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Young Turks takes centre stage in Masisi administration

President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s vote of confidence in the Young Turk found expression in his cabinet appointment this week, with Bogolo Kenenwendo, a 30 year-old Specially Elected Member of Parliament being appointed to an important portfolio of Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.

The appointment of Kenewendo might have infuriated some, especially the old guard, who think their age entitle them to such privilege. The move by Masisi was however a signal, that under his tutelage; talent and potential will take precedence. In appointing Kenewendo to the Trade ministry, Masisi had to do away with Vincent Seretse, a man with impressive background in Botswana’s corporate world. Not only did he transfer Seretse, potential candidates such as Dorcas Makgato, the former Botswana Export Development Investment Agency (BEDIA) Chief Executive were also overlooked for the post.

Taking over the ministry, Kenewendo has become the youngest person to be appointed a full minister, breaking a record held by Daniel Kwelagobe. Kenewendo joined parliament in 2016, following constitutional amendments which created two more posts for Specially Elected legislators.

At the time she was called to serve as legislator, she was working as Trade Advisor for the government of Ghana. Kenewendo’s resume is also impressive—with a BA in Economics from University of Botswana, and Masters in Economics from University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. She is the founder of Molaya Kgosi Trust, a women mentorship and leadership programme.

Unlike with the recent cabinet re-shuffle, the 2019 cabinet, which will follow the general elections, will have more youth in its ranks. At least two young lads; Lawrence Oookeditse and Karabo Gare, are expected to feature in Masisi’s 2019 cabinet.
Ookeditse and Masisi’s cosy relations dates back to 2013, when the two were co-opted into the ruling party’s sub-committee of Publicity and International Relations. That was before Masisi became Vice President. Ever since then, Ookeditse has been part of the rarefied group close to Masisi as a strategist.

Ookeditse was key member of a team that helped to propel Masisi to the party chairmanship in 2015, a victory which marked the beginning of consolidation of power for the former Moshupa-Mmanyana legislator. Ookeditse recently resigned from the public service, where he was employed as Policy Director in the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development.  

He will face off with incumbent, Polson Majaga in Nata/Gweta constituency in a highly anticipated battle.  Already, the two have been in collision course, with Majaga accusing the party leadership of offering Ookeditse a preferential treatment. Majaga won the Nata/Gweta constituency in the last general elections, having initially dislodged fellow party member Rynar Makosha from the constituency. The primaries for the BDP held constituencies are billed for end of August this year.  

BDP sources that spoke to WeekendPost hinted that a rising BDP luminary in the name of Karabo Gare who is little known in national politics although active in the area seems all set to contest for the vacancy. They point that all stakes are high for the Young Turk who it is said has worked tirelessly for the party in the area signalling his intentions to fill the shoes of the Masisi IN Moshupa/Mmanyna constituency.

Not only has he been working hard, the youthful Gare is Masisi’s preferred successor for the constituency. It is believed that with the backing of Masisi, Gare will pull through in the expected party primaries. The constituency became vacant on the 1st of April this year when Masisi ascended to the presidency.

END OF ROAD FOR BDP OLD GUARD?

The reshuffling of cabinet of Wednesday saw a lot of influential men, who formed part of former president Ian Khama’s administration being moved away from the key ministries.  Eric Molale, who has been part and parcel of government machinery as Permanent Secretary and later as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, has been moved to the docile Ministry of Energy, Minerals and Green Technology.

Molale had over the years as top civil servant welded so much in the running affairs of the country, especially the civil service. Molale will be faced with an uphill battle to return to parliament, as he had to wrestle the Goodhope/Mabule constituency from the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in 2019. He lost the constituency in his first bid in 2015 bye-elections after being defeated by Barolong Chief Kgois Lotlaamorneg II.   

Another Khama’s man, Vincent Seretse, who first arrived in parliament in 2009 as one of the four specially elected MPs. He returned to parliament after 2014 general elections as MP for Lentsweletau/Mmopane constituency.  Seretse was moved, in a cabinet reshuffle from Trade to Ministry of International Relations. Meanwhile, Thapelo Olopeng, Kitso Mokaila and Tshekedi Khama retained their ministries. Mokaila will not return to parliament after 2019 general elections, signalling an end to 15 years of service as legislator.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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