Despite the national uproar of alleged corruption and embezzlement of public funds, President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian has said when he steps down next year March; he will leave behind a government that is totally against corruption and maladministration.
The outgoing president stated this view when delivering a key note address at the United Nations International Anti Corruption Day commemoration in Gaborone recently. Although his government has been heavily criticized for embezzlement of taxpayer’s money, nepotistic procurement and high profile corruption, President Khama has said Botswana has made great strides towards combating corruption.
He told attendants that amongst the achievement were “the high prosecution rate, as well as continuous anti-corruption awareness and prevention programmes for public officers and the general public.” According to the President it is worth celebrating that Botswana has consistently been ranked for the last two decades as the least corrupt country in Africa by the global coalition against corruption; Transparency International (TI) . “We are also ahead of most developed countries in this index as No. 35 in the world out of 176 assessed countries in this regard.”
Khama said his government has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it has a speedy reaction towards combating corruption. “As further demonstration of my country’s political will for the fight against corruption, in 2013 the Government of Botswana established a Corruption Court to speed up cases of corruption,” he said. He added that the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC) was a critical stakeholder of the Criminal Justice Forum, which ensures efficiency and effectiveness in the country’s criminal justice system.
The DCEC, the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), the Competition Authority (CA) and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) are mainly labelled toothless by critics; but that notwithstanding, the institutions remain President Khama’s pride, as according to him they are some of the contributing factors towards the good governance and accolades Botswana receive in that respect. “Other countries continue to see Botswana as a good example in the fight against corruption, especially in the sub-Saharan region.
The president said this was evidenced by among others; states continued benchmarking trips to Botswana. “Additionally, some of our immediate, as well as near neighbours have visited Botswana’s public institutions and Law Enforcement Agencies. During these visits, significant time has also been spent at our anti-corruption Agency to get insight into the country’s strategy on anti-corruption,” he said.
However, President Khama also acknowledged that corruption existed and was a cause for concern. “Corruption also exists in the employment sector where positions for employment are secured through unscrupulous means. The construction sector is another area of concern for corruption. In this sector, there is an emerging trend whereby some government project-implementing officials connive with contractors to swindle government millions of Pula through approval of inflated claims and sub-standard work.”
Khama observed that corruption distorted equitable allocation of vital services to citizens, and the poor and other vulnerable people felt the brunt the most. “These groups are more reliant on public services and if officials solicit bribes from them in order to assist them, it means they can never enjoy the public services meant for all. If left unchecked, corruption can slowly bring the economy to its knees, and eventually lead to social inequality and exclusion.”
Meanwhile, critics have labelled Khama‘s administration as the most corrupt regime in the history of Botswana. His corruption busting schemes, it has been agued only target low ranking public officers, while high ranking officials get away with multi million pula corrupt deals. There has been constant call for the review of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) which has been labelled a notorious and rogue institution.
Dr Phenyo Butale Gaborone Central legislator observed at a policy discussion at a different forum that the DIS was given a black cheque “we should address the DIS before it messes up our fiscals and lend us into economic crises, millions are pumped into this organization without account and monitoring,” he said.
The DIS has been accused of smuggling of high profile drugs, illegal trading of diamonds, extra judicial killings as per media reports, although the agency has hence since rubbished all the accusations as malicious and unsubstantial. When appearing before the parliament committee on statutory bodies & public enterprise in previous sittings Director General of the DIS Colonel Isaac Kgosi usually avoids commentary on issues levelled against his organization on the basis of security reasons. “We are an intelligence services agency, our operations and expenditures remains highly classified,” Kgosi was quoted as saying on numerous occasions.
Further, speaking in an interview with WeekendPost this week Dr Butale cried foul over oversight institutions that he labelled toothless and incapacitated. He cited parliament which he highlighted lacked resources and autonomy to carry out its oversight role. “If you look at the three branches of government, the separation of power is just theoretical.
The judiciary is captured by the executive, DCEC, Ombudsman, and other anti corruption institutions are engulfed by the office of the President, and they are not independent in carrying their mandate,” he highlighted.He said that parliament which heads the legislature and makes laws had no budget and no research capacity. He argued Botswana needed to restructure oversight institutions and give them clear autonomous mandates.
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.”