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Masisi to counsel VP hopefuls

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators have unanimously advised President Mokgweetsi Masisi to call all those who were interested in the position of the Vice President for a ‘counselling’ session to avoid divisions and sabotage within the party, WeekendPost has established.

This week the party met at the Office of the President for their weekly meeting with two main points on the agenda – VP nomination and selection of cabinet. As it was somehow expected the name of Boteti West MP Slumber Tsogwane was suggested by the president.

Although it is said no one from the party opposed Tsogwane’s nomination and in fact all backed the president’s decision, some were also eyeing the position. The three other names, sources within the party say, were Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, Samson Moyo Guma and Nonofo Molefhi who were hoping to be appointed to the seat.

It is said after the nomination, Sadique Kebonang after accepting Tsogwane’s name pleaded with Masisi to organize a closed session meeting with those who had their eye on the Vice Presidency, but had their dreams shattered. This was agreed to by all MPs. Masisi was reportedly full of jokes at the meeting to make the seemingly uneasy legislators relax, he asked the democrats who wished to assist him to raise their hands, but no one obliged.

“No one raised hands though we knew those who harboured ambitions to become VP. It wouldn’t look good for them because the name was already out and it would appear like they were pulling to a different direction, and they instead chose to support Tsogwane,” said a BDP MP.

Another BDP legislator confirmed this, “Masisi was asked to talk to some of our members who had expectations to be VP to calm them down and to prevent them acting in a manner harmful to the party following the decision. This was spearheaded by Sadique and everyone agreed to that because it would curb possible infightings, divisions and sabotage which could work against the party in future. Mind you, those who had aspirations are party heavy weights that can influence the party structures if they are not engaged over this,” a source told this publication on Thursday this week.

While BDP MPs never had qualms with Tsogwane’s nomination, some had expected either Venson-Moitoi or Guma Moyo to be nominated for possible appointment as Vice President. “Considering how Moyo defended him at the Tonota congress we thought it was clear that he would nominate him as his Vice President. The same applies to Venson-Moitoi, she was  second choice in our hearts, but luck was not on her side. As for Molefhi we didn’t expect much of him as VP because as you may recall they were enemies going to the last year’s congress,” stated another BDP source that was present at the Wednesday morning meeting.

CABINET RESHUFFLE

As expected the cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday has also left the party divided with MPs questioning the criterion used for selection of Ministers. Prior to this, Masisi was cautioned by the party to be careful as to who assumes which ministerial post to avoid appointing persons linked to possible corruption and other questionable behaviours which could cost the party.

The removal of three ministers; Prince Maele, Edwin Batshu and Kebonang has left eyebrows raised within the party. While Batshu’s ejection is the one making noise it is said weeks before being sworn in as President, “Masisi asked everyone who wouldn’t want to be in the cabinet to clearly state that,” a source highlighted. All the while it was not clear as to whether this trio approached Masisi requesting not to be in the cabinet.

The BDP MPs are said to questioning the criterion used for cabinet selection. “It should be clear if it depends on the most senior in parliament, capability or the discretion of His Excellency. Molao has been assistant minister we thought he would ascend, but now Ngaka Ngaka has taken over, Goya (Moiseraele) has been assisting but now Bogolo [Kenewendo] has taken over.”

The MPs who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity went to question the appointment of Bagalatia Arone as Minister of Basic Education. “This will divide the party, he has just defected and he has been given the portfolio while some have been here defending the party but got nothing for their sweat. It is not like we are bitter or anything we are just stating the facts,” asserted one of the MPs.

The party Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay said the party remains very united and no one questioned the decision by the President. “We will support them to excel in the different Ministries including the VP because at the end of day the bigger picture is the party and Batswana.”

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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