Incoming President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has promised to wipe the floor with opposition parties in the 2019 general election. Parading a host of celebrities and political activists from opposition parties, the outgoing Vice President salivated at the prospect of his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) winning back a good number of opposition held constituencies.
Masisi, who was unapologetic in his piercing jabs at the opposition, especially the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) presented the BDP as the most credible political formation in the country while also indicating that the opposition collective is in disarray and that “most of them in Parliament have confessed that they are scared of what will transpire in 2019.” He stated that there is no opposition party that is not talking to them (BDP), they are telling us about their discomforts at their political homes.
The BDP chairman had invited the press to come and bid them farewell as the chairman of the party. Masisi has been BDP chairman since July 2015. He used the opportunity to share the party’s accomplishments under his chairmanship which include his recruitment drive which has seen the party welcome a host of former opposition activists especially from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and to some extent from the UDC.
Masisi explained that their targeted recruitment has reaffirmed that they are the only growing party in the country. To demonstrate his claim, the incoming President zoomed into the results of the Ralekgetho ward bye-election which saw the BDP trounce the UDC and AP. BDP had a winning margin of 106 compared to a winning margin of 21 in the 2014 general election. The BDP attracted 339 votes while the UDC got 233 and the AP came distant with 45 votes. According to Masisi this is the true picture going into 2019, analysts and observers should expect a growing BDP appeal across the country, he confidently declared.
In 2014, BDP had won the ward with 291 votes against the combined votes of UDC and BCP of 488. In the recent bye election, BDP increased its vote to 339, against the 278 of the combined opposition. Masisi said the party’s targeted recruitment drive ensured that BDP retained the constituency. The BDP recruited the former ward councillor from the BNF and gave him the responsibility as the campaign manager.
The former Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration mocked the campaign strategies used by opposition parties in Ralekgetho during the bye-elections campaigns. He said the manner in which they tried to relay their messages were alien to the people of Ralekgetho, hence why they lost the ward.
With opposition embattled in splits and internal fights, Masisi has vowed to recruit several MPs from its ranks. He hinted that already, he has been in talks with numerous MPs across all political parties discussing the possibility of them joining the BDP. “Many across all parties have been talking to us about joining the BDP. Many are going to join, wait and see,” he said.
The Mochudi East bye-election is the next battle ground and Masisi has vowed to come out with guns blazing. He said they are not put off by the narrative that the coming together of the BCP and the Botswana National Front (BNF) automatically means that the numbers that voted for the two parties in 2014 add up. He said Ralekgetho has demonstrated that the dynamics have changed in the political landscape. He said they are presenting a credible candidate in Rev Mpho Mmachakga Moruakgomo.
“I am going to continue to work with the central committee to ensure that the party attracts more members through this targeted recruitment.” Masisi said as a trendy party, the BDP intends to woo more young people into its fold. He said they will be stepping up their campaign ahead of the 2019 general election hence make the opposition uncomfortable. “If they can’t take it they might as well fizzle away. This is my bowing out as party chairman but note that we are coming for the opposition in a big way. We are targeting their members,” said Masisi.
The incoming President shared that as the BDP they are more than willing to acknowledge blemishes in their rule while also attempting to correct them. According to Masisi the BDP is lowering the average age of its candidates at council and parliamentary level. He expressed confidence in the caliber that has so far indicated intention to contest elections under the BDP. He said he is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cabinet ministers. “The quality we have, you can’t find it at the UDC,” he said. Masisi said he has brilliant candidates contesting elections, “it is not just about degrees, some of our candidates who do not have those degrees are just brilliant,” he said.
Masisi will be inaugurated as the country fifth President on April 1st. He is expected to name his Vice President and new Cabinet on Wednesday next week. As he steps down as party chairman, the BDP central committee will meet on April 9th to elect a new party chairman of the party.
In his preamble Masisi promised that his administration will continue to cherish a free press. He said the press as an institution is one of the defining ethos of the ruling BDP. The incoming President said it is inconceivable that the BDP could curtail media freedom, “but you must be man enough to take criticism as much as write about us. We will continue to give you feedback on your work,” he said.
Masisi will succeed President Lt Gen Ian Khama as the country’s fifth president. The Moshupa/Manyana legislator, who takes over the reins at the party which suffered the worst electoral performance since independence at the last elections, is adamant that ever since becoming party chairman, the fortunes of the party are beginning to change.
“With the benefit of evidence as coming from the 2014 general elections results and the perception therein, the machinery and the tempo has completely turned in favour of the BDP. The BDP will become even more erect as times goes on,” said Masisi. For the first time since independence, BDP’s popular vote fell beyond 50 percent during the 2014 general elections, something which Masisi is determined to change.
Masisi said the BDP remains the only party which is confident of its process, as evidenced by the manner in which they have been conducting central committee elections. The BDP elections have been conducted by Democracy Research Project from the University of Botswana. The incoming President who rose to the position of Vice President after the 2014 general elections was elected party chairman, a position traditionally associated with the vice presidency in 2015 and defended the position against Nonofo Molefhi in 2017.
Masisi revealed that he is not worried or anxious about the appointment of his cabinet as well as his deputy. Masisi will appoint his cabinet on Wednesday next week, three days after being sworn in as president. WeekendPost has gathered that three names are currently dominating conversations within the ruling party’s central committee as favourites for the chairmanship namely Slumber Tsogwane, Tshekedi Khama, and Samson Guma Moyo. The BDP chairmanship is a ceremonial position but has so much weight attached to it. Vice President Masisi fought hard and smart to retain the position against Molefhi at the BDP Tonota elective congress last year July.
Over the course of time party loyalists have started to attach power to the position because it has been associated with the vice presidency since the days of Peter Mmusi – they believe this has added weight to the position of chairman of their party.â€¨â€¨In the current scenario, members of the BDP central committee will have the final say on who will take over as chairman when Vice President Masisi becomes president in April. It is expected that it should be a consensus or a majority split to decide on the next chairman.â€¨â€¨
Tsogwane is said to be commanding a strong lead as the lobbying intensifies. He was strongly behind Masisi in the run up to the Tonota congress. Some in the party point to his loyalty to the party and his position in Parliament as the longest serving Member of Parliament as complementary strengths that validate his pole position to succeed Masisi as chairman. Masisi will also automatically cease being Member of Parliament for his constituency when he becomes president on Sunday, necessitating an election run-off.
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.”