Investigation by this publication has unearthed that cabinet ministers contributed P10 000 each and raised about P220 000 for the President’s farewell gift. It is alleged that one of the ministers further made an offer to the effect that he could source an extra P100 000 so as to purchase a caravan for the President as a gift.
It is not clear where the minister sourced the P100 000 – but a couple of ministers contacted by this publication are not aware of the P100 000. What emerges though is that cabinet ministers indeed contributed P10 000 each for the President. The caravan gift and cabinet ministers’ contribution revelations come on the backdrop of the defense attorney in the controversial money laundering scandal, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae recent presentation at Regional Magistrate Christopher Gabanagae’s court room.
He named his alleged beneficiaries of the National Petroleum Fund’s P250m in question as prosecution officials kept interjecting every time he mentions a name of the top government official. Ngakaagae had revealed at the time that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama, his vice Mokgweetsi Masisi, Ministers Thapelo Olopeng and Sadique Kebonang and Satar Dada on behalf of the BDP benefitted from the money at the centre of dispute. He was however told to hold his submissions when he first mentioned Khama, and was again rescued by the magistrate citing that he was only cross-examining the investigating officer.
However, Khama has distanced himself from allegations made in court linking him to the ongoing money laundering case implicating Bakang Seretse and two others. In particular, a caravan purchased for President Khama has been fingered as proceed of these funds. According Ngakaagae, Khama’s caravan as well as a house built for him was financed through the National Petroleum Fund.
Meanwhile Masisi, who will succeed Khama as president at the beginning of April, was also named in court as having been given P3 million from the fund. Other alleged beneficiaries include Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Thapelo Olopeng, whom the court heard he got P70 000 from the accused; long time party treasure Satar Dada as well as Minister of Minerals, Energy and Green Technology Advocate Sadique Kebonang.
Masisi has released a statement through the Office of the President distancing himself from the allegations. The Vice President has already given the DCEC a statement on the matter and has openly spoken against the NPF scandal. Minister Thapelo Olopeng went a step further and instructed his lawyers to act on the matter and clear his name. He has denied ever getting P70 000 from Bakang. He also stated that he does not know him.
MASISI WARNS BDP MINISTERS
Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who will become President, next week has strongly warned members of the Cabinet against corruption. Masisi who was speaking at the party’s caucus this week Tuesday is said to have indicated that the National Petroleum Fund scandal is a real mess and it is not indicative of the government they envisage as the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Masisi is said to have warned that the matter must be addressed to its proper conclusion and those found to be on the wrong side of the law be brought to book.
The Vice President said it is shameful that the NPF scandal revolves around those in cabinet and in the BDP. Masisi is said to have demanded for a clean government and a clean BDP and urged all to ensure that corruption is dealt with thoroughly. A cabinet Minister who preferred anonymity confirmed to this publication that it is true the BDP had the said caucus as is the norm every Tuesday when parliament is on and that indeed Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi raised a concern on corruption currently sweeping across the country.
It is understood that he mentioned the National Petroleum Funds (NPF) saga in particular in his endeavor to clean his name and discourage other members from engaging in corrupt practices. “Yes Masisi spoke about corruption and cited NPF in particular while urging to the BDP legislators at the caucus that “ekare rotlhe re magodu” meaning (it appears like we are all corrupt)” which it’s said to have rubbed some lawmakers the wrong way. The said minister also confirmed that they have been asked to contribute 10 000 pula each towards the purchase of a present for outgoing President Khama.
However he refused to divulge the nature of the present to this publication while insisting that it is not a caravan which was linked to the NPF saga as alleged by Bakang Seretse’s lawyer Ngakaagae. Approached for a comment, another cabinet minister who also is a member of a committee assigned with collecting funds from the other ministers and ensuring that they buy the present, Thapelo Olopeng also clarified that they will not buy a caravan but “something very big for His Excellency” so that he can always remember them.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development who is also close to Khama also did not dispute that the ministers suggested and agreed upon themselves that each minister will contribute 10 000 pula each towards the acquisition of the present for Khama. He distanced himself however on whether Kebonang or any minister contributed 100 000 pula or more than the set amount. “Nnyaa that am not aware of,” he stated.
Meanwhile parliamentary BDP Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay also confirmed the caucus but said he was in and out on the day and therefore may have missed the said important revealing discussions. BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi did not dispute that Masisi normally speaks about his abhorrence for corruption but was not sure whether he mentioned at the recent party caucus while citing the NPF matter currently before courts. He was also in a position to speak about the alleged caravan, linked to NPF funds, to be “bought” for Khama.
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.”