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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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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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