Botswana Police Service (BPS) has in the past three weeks engaged in possibly the largest drug operation in the history of Botswana, consequently making approximately 75 drug related busts in greater Gaborone areas alone.
Weekend Post has established that the police have dispatched an array of resources in order to rescue the drug situation in the country and take to book those arrested as the campaign spreads. There are indications that the drugs (suppliers) come to the country through South African borders from Swaziland and sometimes Mozambique. Since the elevation of the campaign, the police have arrested people from drug related offenses which also include robberies and break-ins and in the arrests made, suspects were mostly found in possession of stolen goods or the drugs.
In terms of the drugs, the most dominant drugs as registered by BPS are dagga (marijuana), and although before last year dagga was followed by cocaine, as of now it has been overtaken by Methcathinone or CAT (now second most) in the country. Speaking exclusively with this publication this week, Botswana Police Public Relations Officer Senior Superintendent Dipheko Motube said, “It has been 3 weeks now in the drugs campaign and already we have arrested 75 and counting. The suspects were questioned by the police, most of who were nailed while in possession of the drugs.”
According to Motube, of the 75 suspects arrested only 25 have already been charged for 14 cases in which 12 were dagga (marijuana) related while 2 were cocaine cases. In the said cases: “there were 19 males and 6 females involved which were aged between 24 and 58 years and all were caught in Greater Gaborone area.” The monetary value and weight of the seized drugs could not be established at the time of going to press; Motube said they were yet to ascertain it. However in one incident, as part of the intensified campaign, a truck crossing into Botswana with dagga estimated to cost more than one million pula in monetary value was seized.
In addition Motube said that 4 people, aged between 24 and 29, were also separately arrested in Gaborone North at the close of this week in connection with ‘improvised drugs’. The quartet was in possession of improvised drugs which were in the form of a concoction of fanta grape (fizzy beverage) and cough syrup. Some of them include mixing coke and pills. According to the police spokesperson, the drugs (particularly cough syrup) were not prescribed for those in possession from a medical practitioner. The drugs, he continued to highlight, are also on the rise and are a concern to the Police Service. He said that they are rampant amongst students as they are easily accessible and affordable.
What prompted the police drug raids?
The BPS believes that drugs are the root cause of all societal ills and crime activity currently bedevilling the country. As the BPS spokesperson put it, the drug situation in Botswana is a threat to peace and tranquillity and impacts the society negatively, both socially and economically. Motube asserted with confidence: “all problems bedevilling our society, the major root cause is drug abuse. I say this because the drugs are expensive and more addictive than alcohol.” “So, people get involved in criminal activities in order to fund their next drugs fix.”
Motube narrated that the drug users grow into hardcore criminals and start doing house breakings, carry out street robberies, house invasions and become very dangerous, murdering people. “All the offenses that touch on human behaviour, integrity and rights, we blame it on abuse of drugs, that is; Domestic and Gender Violence, all these issues emanate from drinking spots. You will find out that those we arrest having committed these issues would later concede to having used drugs or be found in possession of them (drugs).”
Motube asserted that it is important for the drugs situation to be addressed head on. “Nowadays we see even students carrying drugs at schools and in the event some selling them. Such students hide drugs in their school uniform ‘ties’ as we found out during our searching strategy. This kills our education system and the future of our children. We end up raising drug lords thinking they are innocent students.” Motube further pointed out that the police will continue to come up with new strategies to fight drug peddling in the country. “We had to adjust our policing programmes and structures to see what can work for the country. The campaign is running indefinite, we are not sure when it will stop,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, the recent campaign has been seen by many as targeting “small fish” particularly in the city’s “slum” areas who deal in dagga but avoiding elite residential areas where the big fish are possibly peddling high end drugs like cocaine. In response to this, Motube said their campaign does not have vocabulary for any drug dealer. “The campaign is on. It’s law enforcement. Our campaign does not have a vocabulary of small or big fish. Nobody is immune. It’s just a matter of time before we reach other areas. We will also come to Phakalane suburban area which is seen as a no go area. Even those who hide the drugs, they should be scared of us and our black dog is coming will sniff all those drugs in their hidden spots.”
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.”