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MultiChoice beats BOCRA in court

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has lost a court case wherein it was seeking to quash an urgent application, brought to the High Court by MultiChoice Botswana.

BOCRA had demanded that MultiChoice submit its intended tariffs. MultiChoice Botswana shunned the responsibility arguing that the tariff design and bouquet crafting lies with MultiChoice Africa while the Botswana subsidiary is only the custodian of the formers contracts.
MultiChoice Botswana, the custodian of DStv pay television in the country had dragged BOCRA before the High Court to interdict a letter which would have forced it to submit revised tariffs by the 17th of September.

MultiChoice Botswana rushed to court to seek to suspend its obligations under BOCRA’s clause 13 of the subscription management service license. The licence deals with the tariffs charged on DStv subscribers and DStv’s packaging of bouquets. The legal challenge was also intended to block BOCRA from suspending Multichoice’s license should the latter not make the September 17th deadline. A legal hawk representing BOCRA, Virgil Vergeer of Collins Newman and Company argued that MultiChoice’s urgency in the application brought forward was self-created and speculative.

Vergeer argued before High Court judge, Justice Tshepho Motswagole that MultiChoice had failed to comply with the mandatory requirements needed to argue for an urgent application “They have failed to satisfactorily demonstrate that it is an urgent application,” Vergeer contended. Furthermore he argued that MultiChoice’s case was premised on fear that BOCRA might take an enforcement action which might result in them losing their broadcast licence, while in fact the rescission of an operating license is only considered as matter of last resort, when all the other options have been explored.

He further contended that, there is mechanism in terms of the BOCRA Act that MultiChoice be given an invite through a letter to submit its revised tariffs. Afterwards, he argued, it is only then that BOCRA is given a further 60 days to accept or counter the proposal before proceeding to give MultiChoice a response to indicate whether it is in agreement with the proposal or not. “It is not a given that if there is no compliance by the 17th the license should be revoked. It’s a matter of last resort. It’s a possibility, not a given,” Vergeer argued.

Vergeer wondered aloud why Multichoice had not taken the case to the courts much earlier because they had threatened court action on the 10th of August 2017. Furthermore, he noted that when BOCRA reiterated its stance, MultiChoice still didn’t take the legal route, arguing that it was incumbent upon MultiChoice to have approached the court timeously and promptly. Vergeer had also pleaded with the court to not come to the aid of the other party that has not clearly complied with the regulations of an urgent application. However, Advocate Stephen Vivian representing MultiChoice argued that while there was no certainty as to what BOCRA would do with its powers in the current case, they however could elect to use it to sanction the pay television service.

“We cannot in good conscience say that, ‘just impose a penalty on us’, we have to take action.” He further noted, “if we were to sit down and let them take action it can happen that when we come back they will say the urgency is self-created.We are being proactive-its urgent.” Said Vivian. He had further reiterated that MultiChoice Botswana does not design subscription bouquets and tariffs; a job he contended is executed by MultiChoice Africa.

That being the case, he noted that MultiChoice Botswana would hamstrung if asked to submit its tariffs because they want clause 13 of the license stricken off as they cannot be expected to submit under it while they only deal with contract management. Responding to the timing of the interdict Advocate Vivian said that theirs was a pre-emptive measure to ensure that they react the before the damage is done by BOCRA, through a possible sanction such as a rescission of an operating license. Vivia also prayed to the court that it interdict clause 13 as it gives MultiChoice Botswana the responsibility that actually lies with MultiChoice Africa stating that if they are wrong, they will deal with the argument at a later stage. The case is expected to be argued in full next month.

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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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