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UDC probes P55million commission in P16 billion BDF deal

The opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is hoping to use the Swedish governance system to find its way into exposing government in a controversial P16 billion fighter jets deal which is being stitched on behalf of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).

Sweden forms part of the Scandinavian and Nordic Countries alongside Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The five countries are reputed for having one of the best governance systems in the world which guarantees among others; freedom of information, freedom of the press and most importantly, they are popular for their welfare system which has guaranteed quality life for each and every citizen. In Sweden, all public documents are public, unless it is marked “classified”. While in many other countries, including Botswana documents are not accessible, unless they are published by the government itself.

Every Swedish citizen is entitled by the law to have free access to official documents, in order to encourage the free exchange of opinion and the availability of comprehensive information. The process allows individuals to make requests to the government thorough personal visit, Email, letter, phone call and they will get the answer in a few days.It is this principle that the UDC leader, Duma Boko wants to use to achieve his goal following the petition which was sent to the Swedish government a few months ago.  Boko told the media this week that UDC engaged Swedish ambassador to South Africa, Cecilia Julin for a briefing on the latest development.

Sweden closed its Botswana embassy in 2008, leaving the South African office to also serve its diplomatic missions in Botswana. The opposition leader said the ambassador has revealed that their petition has reached Prime Minister’s office who is still studying it. Boko earlier this year wrote a petition to the Swedish Government titled Botswana Arms race in the midst of poverty, massive unemployment and social inequality. The petition protested Botswana government’s ongoing and planned military spending.

Boko stated that their plea is representative of Botswana's political parties and civil society and they are hoping that the Swedish Parliament will not approve the sale of these fighter jets to the government of the Republic of Botswana as it is not in the national interest to do so. “Our position is that military spending must be kept to the barest minimum, and Botswana's meagre resources should be used to build better infrastructure, such as water and electricity supply, in order attract foreign investment, reduce poverty, unemployment, social inequality and reword labour productivity, especially in the public sector,” he wrote.

According to Boko, they intend to use the Swedish Information Ombudsman to get to the nitty-gritty of fighter jet deal, to get all information regarding the key players. There are reports that high ranking government officials have benefited handsomely from the dealing, pocketing around P55 million is commission. In the petition, Boko argued that the fighter jets deal was a bad transaction and it deviates greatly from the culture of previous spending in military under the presidency of Dr Festus Mogae and the late Sir Ketumile Quett Masire.

“Botswana’s first three Presidents, Seretse Khama (1955-1980) Quett Masire (1980-1998) and Festus Mogae (1998- 2008) although all determined to safeguard Botswana’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty, always put diplomacy above military might. President Quett Masire in particular, ruled Botswana when its territorial integrity and national sovereignty were most at risk from minority ruled South Africa, Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe] and South West Africa [now Namibia].”

“The thinking by these Presidents had always been to keep the military expenditure at the barest minimum and to devote as much financial resources as possible to the national development effort. Having given that background, we now turn to the subject of our petition, namely Botswana’s economically disastrous and totally unjustified arms race.” According to Stockholm International Peace Research (SIPRI), Botswana’s military expenditure increased from US$ 292 million in 1998 to US$ 377 million in 2008 to US$ 436 million in 2015 (at constant 2014 prices and exchanges rates).

Military expenditure has risen two folds from under P15 billion during President Festus Mogae governance to P35 billion under Khama’s presidency. Under the National Development Plan (NDP) 11, P14billion will be allocated to military expenditure, compared to P21 billion in the NDP 10. This takes military spending during Khama’s two national development planning period to P35 billion, nearly P15 billion more than Mogae’s two planning periods.

Military expenditure has become a contentious issue during Khama’s presidency, with opposition legislators stating that it is misplaced and unnecessary.  When presenting the NDP 11 IN 2016, Minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo shared that the total amount of money used on Defence and Security together during NDP 9 was P15.56 billion whilst P36.77 billion was used in NDP 10, which translates to 4.32 per cent and 3.78 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) respectively.  Out of the total amount, the amount of military expenditure alone during NDP 9 was P9.89 billion or 2.75 per cent of GDP and in NDP 10 the amount was P21.26 billion or 2.18 per cent of GDP.

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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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