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Kgathi’s goodies for soldiers

Aside from President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s final State of the Nation Address, the Minister of Defense Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi is expected to be the centre of attraction during the November session of Parliament as he prepares to bring a litany of bills aimed at appeasing the disciplined forces.

Further he is expected share with Parliament a number of military deals that the Botswana has entered into with a number of fraternal friends in Asia and the Far East. Kgathi’s ministry has also been cooking up some interventions aimed at addressing challenges in the justice system. At the top of Kgathi agenda is the military deals Botswana has penned with a number of countries including South Korea. There is no doubt that Kgathi will be the busiest minister in the last quarter of the year with number of Acts expected to be revised while some are only awaiting the signature of President Lt General Ian Khama.  

The acquisition of the grippen fighter jets by his ministry was as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sweden. According to government sources, the agreement was concluded last year October and the gripens are coming. Meanwhile a joint committee to coordinate the implementation of activities in the areas of cooperation has been established and adopted its action plan. It is said Khama’s visit to Sweden to acquire the fighter jets was punctuated by bilateral meetings “between the two countries at Ministerial and Head of states.”

This will pave way for the Government to Government (G2G) and Government to Business (G2B) collaboration in matters of procurement. Ministry contingent is once again anticipated to convene for implementation meeting in October still in Sweden.
Kgathi’s ministry, according to highly placed sources, has also managed to partner with South Korea in a deal tailored for cooperation in the field of Defense and logistics support and an MoU on defense was signed.

“The two MoU’s were signed this year. As part of the implementation of these agreements the defense acquisition program administrator of the Republic of Korea, Major General OH Wonjin visited Botswana in May to follow up on exploration of new areas of cooperation between the two countries.” The deal with Korea requires a much more complex coordination within the Korea republic for purpose of implementation by the Ministry and the BDF in various aspects.

Another deal has been concluded is with the Vladimir Putin’s led Russian Federation. The MoU has already seen local legal and military experts rubbing shoulders with their Russian counterparts. In addition BDF personnel will occasionally fly to India for military training and cooperation. So far 21 have been sponsored for such training. Another MoU between Botswana and Brazil on defense cooperation has been approved by cabinet. Kgathi’s ministry has also roped in Serbia hence have an MoU on defense and cooperation, mutual protection of classified information, military and technical cooperation.

The two countries according to the draft are simply resuscitating the relations between Sir Seretse Khama and former Yugoslavia (Serbia) under Tito. The two nations will work on establishing small arms and ammunition using local resources like Sua salt. Local companies involved in defense industries and those of the Czech Republic will interact to enhance cooperation.  This will at the end facilitate development of MoU for defense cooperation and mutual protection of classified, information, and military. In Africa Kgathi’s Ministry has agreed MoUs on military training, cooperation and exchange of directing staff with Zambia and Zimbabwe. The two MoU’s are expected to be concluded in the last quarter of this year.

Kgathi’s promises to disciplined forces

After successfully blocking Private Member’s Bill proposals from the Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse, minister Kgathi will claim the shine himself when he presents a number of proposals in favour of disciplined forces.
A number of security legislations will be fast tracked to ensure that the ‘goodies’ are rolled out in a short space of time. The BDF Amendment bill will be the first and is expected to be published in the government gazette this month. The bill seeks revise the retirement ages for different ranks with among other things, long outstanding and issues of low retirement packages being addressed.

The amendment will also bring about improvement to the BDF military justice and court or martial system. Provisions relating to disciplinary offences have been comprehensively revised to cover a range of them including fraternization, sexual harassment, espionage, cheating and plagiarism. Meanwhile the Botswana Police Service Act will also be amended to incorporate all provisions relevant to administration and functionality, especially issues on appointment of civilian staff, management discipline, and termination.  It will further cater for compulsory and voluntary retirement ages for different ranks.

Another amendment on the cards is that of the Botswana Prisons Service. Its fundamental changes are for the Commissioner to be the appointing authority of officers below the Deputy Commissioner rank. The bill also amends retirement ages for different ranks within the Prison department. Warder to Superintendent will be pegged at 50 years, Superintendent to Senior Assistant Commissioner will be at 55 years, while Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner will retire at 60 years. The bill is only awaiting the President to sign this month.

The last bill that will be considered is the Interstate Transfer of Prisoners Bill. The bill will create a framework for transfer of prisoners between Botswana and those countries which it has signed agreements with. The law will allow prisoners to serve the remainder of their sentences in their respective countries which will also alleviate prison overcrowding. The regulations are being finalized by the attorney general and will be ready by signature by the end of this month. This publication also learns that Kgathi will also make pronouncement geared towards introducing certain allowances for the disciplined forces.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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