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Why AP will not join UDC

The opposition Alliance for Progressives (AP) has insisted that they are not joining the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) for now.

AP is a splinter party of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which was borne as a result of a heated political power struggle inside the party between the soft spoken Ndaba Gaolathe and contentious Sidney Pilane.
Gaolathe has since de-camped from the BMD to form AP while Pilane remained and underwent a subsequent congress that put him at the helm, following a disputed one at Bobonong which saw a loss of life.

The AP says that they have basically cut ties with the BMD and therefore since the party is now under the ambit of UDC (or have been accepted with the current leadership) – then by extension they equally dumped the UDC.
Speaking to Weekend Post this week in an interview just outside parliament, AP Vice President, Wynter Mmolotsi although saying consultations are continuing, he confirmed that they will not join UDC with Pilane’s BMD in it.
He stressed to this publication that: “with regard to the BMD group led by Pilane, Nehemiah Modubule, Gilbert Mangole, we have totally cut ties with them.”

On the talk about their hatred for Pilane at the UDC, Mmolotsi clarified that “it is not about an individual but about values. There is already a group led by Pilane (BMD) which has been co-opted in the UDC and therefore we are uncomfortable about that development.”

He maintained that: “well, of course we don’t want Pilane but that is not the real issue or only issue. Pilane’s values are not commensurate with ours. His outlook to democracy; his outlook to free and fair elections; and his outlook to human life are not on the same footing with ours. So it’s mostly the values and not more to do with him per se that we detest.” 

The AP VP continued to state that one of the core values they believe is the sanctity of life, “we value life” he said adding that so if the current BMD believes that a person may be fought and to an extent of an alleged soul losing life then there is a problem.

“Our outlook to life is different. We also believe in free and fair elections and if you allow Pilane led BMD (with all what they have done at the Bobonong congress) into the UDC then it’s an endorsement and acceptance of what transpired at that bloody congress. It means the UDC shares those values of Pilane. That’s where we differ with UDC,” he highlighted.

Mmolotsi emphasised that they want a leadership that can be trusted. He said for them to take over government they should be trustworthy and honest in their dealings and not to find out that situation when they get in government.
He said “assuming we take government with such caliber of people (under UDC), that cant it be that they may do the same at the national polls whereby electorates will find dogs and armed men with guns and maybe not allowed to vote, at the polling stations?” he asked rhetorically.  

According to the AP Vice President, one of the basics of democracy which they value is free and fair elections and therefore they don’t want to join UDC just to meet the Pilane led BMD at UDC. “Then that would make us wonder what the reason for partying with them in the first place was,” Mmolotsi said.  

AP wants UDC to leave BMD in the cold

As AP, Mmolotsi believes they can be a reconfiguration with political parties under UDC being Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) moving out the Umbrella leaving only the Pilane led BMD alone which he claims has few if not no members at all. He further claims all the BMD structures are now with AP and are busy building more. The Francistown West Member of Parliament (MP) also says the new umbrella of those parties can then be the AP since we are also an alliance.

“If some groups believe they share vision by the Progressives, they can de-camp from the contaminated UDC to join new AP. Everyone can join us not only political parties, whether they are church or anything. Those who believe in our vision and those who believe both BDP and UDC are in disarray. We want those people who are progressive,” the AP MP insisted. 

Already there is strong speculation that the oldest opposition Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and a national labour centre Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) are flirting with the new AP.

When quizzed on the allegations Mmolotsi said: “but we have not yet started courting BOFEPUSU, BPP or either of the like minded organizations and political parties and we have no time frame of this process. But we remain open to any configuration that can we get into in which there will be honesty.”

AP which also declared itself as an ‘alliance’ is expected to go in parallel with ‘Umbrella’ (UDC) in separate directions against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) at the national polls in just less than two years apart.
On opposition cooperation and regime change…

On regime change, Mmolotsi justified that, even if Batswana want change through one opposition cooperation, but they cannot do so willy-nilly and without due diligence. “It’s possible that if Batswana feel that AP can be trusted more than BDP and UDC, they can take a decision that AP, as one political party, just like the BDP has been doing, can still win and also with the assistance of vote from those parties,” he asserted.

So to say that AP can’t win elections alone is not a fair judgement, things change, politics is very dynamic, 2019 elections will be different compared to the previous ones, the AP law maker told this publication. He observed that there are so many things that will influence the outcome like the type of leadership in the competing parties, political consciousness or awareness among Batswana, and as things unfold like the court case of Bakang Seretse’s money laundering matter, those who are involved will be influential in Batswana taking decisions on the basis of that.

“Already there are other Batswana who are very worried that do they continue with the current BDP like this or with the current UDC like that, with the inclusion of the new partner in the form Pilane led BMD, they are saying no they can’t vote for any of the two (UDC and BDP) and we believe we will be on the wings to tap that vote.”

The two time legislator gave an example of France’s President Emmanuel Macron who in almost one year, won the presidency of France after convincing the electorates satisfactorily swaying them to his new party, and “as AP we believe we can surprise many with only less than 2 years left before the next elections.”

According to Mmolotsi, when Batswana are fed up, when they want change, and no matter the circumstances, they will bring that change looking at the configuration of political parties and leaders and that if they don’t want change they will use the narrative of opposition parties contesting as one entity as a scape goat. He said they are ready to field all the 57 constituencies. 

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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