The power struggle between Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) senior officials has led to Office of the President (OP) strategically overhauling the country crime busting agency, with Rose Seretse’s era having come to an end as of Thursday.
Seretse’s end of era, usher in a new broom. The arrival of Victor Paledi it is expected, will build a new regime for the embattled crime busting agency. The announcement of Seretse’s departure after being at the helm since 2009 was followed by the suspension of DCEC Head of Investigations Unit, Itumeleng Phutego for supposedly sharing information relating to the corruption case involving Minister of Lands, Water and Sanitation, Prince Maele. Seretse reluctantly left her post on Thursday, and has taken a lucrative new post at newly formed Botswana Engineers Regulatory Authority (BERA).
Prior to that, another top official Botlhale Makgekgene who was serving as Seretse’s understudy responsible for policy was transferred from the agency to the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security. Government defended the move as just another ‘routine deployment in the civil service’. According to inside sources, following the widely reported Maele case, tension grew between officers and the DCEC top brass with another fall out being experienced among head of the agency units. The officers were summoned and threatened that stern action will be taken against them if they divulge the crime busting agency’s investigation.
“Everyone is being strictly monitored and threatened with expulsion if they speak to the media about investigations,” said the source. “The leakage of information to the press was proving difficult to contain, and it is something which has happened since the Isaac Kgosi case.” Not long ago, DCEC also redeployed its chief spokesperson, Motshoganetsi Lentswe who has since been transferred to Maun on a different post. The DCEC controversial policy bars officers from confirming ongoing investigations but it has lately been challenged by officers who feel it is unnecessarily stifling the agency from dealing with the media.
“Some feel it does not hurt for DCEC to confirm when they are carrying out a particular investigation, just like the Botswana Police who do so without necessarily revealing any information that will jeopardize the investigations,” said the source. Phutego reportedly went over board when he revealed to Sunday Standard the details surrounding the Maele case. The paper quotes Phutego revealing that currently DCEC is conducting two parallel investigations centred on Khato Civils and its Executive Chairman Simbi Phiri.
“More information is forth coming from the public to build up our case. So far we are closely working with our counterparts in South Africa who are honestly helping us with crucial information to beef up our case against the allegations levelled against the company,” Phutego reportedly said. “If it requires DCEC to extend our investigations beyond our borders, we will go to any country.” The no nonsense investigator reportedly also promised that no stone will be left unturned on the case. Seretse, who has been at the helm since 2009, is viewed as not having been friendly to media, which ordinarily should be perceived as a partner to fighting corruption efforts.
Under her leadership, she presided over the controversial Director of Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS), Isaac Kgosi’s case. At the time of her departure the case was still under DCEC investigations, as per Seretse’s revelation before Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in May this year. Although Seretse’s administration was said to have been cagey when dealing with the media, her predecessor Tymon Katlholo’s was however, credited as having been a great partner to the media and preferred to engage them on regular basis.
“It depends on the leadership, as you have noticed the current [Seretse] Director General preferred not to involve media much as compared to her predecessor [Katlholo],” the source indicated. The Maele case is one of few corruption cases involving senior public figures that have come to the attention of the public, and like many others it will again test the resilience of DCEC under the new regime.
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.”