The appointment of Mokgweetsi Masisi as Vice President of Botswana and his endorsement by Parliament on Wednesday has received mixed reactions from across the political divide, business and civil society.
Usually the endorsement of a Vice President in Botswana should seal the debate on who will succeed a sitting President. Some still doubt if Masisi will succeeded President Ian Khama when he leaves office at the beginning 2018. But the President has reiterated that Masisi is the one.
Khama kept his choice of Vice President, a closely guarded secret, and majority of newly elected MPs were kept in the dark on who they will endorse as Vice President until the eleventh hour.
Even on the eve of the VP endorsement the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) caucus only deliberated on the selection of Speaker of the National Assembly, Deputy Speaker and Chief Whip.
To those who understand the leadership trends in the BDP, by choosing Masisi as VP has many dynamics to it. For the better part of the 10th parliament Masisi worked closely with President Khama at the Office of the President. In 2009, following the general elections Khama appointed Masisi Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration but the resignation of Lesego Motsumi in 2011 to take up an ambassadorial post in India saw Masisi being elevated to the post of full minister in the Office of the President.
Masisi is viewed as the most loyal to Khama in the Cabinet and was tasked by the President Khama to head his poverty eradication projects, a task the Moshopa-Manyana legislator did to the satisfaction of the President. When the Ministry of Education and Skills Development was marred by troubles, Khama temporary sent Masisi as a stopgap while Venson-Moitoi was relieved of her duties- given the fact that she never went back to the Ministry again after being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation last week.
Masisi was so confident of his prospects for Vice Presidency that in 2012 when Mompati Merafhe announced that he will be leaving at the end of July, Masisi told reporters that he was confident that he will be appointed as Merafhe’s replacement. However, Khama settled for the more experienced Ponatshego Kedikilwe as the replacement instead. Kedikilwe retired from politics following the dissolution of the 10th parliament.
Masisi has generally been accepted in the BDP as Vice President. His appointment has satisfied most party members in the south who felt that there was need to appoint one of their own to balance power in the ruling party.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT MASISI APPOINTMENT BOFEPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari: “In my honest opinion I do not think Mr Masisi makes a cut to be a Vice President of this country. My reasons are that he has been the Minister of Presidential Affairs and quite antagonistic to the public service. It was during his stewardship that we have seen gross deterioration of employer-employee relations. I am not happy that he was appointed in that respect.
I understand that he would still be the Minister of Education and Skills Development at the same time and that does not make me happy either. That will be very unfortunate because the V.P has huge responsibility as the coordinator of all government projects, if that has not changed. That is another mammoth task. There is nobody in this country who does not know the huge responsibility that comes with leading the Ministry of Education hence the Ministry has two assistant ministers. He will find it difficult to juggle between the two jobs. President Khama has to relieve him fast. Moonlighting at the Ministry of Education would lead to a crisis, because that is what he would do, moonlight. As it is morale of the teachers are already low.”
Former Molepolole South legislator Daniel Kwelagobe: “The President chooses a character he feels comfortable working with, so I cannot judge his choice of Vice President. Whether Masisi is a good leader or not, it is not for me to determine. I believe the President made the best choice and he is and would be more comfortable working with Masisi.”
Former BDP Youth Wing leader Bontsi Monare: “The newly elected Vice President of the Republic of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi is a young and pragmatic leader. He was the best choice in our current time because he brings the best of both worlds – speaking generationally. His thinking is very well set apart and that he is not a typical thinker and that’s important looking at our preparation towards the next development planning. We need a fresh approach to economic development in general and employment creation in particular, so really if you are out of the box thinker with a strong leadership and administrative acumen Masisi is a perfect choice.”
MASISI’S JOURNEY Botswana’s 8th Vice President Masisi is MP for Moshupa/Manyana constituency and Minister of Education and Skills Development, Mokgweetsi Masisi.
He initially trained as a teacher majoring in English and History. In 1984 he taught at Mmanaana Secondary School in Moshupa, while also leading community development initiatives there.
In 1987, Masisi transferred to Curriculum Development and Evaluation and worked as Social Studies Curriculum Specialist, where he supervised a group of subjects (Social Studies, Music, Religious and Moral Education) In 1989 he studied at graduate level at Florida State University, USA, specialising in Social Studies Education and Instructional Systems Design.
In 1990 re-joined Curriculum Development and oversaw Social Studies and other subjects and played major role in development of new assessment system of Criterion Referenced Testing (CRT). There he became the National Coordinator for Social Studies Education and Botswana’s representative as the African Social and Environmental Studies Programme (ASESP) and Board member for Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) for more than 5 years. He was also a member of several NGO Boards.
Vice President Masisi joined UNICEF in 1995 as Education Project Officer. In 2003 from resigned to join politics, standing unsuccessfully for BDP primaries in Moshupa Constituency. Joined International Research NGO and focussed on HIV Prevention researchâ€¨and began studying for PhD in epidemiology.
In 2008 Vice President Masisi won the BDP Primary Elections and thus became the party’s Parliamentary candidate for Moshupa, which he subsequently secured in the October 2009 general election. Also in October 2009, Masisi was appointed as the Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. He was subsequently promoted to be the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public administration in January 2011.
In April 2014 Vice President Masisi was transferred to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development on an acting basis until the general elections on the 24th October 2014, when he was re-elected Member of Parliament for Moshupa-Manyana.
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.
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.
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.”