There is light at the end of the tunnel for Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando as his hunt for a constituency towards the 2019 general elections might have just come to an end.
Saleshando is set to contest under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket in Maun West. This follows unsuccessful attempts to dethrone, Goretetse Kekgonegile in Maun East. The party has since realised it will be shooting itself in the foot because Kekgonegile is popular. However, comradeship among UDC contracting partners, especially with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) may pay dividends to one of Botswana’s political heavy weights.
BMD, which won the constituency in 2014 through Batawana paramount Chief, Tawana Moremi, is highly likely to give Saleshando the Maun West ticket since the party does not have a strong candidate to contest for that constituency. Kgosi Tawana has since resigned from politics and is reported to be sympathetic to Alliance for Progressives (AP).
Negotiations are said to be ongoing between the BCP delegation and the BMD according to sources who spoke to this publication. Saleshando’s case according to sources in North West was further eased by the fact that there is currently no serious candidate for the BMD in the constituency.
Tawana’s anointed candidate, Moalosi Sebati has since defected to the Alliance for Progressives (AP). Kubung ward Councilor, Galaletsang Mhapha who was tipped to contest the parliamentary seat for the party has also joined the BCP. This compelled the UDC/BMD leadership to consider Saleshando as the candidate for the constituency, more so that he is considered a more sellable candidate against Reaboka Mbulawa. “We have a surprise for Mbulawa in 2019, I cannot say anything for now but soon you will see,” one UDC activist in Maun told this publication on Thursday morning.
The idea to contest in Maun West has always been supported by many within the BCP and UDC because they are of the view that Saleshando is a household name and will be easy to sell as a candidate. The party is said to have reconsidered making Kekgonegile pave way for Saleshando after deep thought and arriving at the idea that should they go that route, the party would be shooting itself in the foot. Kekgonegile’s popularity in Maun East is said to have grown immensely since 2014.
“Yes he is a sellable product who can contest well in West (Maun) because Reaboka Mbulawa is unopposed and already he has one foot in parliament. If you bring Saleshando there it is easy to convince voters because he is a household name. But then when he ousts Kekgonegile who is popular here (Maun East), chances are they may lose,” said a source.
This could effectively mean that the BCP’s 2014 candidate in the area George Lubinda’s political days are numbered. This argument is based on the fact that Kekgonegile lost the 2014 elections to Konstantinos Markos of the BDP by 6046 votes to 5304; with Osimilwe Fish of the UDC a distant third with 2062 votes. This is a slim margin which the BCP can turn around in 2019, should Saleshando be allowed to contest in Maun East.
It is expected that Saleshando who has served two terms (2004-14) in Parliament representing Gaborone Central could turn tables around in Maun- a traditional BDP stronghold. In 2014 UDC’s Tawana Moremi II won it comfortably by garnering 7271, with Mbulawa getting 5335 and BCP‘s George Lubinda managing 2359. The pendulum was swinging in favour of Mbulawa in the absence of Kgosi Tawana, but now the ‘surprise’ could be an insurmountable mountain for the BDP’s money man.
At the time of going to press it was not yet clear whether this was the beginning of cooperation between opposition parties in the Umbrella. BMD leaders had in the past categorically said they will not share their constituencies with any party, even those in the umbrella. “I have not yet meet the UDC/BMD leadership over the issue. I was in Maun over the holidays. Some people in the constituency have asked me to consider contesting in Maun, I will definitely consider the request,” Saleshando said when asked about the matter.
“We are not yet at a stage to answer questions regarding either council or constituency candidates for 2019. We are though getting ready for primary elections in all our 14 UDC given constituency,” BMD spokesperson Winfred Rasina said when asked whether they have given Saleshando leeway to contest in Maun West.
Rasina further added that, “We continue to engage our regional, branch and wards structures to provide and to be provided with guidance on how to ensure a smooth process of primary elections and as to where possible allow branches to decide on a consensus candidate.” Maun, like other constituencies including Molepolole will be the centre of attraction in 2019 as no party is certain who will bag them.
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.
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.
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.”