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Khamas caravan spell exposed

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.

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Judge Dingake punches holes in Masisi’s Constitutional Review

25th September 2023

Renowned jurist, Justice Professor Key Dingake has punched holes into President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s appointed Commission of inquiry into the review of Botswana’s constitution.

In December 2021, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the review of the country’s Constitution. The Commission was given about nine months to complete its mandate and to submit its findings to the President by the end of September 2022.

Speaking at a seminar for future leaders of the African continent, Dingake who is a Judge of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea and the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone branded President Masisi’s constitutional review as a dream deferred.

According to the former Botswana High Court Judge and University of Botswana academic, it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process.

“What seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent. The political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,” Dingake said.

He submitted that; “The Botswana Constitutional Review process is, in my respectful view, “a dream deferred”.

Dingake noted that a committee that was established to consult Batswana on the review of the Constitution is called The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. He said the above name, in many respects, tells a substantial part of the story about the nature and character of the Commission.

“The review process that started in December 2021 was one of the quickest in history,” said the judge. Dingake also indicated that the process was carried out over a period of about 9 months and was not preceded by any stakeholder engagement or civic education. His view is that the absence of civic education was apparent from most of the commentary that was offered in many public platforms that the commission addressed.

“Based on the commentaries that were made, one wished that civic education preceded the process,” said Dingake adding that “Having taught Constitutional law at law school, I know for certain that if I were to walk into a law class and without offering the lecture, asked the students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Botswana Constitution, many may find the question difficult, but the appreciation of the subject matter may improve substantially after the lecture. “

The judge asserted that; “The same is true with the Constitution review process, in which we want people to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution.” The judge noted that in December 2021, President Masisi appointed a Constitutional Review Commission headed by former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.

Commenting on this, Dingake said the Commission was established under the Commission of Inquiries Act, which required the Commission to report directly to the President.

He said this approach, quite self-evidently, gave the impression of a partisan approach; the process could not be said by any standard to have been ‘people-driven.

“The 1966 Botswana Constitution is a colonial relic adding that “It has served us well generally, but it is no longer fit for purpose,” he said adding that; “It is overdue for far-reaching renewal. It has many weaknesses that can be instantly fixed, such as requiring it to expressly state that it is the supreme law of the land and to expressly recognize separation of powers, key components that, in my mind, constitute the unalterable basic structure of the Constitution.”

“Constitution is not gender-sensitive, and the electoral system mandated by the Constitution tends to exclude women from national political decision-making. As it is often said, no country can claim to be democratic if half or more of its population is excluded,” said Dingake.

He observed that the Constitution lacks independent institutions that support democracy, a bill of rights that recognizes all human rights, and concentrates too much power in the Presidency.

He said the Constitutional architecture is such that Parliament ends up being a rubber stamp of Executive decisions. The Constitutional review process raises opportunities for devolving power to local government units, strengthening equality and non-discrimination clauses in the Constitution, and outright outlawing many other discriminatory legal provisions and practices.

Dingake also noted that a review of the Constitution would also provide opportunities for the Botswana Government to domesticate all international, regional, and sub-regional treaties or protocols it has signed, such as the Maputo Protocol.

He said it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process. What seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent.

“The political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,” said Dingake.

 

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Investing in Children of Kokotsha: Learn To Play, Kokotsha VDC and Tsabong District Council Launch ECD Playgroup

25th September 2023

KOKOTSHA – The Kokotsha community, home to some 90 children, is one that passionately believes in investing in the youth of today as future leaders of tomorrow. In support of this, and with a desire to ensure children in the village more effectively learn through play for truly brighter futures, Learn To Play is excited to launch its 10th Botswana playgroup in Kokotsha.

The playgroup was opened in partnership with the Kokotsha Village Development Committee (VDC) and the Tsabong District Council on the 11th of September 2023, in the presence of Kgosi Kudume; Chief Social & Community Development Officer, Boitumelo Pule; Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitseweng; and Kokotsha Councillor Jane.

“The establishment of Kokotsha Play Group is a very appropriate and relevant cause by department of Social and Community Development in collaboration with Learn to Play, as we all know that Early Childhood Education opportunities are critical and key for children’s psychosocial development. The positive outcomes of this initiative will trickle down to improving the quality of life of not only the children enrolled, but Kokotsha as a whole,” said Tsabong District Council Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitsiwe.

Tsabong District Council made the necessary renovations to an old playgroup structure on site, also supporting the playgroup with necessary resources so that the 40 children enrolled in will experience leading ECD methods and approaches, inclusive of mindful play, creativity, LEGO programmes, playful literacy, early brain development, and more. The playgroup will begin by serving 40 children in the community until the end of 2023 and increase to 80 from 2024.

“When we say, “it takes a village to raise a child”, Kokotsha is that village! From the most inspiring and supportive leadership at the Tsabong District Council – whose vision and priority towards early childhood development brings us here today, to the leadership within Kokotsha with the most committed civil servants, and our dedicated Mamapreneurs – we have truly learnt the meaning behind that phrase,” said Learn To Play Founder and CEO, Priyanka Handa-Ram. “Kokotsha stands as a model not just for our other community playgroups across the country, but for the entire African continent on how policies, programmes and communities need to devote time, effort and resources to nurturing our children. Working with the Tsabong District Council and the leadership in Kokotsha to be ready for opening, including renovating this incredible playgroup centre, has been so smooth and efficient – all testament to the Council’s commitment to bring play-based learning to Kokotsha, and indeed the district at large. Effective partnerships with local governments and community leadership are key to forging a path to universal access to high quality early childhood development in our beautiful Botswana.”

Three mamapreneurs identified by the Kokotsha community were trained in Gaborone for two weeks in April this year on ECD essentials, managing and facilitating daily playgroups, effective monitoring and evaluation, school readiness, digital literacy, child protection, first aid and more. These phenomenal women are now part of the 35 Mamapreneur-strong network of change-agents across Botswana within the Learn To Play ecosystem.

ECD plays a crucial role in a child’s overall development, setting the foundation for their cognitive, social, and emotional development.  Research has consistently shown that quality of early education has a long-lasting impact on a child’s academic performance, social skills, and overall wellbeing and that children who attend high-quality early childhood education programmes are more likely to perform better academically and have higher graduation rates. These programmes help children develop empathy, self-regulation, and positive relationships with peers and adults. These very impacts are being measurably reported across Learn To Play playgroups in Botswana, and the impact is clear for all to see.

Learn To Play now operates play-based learning playgroups in 6 districts across Botswana, and gaging and benefitting over 450 children in Pandamatenga, Bere, Kokotsha, Mabele, Nata, Bontleng, Gopong, Kavimba, Kacgae, and Dukwi, working to create a sustainable framework for development. Learn To Play is Inspired by Play and Informed by African communities, just like that of Kokotsha.

 

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Sub-Saharan Africa region urged to reorient health systems

25th September 2023

World Health Organization (WHO) last week invaded Botswana for the 73rd Regional Committee for Africa meeting. Director General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus made his way to Botswana, to understand the health landscape, systems and interventions put in place to promote and advance health, in a country that is looking to achieve Sustainable Development Goal three: Good Health and Well-being by 2030.

The meeting aimed at addressing and taking decisions on the pressing health challenges faced by African countries and developing strategies to strengthen health systems in all member states.

The conference discussed critical health challenges facing the African region. These challenges encompass a wide range of topics: infectious diseases, universal health coverage, health systems strengthening and emergency preparedness and response.

WHO boss, Dr Ghebreyesus said they are now working with member states to develop the 14th General Programme of Work for 2025 to 2028, and urged all member states of the African region to engage actively in the process.

“There are five priorities which are now becoming the basis of GPW14: to promote, provide, protect, power and perform for health. We should promote health and prevent disease by addressing its root cause, and this includes action to reduce tobacco use and harmful alcohol use, to make diets healthier by reducing salt and sugar intake, to increase physical activity and water, sanitation as well as hygiene.”

He further said climate crisis is a health crisis, adding that health systems are increasingly dealing with the consequences of climate change, in terms of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and the impacts of more frequent and more severe extreme weather events.

“Even as we work to decarbonize health systems, at least 15% of health facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity at all, and many more have unreliable access. This means surgeries and births are done in the dark, vaccines cannot be stored safely, and that vital medical equipment cannot function.”

Providing health by radically reorienting health systems towards primary health care, as the foundation of universal health coverage, is said to be more important in Africa than any other region, it has emerged.

“Across the region, hundreds of millions of people lack access to essential health services, or are pushed into poverty by catastrophic out-of-pocket spending. Closing these gaps must be top of the to-do-list for every member state. Maternal and child health also remains a major challenge in the continent. Two-thirds of all maternal deaths occur in Africa, and the latest estimates indicate that the maternal mortality ratio in the region is more than seven times higher than the SDG target.”

Dr Ghebreyesus further encouraged member states to work with WHO on the “Big Catch Up,” to close gaps in immunization coverage, and to reduce the unacceptably high burden of maternal mortality, by expanding access to services for sexual and reproductive health.

“Member States must take action to protect health by strengthening defense against health emergencies. They should engage actively in this once in a lifetime opportunity and deliver both the pandemic accord and the IHR reforms by May 2024, as a generational commitment that t is grounded in equity and addresses the critical gaps in the global health architecture.”

WHO urged countries to take action to power health by harnessing the power of science, research and development, data and digital technologies. “I also urge Member States to engage with the new Global Initiative on Digital Health, which holds enormous potential to support countries on their journey towards universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For her part, WHO Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti says there has been progress on the health status of the African people and the delivery of health services, but challenges persist.

“Government health spending is low in most of our countries. And Africa is home to two in three poorest persons making out-of-pocket payments for health. The number of women dying from pregnancy related causes remains unacceptable and riven b inequities. The increasing burden of non-communicable diseases in Africa has not been accompanied by an increase in investment in the control of these diseases by governments and partners.”

 

 

 

 

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