New party is a regressive step – Saleshando
Leader of Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando is “not amused” with the sudden departure of some members of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) who this week announced the formation of a new party, Alliance for Progressives saying “it is a regressive step.”
“It’s a regressive step. It’s a drawback for opposition in Botswana,” Saleshando pointed out to Weekend Post on Thursday when pouring his heart out following the exit of ex BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe and his associates. This was subsequent to a delivery of a verdict by UDC top politburo which the new AP members say it failed to mediate appropriately. While refusing to state the exact registration date of the new party, the AP top activists have admitted that the party was undergoing the clandestine registration while the mediation was ensuing on the other hand – in parallel.
“We have long seen that UDC’s Boko was getting partial towards us owing to his association with Advocate Sidney Pilane both as lawyers at courts who often act for one another and also with both doing business with Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) – which with much glare points to a conflict of interest,” one MP told this publication. He stressed that their decision was pre-meditated and that it is the most difficult decision to make lest to say “worth it.” In the mediation exercise, the Gaolathe camp were calling for a clear re-run for members to decide whom they want to lead the BMD following the disputed congress held at Bobonong in July.
However in the verdict, the UDC pronounced a power sharing deal that they said would eventually lead to a re-run; this, notwithstanding that the 2 camps; one by Gaolathe and the other by Pilane do not see eye to eye. According to Saleshando, who also formed part of the verdict after they mediated on the BMD impasse, if there is any party that would celebrate the decision of the formation of the new party AP then it is the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which will benefit most out of it. “The decision they took is not good for opposition but can only be good for BDP. Unless they want to help BDP win elections,” Saleshando insisted.
The BCP leader said he thinks that the decision was taken in haste. He told Weekend Post that he reads sinister moves: “I think comrades have been insincere. How come they came out of a verdict meeting with registration of certificate of the party? It shows they have long registered. Clearly they went to the mediation meeting while they had the party in hand.” The two time Gaborone Central law maker also observed that the talk of purple party has been around for some time even as the mediation was continuing.
“It demonstrates dishonesty and lack of faith. All the values they say they stand for, their conduct betrays those values. What integrity are they talking about if they undertook mediation on the other side while they continued with formation of the new party?” Saleshando fumed.
Saleshando also wants UDC to thwart launch of the new party
However Saleshando mentioned that he plans to lobby the UDC so that the former BMD members can be engaged further to hinder them from launching the new party. “My view is that it is not too late for the AP to reconsider the decision. In short we need to engage them. Between now and the launch, we can still get an agreement to avoid monumental blunder of forming another new party,” the ex Gaborone Central legislator told this publication.
He emphasized that “we are too close to elections; they should choose whether they want to be with the rest of the opposition or the BDP. So for now, utmost priority for the UDC should be to make the AP come back to the UDC. It is worrying to defeat what people have tried to build all along.” According to Saleshando, he has listened to the 2 sides in the BMD impasse, and has realized that there are no fundamental differences except egos. “It’s a matter of egos, the 2 groups do not want to work together,” he stated.
So I think, he said, they should still allow the proposal for UDC mediation to sink in while adding that if they think the verdict pronouncement needs improvement they can say so. “Kana we said the party should undertake power sharing deal – under supervision of UDC – and involve a professional mediator. That’s not a legal judgment; it is a solution to a political problem.” Saleshando warned that they should know that if you differ you engage further, and that you don’t walk away, you can’t walk away all the time, otherwise it would mean you will launch many parties on the way.
According to the BCP official who drew some lessons from 2014 when his party shunned opposition cooperation, he feared that if not engaged “the new party will result in vote split in 2019 General elections.” During this course of political activity, he said we understand that either the BCP or BNF out of good faith can take certain decisions that don’t help opposition course, and it’s for the other party to warn them on implications as they are doing to newly formed AP. According to Saleshando, the BCP has learnt the lesson of 1998 split from BNF and therefore understand the potential of AP departure from UDC. In 1999 after splitting from the BNF, the BCP performed dismally registering 4% of popular vote which was followed by 9% in 2004, then 16% in 2009 and recently 20% in 2014.
Boko and Saleshando later attacked new party
However, after the Weekend Post interview, Saleshando, together with Boko shot from the hip at a membership tour held at Civic Centre in Gaborone dismissing the new party AP. Saleshando implied that by forming the new party, Gaolathe and colleagues at AP were cry babies. On the other hand, Boko was speaking in parables saying the new party has been formed and there is absolutely nothing that he can do as it has happened.
AP which is increasingly growing is expecting support from opposition Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice president Prince Dibeela, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU). AP will compete with UDC and BDP at the 2019 General Elections. Meanwhile, a proponent of opposition cooperation, Boko’s legacy of uniting all the opposition parties to compete against BDP as one entity in 2019 general Elections is under threat following the entrance of a new player AP.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswanaâ€™s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
â€śIt is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,â€ť said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.â€ť
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.â€ť
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
â€śIn Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
â€śCommunities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.â€ť
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwaseâ€™s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldnâ€™t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephantâ€™s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. â€śThis has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.â€ť
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. â€śThe re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.â€ť
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
â€śThere must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.â€ť
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, â€śparticularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.â€ť
Govâ€™t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
â€śIt is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.â€ť
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when â€śwe reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,â€ť he said.
â€śI commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.â€ť
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
â€śThere are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.â€ť
â€śThese achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.â€ť
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
â€śThese are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our countryâ€™s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.â€ť