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Masisi rebukes Guma, Sadique

Attempts by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to intervene in the row involving Tati East legislator, Samson Moyo Guma and Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang hit a snag this week as Kebonang failed to attend a party meeting organised by the VP to deal with the feud.

Last week, the duo was involved in an online spat. The exchange followed Guma’s utterances in parliament, in the absence of Kebonang who chose to respond via social media instead. The two legislators’ feud is resultant of the landmark case regarding the misuse of the P250 million of the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).

According to reports reaching WeekendPost the Vice President decided to step in because he is worried the two MP’s public row could cost the party particularly at next year’s general elections. Sources close to developments quote Masisi as having said: “We are leaders and we should behave as such, not casually like it is the case. BDP is the only party and we should discuss such things as it might cost us big time in the future.”

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chief whip Liakat Kablay confirmed that this week’s party meeting was purely meant to address the duo’s squabbles. “As a party we should be united especially in public fora and the intention was to call both Sadique and Guma to reconcile them unfortunately the former was on an official trip to London so the matter could not go any further.” The VP has reportedly taken the issue to heart and it is expected that the two will be called again next week to appear before him (Masisi) and smoke a peace pipe.

THE EXCHANGE…

“Honourable minister kindly put your house in order before you talk of increasing fuel prices. Put your house in order with regards to the National Petroleum Fund (NPF). We are not saying anyone is corrupt but what is happening at your ministry is pure thuggery. As the minister, the buck stops with you," Moyo said when responding to the budget proposal by Minister Kebonang.

Kebonang who had kept quiet for some time took to Facebook and posted in response to Moyo: “Guma has the tendency to malign people’s characters. Just a few years ago he had a case of money laundering. Nobody asked him to resign. Was he an embarrassment to the party and the country? Once he also threatened to resign from parliament. He didn’t. He carries himself like this angel of high moral standards when he is far from it. He is no saint and a role model. One doesn’t even know his educational background even though he likes to claim to be this sophisticated accountant and auditor. This is a man who never lasted as assistant minister or even chairman of the party. I have come to the conclusion that he is not mentally stable and is very silly.”

According to the sources, the party is equally shocked by the two’s public squabbles as they have always been close allies. While others within the BDP suggested that this could be a gimmick by the MPs for them to win the heart of the incoming president and position themselves better for the impending cabinet reshuffle, Guma has always been clear that he doesn’t want any ministerial portfolio. On the other hand it is said Kebonang is worried the same allegations may hamper his return to the ministerial seat either after the inauguration of Masisi or post the general elections. 

“I’m not going to be afraid to speak about the National Petroleum Fund just because the minister is somewhere out there posting about me on Facebook. It does not matter and am not scared of a graduate of some mental asylum. I repeat he must resign. As we sit here the NPF has not been audited for 2 years. I will not fear to talk about him because he will write on Facebook. In fact he needs to come here to parliament,” Moyo said in parliament.

Maele mum over dustbin money

Meanwhile at the same meeting, it was also expected that Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Prince Maele would clear his name regarding the dustbin saga, but he is said to have avoided commenting all together. “He didn’t say anything and there was no pressure for him to say anything but we thought he would say something regarding the recent dustbin drama and if possible other reports that have implicated him. The thing is you can’t understand him, sometimes he is jolly and going around greeting others and at times he is just tough, so no one could bother him at the meeting since he was hard again,” a source highlighted.

But elsewhere Minister Maele has made his position clear. He has pointed out that the P50 000 loot found at his vacant residence inside a dustbin was a setup and he has named his suspects. Maele believes that he is a threat to some in the BDP and they are trying all tricks to have him removed as Minister and by extension from his constituency. He has vowed to clear his name.

With these scandals threatening the ruling party, Members of Parliament have cautioned the incoming president to be careful when selecting his cabinet. “The thing we have been talking about is when Masisi assumes power he should be cautious about who he chooses for his cabinet. He must avoid young boys; this is a senior position that should be given to a mature person. Again he should look at the background of the potential ministers, you can’t put a hungry person there and not expect corruption and these other bad things which tarnish the image of the party,” a source cautioned.

These reports and many more which are threatening BDP’s rule are expected to be discussed at length at the party’s 54th National council this weekend (Friday& Saturday). The party is said to be treating the matter with sensitivity hence the decision to deal with the issues at their internal meeting. “Some questions are expected to be fielded at the national council because party members want to know and for sure they will ask questions,” Kablay said.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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