The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Sidney Pilane has challenged the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Duma Boko’s suggestion that the mother party has final say over the constituencies allocated to contracting parties.
Boko’s words on Thursday this week in a press conference implied that the troubled BMD could lose some of its constituencies if UDC perceives its candidates to be not strong enough. “The constituencies belong to the UDC and are allocated to the parties to manage and to choose the best candidates. Even after each party elects their preferred candidate, we will scrutinize the candidates and replace those we deem not fit enough by those we think can win it for us from any party under the UDC,” Boko said
In what is likely to ensue in a legal battle, Boko’s pronouncement rubbed the BMD leader the wrong way, prompting him to warn that his party will not tolerate being belittled by any of the contracting partners. “We own 14 constituencies within the UDC arrangement. Nobody, not the UDC nor anyone else, is going to tell us how to deal with our constituencies, and nobody is going to vet our candidates ka seo ga re ise re se bue ra se dumalana (because we have deliberated and agreed on that matter),” Pilane wrote in a response to Boko.
According to Pilane, UDC is an umbrella party, an electoral arrangement; which is not entitled to dictate to the constituent parties how and what they should do in respect of its own matters including constituencies. “Let us be clear about this,” he said.
Under the current arrangement of the umbrella, Botswana National Front (BNF) owns 22 constituencies, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) 17, BMD 14 with Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) taking only 4.
The Umbrella leader, Boko when addressing media on Thursday morning revealed that part of the strategies they would employ to win power in 2019 will be to place only competent candidates in UDC constituencies in what he dub ‘meritocracy’.
The splitting of BMD resulting in the formation of Alliance for Progressives (AP) has set in motion a debate in the UDC on whether the BMD still has enough strength to deliver the 14 constituencies it was allocated after losing a number leading members to the new party.
Meanwhile Advocate Pilane is clinging on the hardline stance that all the 14 constituencies allocated to the party will not be given away to any political formation even if it is a contracting party in the Umbrella project. “Ke a nne ke bona dipampiri di kwadile gore bangwe ba eseng Ma-BMD ba ya go ema mo dikgaolong dingwe tsa BMD (I have seen media reports saying some, who are not BMD members will contest in our constituencies).
That will never happen. If any party within the UDC wants any of our constituencies, they must approach us and negotiate an exchange. We are not giving away any constituency and we are not giving away any ward,” Pilane categorically said. Pilane is confident that they will win their constituencies. “The only entitlement UDC has is to ask BMD, and indeed each of the four parties, to deliver on its constituencies and wards. BMD will, I promise,” he said.
“We asked only for 14 constituencies as we did not want to over-load ourselves so we deliver; we did not imply that we are smaller than anybody else.” The maverick leader and renowned lawyer says they wanted only 14 constituencies because, given resource base, they thought that was the number they could manage.
“It was not because we thought the BCP and BNF should get more as there is no reason for that as all 4 parties the members of the UDC are equal within the UDC and enjoy equal rights. I do not know whether it is a question of the ownership of constituencies, but that is the loose language that people use,” he added. Pilane has advised the entire parliamentarians and councilors of the BMD areas not to be intimidated and contest in the area not in their dominion.
“Fa o le mopalamente kgotsa o le mokhanselara wa BMD, kgaolo le kgaolwana ya gago ke ya BMD (If you are legislator or councilor holding BMD seat your constituency/ward belongs to BMD).” He continued, “O go ngokang a re o tlogele BMD o ye ko phathing ya gagwe o tlaa tsamaya le kgaolo kgotsa le kgaolwana, o ya go hora; ga go kitla go diragala. BMD is strong, e nale batho. (Anyone tempting you to join their party with your constituency seat is misleading you, it will never happen.
BMD is strong and has followership) and we have strong candidates who will run in all our constituencies and in all our wards. Bagaetsho tlhe re lapisiwa ke go nyadiwa (We are tired of being undermined),” Pilane emphasized. This matter has proven to be a hot potato which has the potential to reduce the prospects of the main opposition winning power in 2019. It is expected to dominate the umbrella leadership frequent deliberations and to be the main topic at the party congress in February 24th in Moshupa.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.