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Kwelagobe urges Masisi to push for Constitutional reforms

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stalwart Daniel Kwelagobe, has urged new president, Mokgweetsi Masisi to institute a Commission of Inquiry that will result in a comprehensive review of the country’s constitution.  

Kwelagobe, the longest serving BDP secretary general, who spent 27 years at the helm as the party’s chief administrator indicated that a review of the constitution should be one of the mainstay objectives of the country’s new president.
“I advise him to institute a commission of inquiry on constitutional review, with the view of a comprehensive review of the constitution. He should do this because our constitution needs a serious re-look into it to see whether it is still relevant or not,” he told WeekendPost.

“When the current constitution was adopted in 1966, there were less than 10 graduates in the whole country. The public never had the opportunity to understand it as well as to make enlightened input on it.” Kwelagobe, who once commanded unrivalled influence in the BDP, is of the view that, the current population deserves to be given the opportunity to have an input in the constitution and to see if indeed it speaks to the needs of modern democracy.

“People should look at oversight institutions such as Auditor General, Ombudsman and see if they are as independent as desired,” said Kwelagobe. The constitution of Botswana was adopted in 1966, when Botswana gained independence from the British government. The constitution has remained in place with few changes being brought in over the years.

In 1997, under the presidency of Sir Ketumile Masire parliament made some amendments, which brought provisions such as a 10 year presidential term limit, automatic succession as well as lowering the voting age to 18. Despite the 1997 reforms, Kwelagobe still thinks more needs to be done. “Those reforms were only relating to the issues of the presidency and elections. What is needed is a comprehensive review that will encompass a lot of things,” he said.

“In setting-up a commission of an inquiry, the committee may decide in the recommendations; whether there is need to review the constitution or not. I am not saying he should do this in a hurry, but it is something that he should strive for.” Kwelagobe spent 45 years as Member of Parliament, becoming the longest serving member of parliament in the process.

ON WOMEN IN POLITICS

Kwelagobe said the constitution should also look at representation of women in leadership positions in the country’s polity. He said it is evident that the status quo has an environment which discourages women from being in leadership positions. “We always say women are the pillars of the nation, but when it comes to leadership positions, it is men who dominate. Even when there is an opportunity to bring more women to leadership positions such as Specially Elected [Members of Parliament and Councillors], we still elect men to those positions,” argued Kwelagobe.

DK, as he is affectionately known in political circles, said during his tenure as MP parliament adopted a motion which called for comprehensive review, but government has not acted on it to ensure that the process takes place. The latest Global Gender Gap Index ranked Botswana 122nd out of 144 countries, owing to its overly male dominated parliament. Botswana currently has only five female MPs in a 63 seat parliament.

The situation will soon be exacerbated by the imminent departure of three women legislators; Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Botlogile Tshireletso and Dr Unity Dow, who will not be returning to parliament after the 2019 general elections. Venson-Moitoi and Tshireletso are retiring from active politics, while Dow’s term as Specially Elected MP would have elapsed.

REFORMING THE BDP

Kwelagobe said during his party leadership, Masisi should also re-look the BDP constitution to see if it indeed is democratic or not. “BDP needs revival — its constitution needs review to promote inter-party democracy. People always complain that they are not allowed to speak their mind during party gatherings. We should look at how the party can strengthen itself,” contended DK. Kwelagobe has however given a thumbs up to Masisi’s choice for Vice President in Slumber Tsogwane.

“He has been in government for a very long time, he knows how government works and he has been a good member of the party,” said Kwelagobe of Tsogwane. Tsogwane was endorsed by parliament on Wednesday as the country’s 9th Vice President. Prior to his endorsement as Vice President, the BDP Central Committee had taken a decision to vote him as party chairman, replacing Mokgweetsi Masisi.

POVERTY AND UNEMPLOYMENT

The preliminary results of the Botswana Multi Topic Household Survey under Economic Activity released last year showed a decline from 19.9 percent in 2011 to 17.6 percent in unemployment. The survey was carried out during the 2015/2016 period. Statistics Botswana targeted a population of those aged 18 years and above, estimated at 1, 2 million of which 838 002 were economically active and 430 675 were economically inactive. Statics Botswana also indicated that poverty is declining in Botswana.

Despite the decline noted by Statistics Botswana, Kwelagobe believes unemployment and poverty will remain the biggest challenge facing Masisi’s administration. The former Presidential Affairs and Public Administration minister said unemployment has mostly affected young people, despite a lot of them being in possession of high qualifications. He said poverty in villages is extreme, something which Masisi should fight against.

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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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