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Tshireletso speaks on women in politics, human rights

Outgoing Mahalapye East legislator Botlogile Tshireletso, whose career in politics spanned over 40 years has said her greatest regret is bowing out of the public stage having failed to convince her colleagues to change the electoral system to accommodate for more female representation in parliament.

Tshireletso will retire at the end of her current term next year, worsening Botswana’s standing in women representation in the National Assembly. The latest Global Gender Gap Index 2017 released towards the end of 2017 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.

Three of the current female legislators will be not returning to parliament in 2019. Joining Tshireletso in retirement is veteran lawmaker, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi while specially elected legislator Dr Unity Dow, will not be contesting as well. “Prior to 2009, I had tabled a motion before parliament requesting for the introduction of First-Past-The-Post which is mixed with Proportional Representation. The system will enable parliament to have elected legislators as well as those who are part of the list, therefore allowing those elected through the list to give women a higher ratio in representation,” Tshireletso told WeekendPost this week.

“In other countries such as Tanzania and Uganda they also have what they call reserved seats for women. We must also consider this to improve women representation because women are many, and even play crucial roles in party activities.”  Tshireletso says, although there is no incentive for women to serve in parliament, women should avail themselves to contest leadership positions. “I cannot take my daughter to come and replace me. Women should bring themselves forth and show passion and willingness to serve,” she said.

 Tshireletso had also tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats would be reserved for women. The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Botsalo Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament.

Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters were not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.

The motion was however adopted by parliament, but nothing more was done to implement the motion. In 2016, parliament increased the number of specially elected MPs to six MPs, electing two more MPs in a controversial fashion. Former legislator, Reggie Reatile and then 29 year old female, Bogolo Kenewendo were the beneficiaries for the created posts.

On abortion, homosexuality, intersex, and prostitution

Tshireletso has been a strong advocate of issues of abortion, homosexuality, intersex, and prostitution. Her views, especially regarding legalisation of abortion and prostitution have attracted criticism from some section of the society, especially religious organisations. Ahead of the 2014 elections, Evangelical Churches of Botswana (ECB) targeted Tshireletso and others politicians who supported abortion, homosexuality and prostitution. ECB encouraged its members not to vote for politicians who supported the aforementioned positions.

“We must legalize abortion so that we can have facilities that have doctors and other professionals to help individuals who need this kind of help. We may as well decrease the number of abortion cases because we will also have counsellors in the facilities who will be able to guide on the importance of having kids,” said Tshireletso.

“I am not saying people should not have babies. I am looking at the dire consequences of abortion cases that happen outside the realm of health professionals. Some end up infecting themselves while trying to abort, and it is government who eventually incurs the expenses for those affected.” As for sex workers, Tshireletso still urges government to put measures in place to help against the abuses, both physical and emotional that they (sex workers) are subjected to by their customers.

“As government we should not turn a blind eye to these things. These are our people, we are parents. We should engage them and see how we can help them,” she said. “Some of them have shared their experiences with me in confidence. They are being harassed even by police officers under the disguise of public nuisance offence.”

Tshireletso also cautioned government against failing to protect transgendered people through legal or policy framework. She said, more often than not, a mistake is made in a child’s early years if he is intersex resulting in one of genitalia being removed without allowing the child to grow first.

“They should be proper health facilities as well as the legal framework that support minority communities like those. We should not rush to make decisions because sometimes it takes up to puberty to recognise the real identity of the person. That is when we can make such decisions also with regard to what the person concerned indentifies themselves with which gender. People should be allowed to be what they think they are, not making decisions for them,” she noted.  

On politics and party factions

The watershed moment for Tshireletso’s political career came in 1977, when the BDP introduced the party youth wing. Tshireletso, then a 24 year old young lady working in one of the village Co-operatives, was lured into a party meeting by then area MP Gaolese Koma who sold the idea of the youth league to the prospective young activist.

By the time delegates departed the youth wing’s inaugural congress, Tshireletso’s fate was sealed. In 1979 Tshireletso contested in the party primary election for a council seat and won. Subsequently she bagged the ward in the general elections. She would occupy that seat for the next 25 years. In 2003, Tshireletso tried her luck in for the parliamentary seat for the newly created Mahalapye East constituency and won.  She won the resultant general elections.

In her career as a politician, Tshireletso remains one of the few who rose through the ranks without being offered favour perks in form of special nomination either to council or parliament. On all occasions, she had to battle it out with men, trouncing them in their trade. It was inevitable that Tshireletso, having been part and parcel of the BDP structures since 1978, got involved in the BDP factions. Though she played a limited active role in the factions, her bid for Women’s Wing Chairpersonship in 2001 saw her drifting towards the Barataphathi. That was a time when Barataphathi, led by Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, controlled every structure of the ruling party.

“I was a member of the Big Five because of my association with Merafhe [Mompati], but when we went for the 2001 women’s wing elections; our team had two people, me and Tebelelo Seretse who wanted to contest the chairperson position. My team favoured Seretse ahead of me,” remembers Tshireletso.

“That was when I drifted towards Kwelagobe’s team because they did not have a candidate. Since then people started associating me with the Barataphathi faction, but I was not necessarily its member.” Tshireletso will retire from politics at the end of her term in 2019, after serving three consecutive terms as MP for Mahalapye East.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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