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Mangole gives BCP middle finger over constituencies

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s failure to resolve the burning issues of re-allocations of constituencies, as demanded by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is proving to be a divisive matter within the coalition.

BCP, which is the new entrant in the coalition, has found itself at loggerheads with contracting partner Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) over certain constituencies following the latter’s split resulting in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP). Leading figures in the BCP, among them party secretary general Kentse Rammidi as well as former Youth League president Tumiso Rakgare have suggested for UDC to consider opening up the primary elections process to allow all contracting parties candidates to participate.

Although the suggestion has not been formally communicated by the party, Weekend Post has it on good authority that BCP is having a conversation relating to their participation in the UDC. BMD secretary general, Gilbert Mangole has however been angered by the antics of BCP, as he accused them of dealing with BMD in bad faith. The Mochudi West legislator told this publication that BCP is deliberately disregarding the agreement that guided allocations of constituencies to contracting partners.

“BCP is being disrespectful because they know the criteria that was being used to allocate constituencies. The idea that BMD lost its members when some of its leaders left the party [to form AP] is a blatant lie because there is no study or research to support what they have been saying.” Mangole said, he does not know what the hullabaloo is all about since the the BCP has not formally engaged BMD with regard to constituencies which they want except for Maun West.

“We are still assessing their request, but we are not compelled to cede to their demands,” said Mangole.  BCP has requested Maun West in order to field its party president Dumelang Saleshando. The party leader currently does not have a constituency. Other firebrands within the BCP without constituencies are Rakgare as well as Rammidi. Mangole expressed shock that other contracting partners would go to the extent of seeking BMD constituencies when the whole idea of umbrella is all about working collectively to help each other.

He said part of the agreement is that a party which has been awarded a constituency, may, using its own discretion approach another partner to offer it a constituency in the event that it feels it does not have a credible or sellable candidate. “It is the responsibility of the party that has been awarded the constituency to approach other partner, not anyone else. BMD applied it in 2014 when it gave BNF Moshupa-Mmanyana because it did not have a candidate,” he said.

“I am surprised that other parties are judging our candidates, yet it is the responsibility of the BMD to determine that. BMD believe in honesty and in doing what has been agreed.” It was expected that BCP, which shared the view BNF that the coalition’s past congress would address the burning issues inside the coalition. They were two key issues that BNF and BCP wanted discussed at the congress; the review of constituencies allocated to BMD, as well as creating only one position of Vice President within the coalition.

The BNF/BCP axis was hoping to use their numerical strength at the UDC congress to achieve their objectives, a development which would push the beleaguered movement out of the coalition. Coalition leader and Duma Boko, came to the rescue of the BMD as he prevailed over fuming delegates. A high ranking member of BCP who talked to this publication indicated that the party has already started a conversation within the party on reviewing their participation in the Umbrella.

“We all know the strength of Dumelang [Saleshando] and we should know that as a coalition it is the responsibility of the UDC to ensure that its most capable people go to parliament,” he said. The source further informed this publication that they are worried that BMD prefers to recruit from BDP in order meet their deficiency instead of first considering candidates from its contracting partners.

The recruitment of Bruce Nkgakile as well as Thabo Autlwetse are said to be prime examples of BDP activist recruited to contest in BMD constituencies. Reports indicate that Nkgakile is earmarked Mogoditshane constituency while Autlwetse may try his luck at Gaborone Central. Rammidi shared recently on his social media platforms that UDC risks losing 2019 general elections as a result of failing to field credible and strong candidates against ruling party. Rammidi in essence support one party system as opposed to the current arrangement.

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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

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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