potential threat to national security.

DIS was instigated in 2008 upon ascension to the Presidency by President Lt Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The organ was started through the unlawful assistance of the Disaster Funds which were diverted despite strong resistance from some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench as well as opposition legislators.

Since its establishment, the intelligence unit has been marred in controversy receiving bad publicity from the curious members of the fourth estate (media) and other notable watchdogs including parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Kebonang revealed the Executive’s fear for the DIS when summoned before PAC this week to review the corruption and or money laundering allegations surrounding the 250 million pula National Petroleum Funds (NPF).

“The money was moved to DIS. Expenditure was spent but people have now been charged with money laundering. It’s unfortunate that we all know now where the money is. But there is this fear, there is this fear, there is this fear we have on the DIS which we all fear. Directorate on Crime and Economic Crime (DCEC) also fears DIS. Equally I do. And so there is any other Minister that I know,” Kebonang told PAC members and the fully packed public gallery.

The former Minister whom was dropped in cabinet reshuffle under the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration continued: “this is an institution you can’t say a ‘no’ to. Because what they do is sensitive as it is national security. And also you can’t second guess them. And I don’t think that we can sit here and accuse Isaac Kgosi (DIS Director) of money laundering.” “I don’t think we can accuse him of money laundering,” the former Minister who only served under Khama administration reiterated.

Kebonang also pointed out that when giving evidence before PAC that “equally, I can’t think we can accuse, borne by the fact that cabinet has directed the DIS that they must return the money. Why would you return the money or direct someone to return the money if the money has been laundered?” he asked rhetorically adding that “I am only just giving what my view on this.”

Francistown West law maker Ignatious Moswaane then interjected Kebonang to ask that: “you spoke about the DIS; the fear of the organ by Ministers. Does that mean you suggest that the flouting of procedures and financial misappropriation could mean that it is happening due to this fear for the DIS?”

In response to the legislator, Kebonang explained that the “DIS is an intelligence organ. They are responsible for keeping us safe. They are responsible for assessing security. So when we dealt with it, it was on the basis that it is a government department asking for variation for the amount of funds that has already been allocated.

He added that in terms of “fears” (of DIS) whether those fears are real or imagined, it doesn’t take one very far too even to recall a recent newspaper article (Weekend Post) where even the members of this committee (PAC) stated that they fear the organ DIS and fear for their lives. According to the Lobatse legislator, the DIS never asked for the process but they only made a request and that request was approved by the accounting officer who should have known what processes to put in place.

Kebonang also want ex-president Khama summoned before PAC

Kebonang also told the PAC that they may subpoena the former President Khama to answer for his role and involvement in allocation of the NPF to DIS. He revealed to PAC that he informed Khama of the “unlawful” transaction. When the contentious Tati East Member of Parliament (MP) Moyo Guma asked the Accounting Officer at the time: “after you said that the country was at risk, as a security matter, and security measures are usually dealt with by the security people and the President. Did you inform the President (Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the time)? And was he aware of the security risks (that the DIS purported) or the funds involved?”  

In answering Guma, Kebonang confirmed that Khama was also aware. “Yes he was aware. He was aware of the funds involved. In terms of the security risks it is Isaac Kgosi who is aware of them (who may have informed Khama of them). President Khama was aware of the allocation of the 250 million pula from the NPF to DIS. I mean he (Khama) was aware of the funds made available to DIS. I personally informed him,” the former Minister highlighted.

Guma then but in as a follow up: “do you think that we should ask these questions then to Khama (former president) whether he was aware of these security threats? There is no way you can talk security threats without informing the president.” In answering Guma, Kebonang stated that “Yes, I think he is the right person to ask, including Isaac Kgosi.” Kgosi was summoned and appeared before the committee on Thursday.

Secretive DIS led to the collapse of the governance system

Meanwhile, the Leader of Alliance for Progressives (AP) Ndaba Gaolathe has made his position known that the formation of DIS was the beginning of troubles that have led to the collapse of the country’s governance standards.  â€¨â€¨Gaolathe said the formation of the DIS is the indication that government has seemed to focus on those reforms that made Botswana’s entire governance system to regress.

“As long as we are here, we will not relent from pouring cold water on the legislation that brought the DIS to life, which monster has injected a rapacious poison into our life-blood as a people,” he said.

Gaolathe has also maintained that “whether it is real or perceived the DIS is at the heart of everything that is wrong about our Governance system – it is an institution that has been associated with extrajudicial killings, the nepotistic award or non-award of mega-lucrative tenders, immigration decisions for expatriates and investors as well as non-merit appointments to key Government roles in the Executive and Judiciary.”

He said this at the AP 1st Annual Policy statement while insisting that the DIS’s participation in the ongoing money laundering scandal involving the NPF shows the extent of which the intelligence organ runs affairs of the government (more than even cabinet).

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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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