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UDC sues Petroleum Fund violators

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has last week furnished the Attorney General (AG) with a statutory notice of intention to sue Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director Isaac Kgosi, Director of Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Kenneth Kerekang and Permanent Secretary of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Dr Obolokile Obakeng.

The UDC has cited a total of seven defendants in the matter; AG, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development; DIS, Kgosi in his personal capacity, Kerekang in his personal capacity; Obakeng in his personal capacity and Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. The coalition alleges that on or about August 7, Kgosi issued savingram under reference POLF6/10XXIX (40) where he stated as follows:

“The Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security funded the construction of four months 40 petroleum storage facilities in Gaborone, Lonetree, Francistown and Selibe Phikwe during 2010. The objective of constructing and maintaining the facilities is to ensure that there is continuous supply of petroleum products for the essential services of the government. Currently the facilities are owned and operated primarily by the DIS.

However, there is a need to expand the facilities to include other essential organs of the government especially during petroleum supply disruptions. We have so far identified potential sites (Lobatse, Mahalapye, Maun, Nata, Gaborone and Lonetree) for such facilities and completed preliminary investigations including concept design for the proposed facilities: We therefore kindly request for the release of two hundred and fifty million Botswana Pula (P250Million) BWP for the detailed design and construction of some sites of the proposed project.”
It is UDC’s contention that the request as aforesaid was approved by the Ministry of Resources Green Technology and Energy Security without a tender for the said petroleum tanks and or contrary to the National Petroleum Fund Order.

It is also argued that later, a Savingram dated October 23, 2017 the original purpose being the provision of storage facilities in Gaborone, Lonetree, Francistown and Selibe Phikwe was changed.  And the funds were now to be used to acquire security and surveillance equipment for purposes of monitoring alleged threats relating to Wildlife Poaching, human and drug trafficking.

The UDC contends that, “the proposed change of use is and/or was done contrary to the NPF Order and the disbursement made in respect thereof were illegal, unlawful and in breach of a statute. The request aforesaid was purportedly approved by the Ministry of Resources Green Technology and Energy Security without a tender and/or approval of the Public Procurement Asset Disposal Board  and/or contrary to the NP order.”

It is under this background that the party is pleading for: an order directing any person or persons as would have received payment contrary to the terms of the NPF order to return such payments within 30 days of the days of the court order; an order declaring that all the transactions as identified in this dispute were done contrary to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board and consequently null and void, and cost of suit against any party opposing the claim.

“On February 1, 1986, the NPF order was established. The purpose of the fund is set out in Section 3 thereof and it is mainly to meet the engineering, construction and operational costs of the strategic storage facilities for government fuel; purchase petrol products for the government’s strategic oil stocks; stabilize prices charged by the oil industry and meet insurance premiums in respect of the insurance of government’s strategic oil installation and oil stocks,” states UDC in their papers.

The fund is in terms of the Act administered by a management committee which comprises of the following people: the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs who shall be the chairman; a representative of the Department of Energy Affairs, who shall be a member; a representative of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, who shall be a member; the Fund Manager who shall be a member and a representative of the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs who shall be the Secretary.

The funds aforesaid as deposited into the National Petroleum Fund are disbursed solely for the purposes of the following: Costs of the engineering , construction and operation of the strategic storage, and distribution facilities for government fuel; sums of money to the oil industry for the stabilization of prices in respect of petroleum products; such sums of money to the oil industry or consolidated fund as the Minister may from time to time determine; costs of the purchase  of petroleum products for government’s strategic oil stocks; insurance premiums in respect of government’s strategic oil installations and oil stocks; management and audit expenses of the fund; such other sums as the ministry may in writing approve; any supplies payments made for the fund aforesaid are paid into the consolidated fund-argues UDC.

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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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