A meeting of some Ministers of Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC) member states who were in dire straits this week in Gaborone failed to draw a concrete explanation and resolution for Zimbabwe political crisis.
Zimbabwe military men at the behest of the country defence force commander General Constantine Chiwenga has put Commander in Chief and President Robert Mugabe under house arrest in lieu to sweet talk him to step down. So far the generals have seized control of state media, airport and state house among others while calling for calm in the country emphasizing that there is “no coup” but “house arrest of the president”.
It is still unclear whether a compromise between the duos will see the light of the day but should it go pear-shaped there will be dire implications for Zimbabwe and her future. If stay put Mugabe may charge the army high command for treason with a minimum sentence of 20 years behind the bars or if the military coup d’état becomes triumphant finding a replacement for Mugabe will be an arduous task as the party factional wars are at their time peak.
In the presumed coup d’état, the army men are seen to be serving the interest of the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa whom they are strong indications that they want him to fill the shoes of the 93 year old Zimbabwean liberator turned autocrat – as a president. They say first lady Grace Mugabe is the root of all evils in ZANU PF particularly her recently repeated pronouncements and endevour to want to succeed her husband thereby with high risk of leading into a first political dynasty since the liberation of the country from the Boers in 1980.
Fear is also in the air that if the coup is successful; the Military coups may also take the order of the day in upcoming years as they would be aware of the leverage they possess in relation to their political top politburo (president). In light of the telling situation in the country (Zimbabwe), a meeting was called on Thursday by the SADC Organ Troika Council but Ministers present could ‘not bite more than they can chew’ instead recommending the complex political matter to an urgent Heads of State extra ordinary summit.
The said Ministerial meeting was consisting mostly ministers responsible for External Affairs in SADC Troika member states in the mold of its Chairperson who is also South Africa (SA) Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Zambia Harry Kalaba, Angola Minister of Defence Salviano De Jesus Sequeira (also chair of organ) and Tanzanian High Commissioner Sylvester Ambokile.
The meeting delegation could not even make a pronouncement following inquiries from journalists on whether they see the current development in the country as a military coup or not and to also make a position on which direction they want Zimbabwe to take from the current hullabaloo. The meeting could only resolve that “having considered the unfolding situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Organ Troika recommended the convening of an urgent Extra Ordinary SADC Summit and committee to remain seized with the situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
According to SADC Troika Chairperson Nkoane-Mashabane, this is cognizant that the organ has really “noted” with “great concern” the unfolding situation at Zimbabwe. She said the meeting re-affirmed the SADC’s commitment to African Union (AU) constitutive Act and the SADC’s democratic principles, as they relate to the unconstitutional removal of democratically elected governments.
The SA minister of International Relations and Cooperation also stressed that the meeting also “reaffirmed the need for SADC member states to remain guided by their constitutions” and “called upon all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to settle the political challenges through peaceful means.” The meeting which was seen as unfruitful to the core some say it almost turned into a gathering of friends and counterparts enjoying biscuits and tea and, chatting about Zimbabwe while not necessarily coming up with tangible results that may change Zimbabwe crisis for good.
On the same token, SADC has also been seen as swiftly and trying hard to meddle in Zimbabwean affairs while they neglected the country when they were needed most in 2008 during the massive bloodshed of ordinary citizen and suspected rigging of elections by pro-Mugabe ZANU PF operatives masquerading as public servants of the Zimbabwean Independent Electoral Commission.
“Leave Zimbabwe to Zimbabweans to solve their problems, and there should be no interference by SADC,” an independent Zimbabwean MP Themba Mliswa who was present at the press conference in Gaborone told the press. The objective of the meeting as was called by incumbent SADC Chair who doubles as President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was to “consider the unfolding situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
SADC is an organization of 16 member states established in 1980. The mission of SADC is to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.
“How Mugabe cornered the Generals”
Meanwhile, according to a revered journalist at Southern News, Njabulo Ncube, Mugabe cornered the generals who were playing in his hands of steel. “Mugabe asked the generals on why they were saying he should step down and they cited the purges. It is said, since there was no coup, he also asked them to bring the country's constitution and they were cornered,” Ncube said.
He continued: “the Generals were then accused of meddling in party politics. Mugabe has power to fire, appoint and disappoint according to the country's Constitution. They were also asked on why and how they were choosing Emmerson Mnangagwa and not Joice Mujuru or Sydney Sekeramai. And he said if it were for the purges, then he would be ready to readmit Mujuru as she was first to be purged.”
In fact, the journalist said Mugabe accused them (army men) of being the ones causing instability. “According to him, it showed him that the military were running a faction. He told the SA envoys that the purges were only in the party not government. He said he was surprised that the army talked of instability yet no one had gone in the streets to protest the purges He then told them that if there were any other constitutional reasons they could cite, then he could step down,” he said.
Following the house arrest or the so called military coup d’état, Mugabe reappeared in public on Friday officiating at Open University Graduation in the outskirts of Harare. It is believed that ZANU-PF party is set to draft resolution to dismiss Mugabe this weekend before his impeachment motion next week.
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.”