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Friday, 19 April 2024

Kwelagobe urges Masisi to push for Constitutional reforms

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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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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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