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.
Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.
According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.
“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.
The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.
Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.
He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected
“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.
The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.
The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.
Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.
He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them. “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.
“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.
“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”
To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.
In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.
“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.
Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’
Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.
So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’
Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.
“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.
The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.
The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent
“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”
The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.
“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.
For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.
In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.
In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.
The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.