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UDC, Pilane clash over constitution

A simmering battle is anticipated within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) between affiliates as there is a difference of opinion on which constitution the alliance is using in the wake of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leadership crisis.

The UDC’s new constitution was drawn up following the decision by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to apply to join the alliance. BCP which was initially not part of alliance participated in the latest negotiations, which led to among others creation of a new constitution and allocation of constituencies. The departure of former BMD President and UDC Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe to form Alliance of Progressives (AP) has however opened a window for debate within the UDC. Formation of the AP came on the back of a UDC verdict, which recommended that the warring BMD factions consider a power sharing agreement.

There has also been suggestion, as also corroborated by UDC President Duma Boko that the formation of the AP did not mean that Pilane and his team were automatically recognised by the UDC NEC. Boko said the UDC will engage Pilane and his NEC as de facto leadership rather than the legitimate leadership, a view that is not shared by his colleagues in the BMD. When delivering the verdict on the power sharing deal, Boko also highlighted that the UDC has the power to expel or suspend any member acting against the interest of the UDC. Pressure has also been mounting on Boko to suspend or expel BMD on the basis that the latter is controversy prone and likely to dent UDC’s chances of winning power in 2019.

Such stand has however been challenged by the leader of BMD, who believes the new constitution does not give any member the power to expel another member. Pilane is the principal architect of UDC new constitution that has ushered in BCP and also created the two Vice Presidents posts. The two posts were allocated to BMD and BCP, while BNF retained the presidency. Pilane is so confident that the new constitution favours their free participation in the UDC that last week he issued a stern warning to his detractors in the UDC that BMD would not be a pushover.

“There is no how contracting members of the UDC can expel BMD from the UDC. The new constitution does not allow that. The old constitution gave UDC the power to expel a member but the new constitution does not.  If those parties have a problem with BMD they should resign from the UDC,” he said. UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa told this publication that despite some arrangements which do not speak to the old constitution, the UDC leadership still uses the old constitution.

“When UDC was formed in 2012, we were required to submit a constitution with the Registrar of Societies pending the party congress. The interim party NEC was however given the green light to make some decisions even if they are not in line with the constitution, pending ratification by the first party congress,” he said. “That is what we have been doing even after BCP was accommodated in the UDC. All decisions taken by the NEC will be ratified at the congress, and also the new constitution adopted.” UDC is scheduled to attend its first congress since its formation on the 24th of November this year.

BMD Chairman Nehemiah Modubule concurred with Pilane and highlighted that the negotiations which ushered in the BCP as partner in the UDC compels the mother party to use the new constitution. “In my understanding, the negotiations which involved BCP basically mean we must do what we agreed upon. Therefore it means the new constitution which was agreed by all parties, including the BCP is the one which is in use,” he said.

Modubule however admitted that the matter is dubious, and that their position as the BMD is not necessarily how the UDC or other partners may see it. The former Lobatse legislator also reiterated that BMD is a bona fide member of the UDC. “The letter that we wrote did not seek UDC recognition. We were only giving them feedback on their recommendation on power sharing following the departure of our colleagues to form their party,” he said. “We are still awaiting their response.”

Last week Pilane shared that: “We do not need recognition from UDC. The issues of our re-admission should not even arise. UDC has no authority over BMD. BMD is a member of UDC, there is no need for us to seek recognition, we are already members according to UDC constitution. The only thing we are waiting for from UDC is invitation to take part in NEC meetings. We have submitted four names to the UDC as required so that they start taking part in UDC meetings.”

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

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).

“It 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,” 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 “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” 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. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We 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.”

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.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’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.”

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.

“In 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 “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

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.

“Communities 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.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’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 couldn’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 elephant’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. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The 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.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There 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.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly 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.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

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.

“It 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.”

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 “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I 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.”

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.

“There 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.”

“These 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.”

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.

“These 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 country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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