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No DIS supervision: Kgosi faults Parliament

DISS Boss Isaac Kgosi

The Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi told the Public Accounts Committee this week that a dysfunctional Parliamentary Tribunal that oversees the operations of the intelligence organisation is to blame for lack of oversight on his organisation.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Tati East Member of Parliament Guma Moyo, Kgosi avoided most questions which he deemed infringed on security matters, stated that he could not respond due to ‘security reasons’. The spy boss could not even divulge to PAC the success of the DIS, reiterating that it was for security reasons.

Procurement and general operations of the security organ as well as its spending were part of the details which Kgosi could not share with the PAC. In less than 30 minutes, the DIS boss walked out having told the leading parliamentary oversight committee only what he wanted them to hear.

Kgosi told the committee that the perception that DIS does not account to anyone has nothing to do with him but the oversight bodies which have for years failed to convene a meeting that would summon the DIS boss.

“It is a matter which is beyond me. I cannot account to myself or I cannot cause the meeting to take place because there is oversight body mandated to do that,” he said.

The paralysis of Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee has left the country’s secret service organ with only the president to account to. Opposition MPs Ndaba Gaolathe and Shaun Nthaile have declined to sit in the committee. The committee has been dysfunctional since the 10th parliament.

In 2014, members of the Intelligence and Security Parliamentary Committee, Bagalatia Arone, and former MP for Mmopane-Lentsweletau Major General Moeng Pheto resigned from the committee amid reports that its chairperson Kagiso Molatlhegi refused to convene a sitting to summon the DIS director to appear before the committee over corruption allegations that were doing rounds in the media at that time.  

In this week’s sitting, PAC had wanted Kgosi to justify the P500 million budget allocated to the eight year old organisation. Guma was of the view that perhaps disclosure of the success of the intelligence organ will help erase the negative perception about the DIS.

In the current financial year, Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security was allocated the biggest share of the development budget. Of the P14 billion budget for development, P3.59 billion or 24.2 percent was allocated to Ministry of Defence Justice and Security with justification that the money will mainly cater for provision of defence equipment, communication equipment, and infrastructure, in order to improve BDF’s defence capabilities. While sharing that most of their criticism on defence spending is influenced by ignorance, Kgosi said Botswana must actually spend more.  

When quizzed on whether the country needs to spend more on defence, Kgosi stated that the national budget on security organs, including Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police and Botswana Prisons is very low and could not sufficiently protect the country and its citizens.

“We are spending peanuts on the defence organs, looking at the fact that military and intelligence equipment is very expensive to buy,” he said.

“They say pay peanuts and attract monkeys, and that is what we are getting. We need more spending on defence and security.”

Kgosi also said defence spending is not helped by the fact that the equipment which the security entities buy is procured in foreign currencies and this makes it even more expensive.

The DIS boss was also asked if Botswana is facing immediate threat to justify high military spending, and he answered in the affirmative. “Our friends could be our enemies tomorrow, and we need to be prepared militarily,” he said.

Guma had put it to Kgosi that the DIS’s procurement is too secretive to an extent that it raises eye brows given the amount which is allocated to the organ.

“When we are dealing with procurement with regard to the budget which is allocated to the DIS, it is natural that people will question the use of such money if there is no transparency,’ said Guma.  

Furthermore, Kgosi said it is important that information regarding procurement of military equipment is kept secret to avoid a situation where ‘enemies’ are privy to the strength or weakness of the country’s security.

“What I have learnt about Batswana is that; they will only speak well about you at your funeral. Batswana are never satisfied and they will never appreciate even when good things are being done. Batswana are liars,” he said, prompting PAC members to force him to retract the words ‘Batswana are liars.’

It was not for the first time he appeared before the same committee as last year when he appeared before it.

The outspoken spy boss went on to quash allegations of DIS being implicated in a number of killings of ordinary citizens. MP for Franscistown West, who is a member of PAC, Ignatious Moswaane had wanted to know the authenticity of allegations doing rounds pertaining to the orchestration the death of some citizens.

Guma also seized the moment and asked the DIS Director if Gaolathe’s life was under threat especially in the wake of reports that the leader of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) was a target of assassins.  

“Gaolathe’s life is not under threat, but if it is, I will make sure that he gets the protection that he needs,” he said.

The intelligence chief also told PAC that among the biggest challenges faced by the country is drug dealing, human trafficking, smuggling of diamonds and money laundering.

Kgosi stated that because Botswana has an environment which is not well known for those kinds of criminal activities, it is becoming an easy target for criminals.

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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
DUMA BOKO

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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