Kokorwe launches scathing attack on Boko
Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe has said Duma Boko’s statement on Botswana China relations in 2016 that was expunged from the parliamentary minutes contained untruths, offensive and insulting language about members of the Assembly and in particular President Lt. Ian Khama.
This has come to the fore following Boko’s decision to challenge parliament’s decision to expunge from the Hansard his statement made on Febraury 26 2016 regarding Botswana/China relations, a decision he said infringed on his freedom of expression rights. The case will be heard by Justice Godfrey Radijeng at the Gaborone High Court on March 22.
In the case, Boko is suing both the speaker of the national assembly and the Attorney General, Abraham Keetshabe. The Leader of Opposition is seeking leave of the court to call upon Kokorwe to show cause why her decision to expunge his statements from the Hansard should not be reviewed and set aside; and also for the court to declare Kokorwe’s decision to expunge his views from the Hansard to be an unconstitutional infringement of his right to freedom of expression.
During his speech in the National Assembly on February 26, 2016, Boko had said:
“We hear of alleged closure of the embassy of China. This closure temporary as it may have been, carried a potent and ominous message for our country and its people. It was ascribed to the bruing diplomatic tensions between the Botswana and Chinese governments. The government of Botswana had in one of its many instances of thoughtless enthusiasm issued a condemnatory statement against The People’s Republic of China in respect of certain unresolved issues and territorial claims to the South China Sea.” The aforesaid statement is untrue and offensive to the President.
“We observed in fairness to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, that the statement could not have been crafted by mature, measured and able Honorable Venson Moitoi or her circle of professional diplomats. We have it on good authority that it is yet another Act by the over-zealous and immature Office of the President which continues to govern and operate on unbridled emotion and astonishing lack of foresight. We pray and hope that this callous mismanagement of our foreign policy does not plunge our country into an abyss from which we may not be able to extricate ourselves.”
In her replying affidavit, Kokorwe also stated that it “shall be out of order” to use offensive and insulting language about members of the assembly. “Boko was not only highly critical and uncomplimentary to the Botswana government, but offensive and insulting in the use of language to members of the Assembly and sought to impute improper motives to the President,” she noted.
She urged the court to show its displeasure regarding the applicant’s language by making a special costs order against him. However, Kokorwe said that she did not take the decision to remove Boko’s statement, saying instead, “The decision was taken by the National Assembly as a collective.” She further challenged the BNF president to cite the National Assembly as a respondent in the case as “failure to do so renders the application fatally flawed”.
“At no stage did I decide to expunge or allow to be expunged from the Hansard any statement by the applicant. On contrary, a motion was duly adopted by the National Assembly by majority vote to expunge the applicant’s statement on the basis that it contained untruths and plead with offensive and insulting language about members of the Assembly and in particular the President .”
Kokorwe further argued that at the heart of the application lay the right of the National Assembly to regulate its own procedures and conduct of the members thereof. She said in terms of the doctrine of separation of powers, the court has no jurisdiction to rule on matters falling within the exclusive domain of the legislature. According to Kokorwe, a motion to rescind and expunge from the minutes is a well-known exceptional motion by which the entire membership of the National Assembly expresses its strongest disapproval about the conduct of a member. The motion, she stated, requires a majority vote.
“There simply was no shutdown temporarily or otherwise of the Chinese Embassy in Botswana and the reference by the applicant to allegations that abounded does not make it true,” she noted. According to Kokorwe, immediately after the statement was made, a Member of Parliament for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane submitted a written notification to her that he wished to introduce a motion in respect of a definite matter of urgent public importance in order to expunge the applicant’s statement from the minutes on the basis that the facts stated therein were untrue.
On April 8, 2016 Moswaane requested her to extend the daily order paper to include a motion to the effect “that this speaker adopt a motion calling for the speaker to expunge from records of parliament the statement made by Boko regarding the claims that the Chinese Embassy was closed and that our government was irresponsible to make statements that affects international matters.”
She said having allowed a debate on a point of order; she allowed the motion to be debated. “The debate was, however, short-lived and chaotic. I adjourned the Assembly. On July 7, 2016 I allowed Moswaane to speak to the aforesaid motion and allowed a debate about the motion,” she stated. “I regarded the matter urgent because I deemed it necessary that the debate should take place in the presence of the applicant in order for him to participate freely in the debate. The applicant however, did not regularly attend meetings of the National Assembly.”
Kokorwe said while she admits that no official institution may be transformed into an instrument of political party propaganda, she denies the removal from the minutes of the applicant’s speech has that effect. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi corroborated Kokorwe’s speech, adding that during the time when Boko made a speech the Embassy of China was not closed and “neither was closure threatened by the Chinese government”
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”