With barely two weeks in office, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has taken a rather ambitious move in asking legislators to pledge their allegiance to him. The president has vowed to take action against legislators and ministers who portray signs of unfaithfulness to him, the party and the nation, this publication has established.
This week the President, according to sources, was not as friendly as he was four days into his term at a meeting the party held to nominate his deputy. In fact, it is said, the president showed his firm side, as he drilled his philosophies to the newly assembled cabinet along with laying down his modus operandi as his 18 months tenure gets underway.
President Masisi was reportedly stern at this particular meeting, especially towards the ministers, informants told this publication. At the top of his demands, sources say, the president wants ministers to pay patronage to him and the party if they are to avail government initiatives to Batswana and ensure their party retains power in the next year’s general elections.
The seemingly nervous ministers and legislators had to dance to their boss’s tune and promised the president that come what may they will do everything to show their faithfulness to him and the party. “Most of us were worried and some had to assure the president of their loyalty, especially junior ministers who have just been given ministerial responsibilities. They were so fearful but we believe this is just a party meeting, everyone should relax and not feel intimidated,” a source from the gathering shared with this paper.
Those who cannot pay the price of loyalty, it is said will be booted out of their ministerial positions as they will be failing the president’s plan to uplift the lives of the citizens. On the other hand, it was not clear as to what he will do to the backbenchers. “He was so tough and we were so concerned about his hardline because it appears as if he has captured us with these posts but we are not because we were voted by the people, a ministerial position is something else and rather it may reduce our chances to see our electorates,” one minister said on Tuesday.
Most Ministers and the backbenchers after the Tuesday tongue lash are in the dark as to what could have triggered Masisi’s stern words. “We understand he could be instilling his game-plan but it was not necessary, what have we done for him to doubt us, we are new in these roles and we won’t disappoint but already he is kind of panicking,” another minister said.
While most of those who attended the meeting agree with the president on setting demands for his subordinates, what they advise against is the manner and the tone the President was using. “For him to be the president we should win constituencies and he should talk to us in a friendly manner. He should bear in mind there are heavyweights out there who can mobilize regions to recall him. We just need eight out of 14 constituencies to do that,” another party member asserted.
Party chief whip Liakat Kablay could not confirm the details of the meeting as he was absent at the meeting. Though not expressly pronounced, it is believed that Masisi wants to extert total control of the party hence he wants to instill ‘his methods’ in the party. “If you look carefully it is like he wants to ensure of his power as a president and he knows that without cabinet support he will be doomed and he is trying by all means to have a solid grip because he can be recalled if regions want to,” another minister said.
President Masisi’s message resonated well with a number of Ministers and Members of Parliament who attended the meeting. Moiseraele Goya, Ronald Shamukuni, Edwin Batshu, Itumeleng Moipisi and Ngaka Ngaka are some of the names said to have pledged allegiance to the president even after his intimidating address. Masisi has made it clear that he wants a resounding victory for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2019 and his team wants Members of Parliament to pull together.
MOLALE UNHAPPY OVER ‘DEMOTION’
Meanwhile there are reports which suggest that Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale is unhappy with his removal from Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. “He was one of the vocal ones during President Lt Gen Ian Khama administration now he is quite,” said a source from the party.
Molale was replaced with Nonofo Molefhi and observers are confident that President Masisi’s move could be a master stroke because the former had a rough relationship with the rank and file of the civil service. Molefhi’s calm approach is expected to draw public servants closer to ruling party. “As a former employee of the same ministry Molale believed it’s his rightful portfolio and he never expected to be moved. If at all he was to be moved he thought he would take over in the Defence ministry as the two are the most senior followed by Local government,” highlighted a source this week.
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.
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.
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.”