Following the major purge of staff seen to be resisting change with regard to the new Strategic Plan of Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), its new Executive Director Botho Seboko is undertaking a vigorous rebranding exercise at the organisation.
The organisation, members and the board has been embroiled in disputes in relation to governance issues, role clarity, and power struggles that saw the former Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo and all staff at the Secretariat being wiped out. The board, with the headship of Chairman Oscar Motsumi thereafter head hunted Seboko to persuade him to take the hot seat filling the shoes of Mabilo. Seboko is on a 3 year contract precisely to implement the new BOCONGO Strategy 2017 to 2020 subject to renewal in terms of performance.
In a one-on-one interview with WeekendPost this week the former Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Secretary General who almost raised the oldest party from the ashes said he found BOCONGO in a similar case and is devoted to re-branding it. At BPP he introduced the slogan which caught frenzy in social media dubbed #RonaKoBPP. Since leaving the party, it slumped to sleeping mode.
“When I arrived in BOCONGO it was an organisation in limbo. Remember it did not have an Executive Director for close to 6 months. Neither did it have qualified people in the absence of the Executive Director except for its Communications Officer,” he said. He continued to say that “it has lost relationships with donors, we have lost communications with key stakeholders, and we were not in dialogue and engaging with government.”
Seboko also said he found BOCONGO’s financial books in disarray and that at the last Annual General Meeting the organisation failed to present an audit. “We had so many creditors or debts,” he said, adding that they did not have any existent donor save for normal subvention funds from the Ministry on Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.
According to Seboko, the new strategy was adopted in 2015 but due to a conflict between the board and then Director it suffered a one year loss so in 2016 there was literally no implementation until he occupied the position earlier this year in February 2017. “My job coming into BOCONGO therefore was and is still to ensure that at the end of the strategy the organisation is back to its members; to ensure that there is a fresh look on BOCONGO in terms of the manpower that is employed in the inside organisation and the outward picture in the form of logo and branding material.”
In the 8 months in office, Seboko says BOCONGO has moved to a new office. “We developed the new branded logo, brought new phones; website is now functional, staff emails also working. We have a new staff of Executive Director, Programs Manager, Chattered Accountant, Communications Multi-Media and Graphics interns, Front Desk Officer and, Administration Officer.”
The new strategy states that there is a need to decentralize power from Gaborone to other areas where there are BOCONGO members around the country. In the strategy there are 7 regional networks; Gantsi, Ngamiland, Chobe, Francistown, Selibe Phikwe (BOMASE), Serowe/Palapye and Greater Gaborone. BOCONGO will also be divided into 4 thematic groups and there is need to align them with the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG’s), National development Plan (NDP11), Vision 2036 and Africa vision 2063.
The thematic groups are; inclusive social policy, sustainable environment and resource management, economic justice and democracy and governance. Members will be now categorized in the groups and composition of the board will be chosen amongst the 7 regions while 4 will come from the thematic groups. As BOCONGO he added that they have also facilitated for the funding of a new NGO, Botswana Watch, at the tune of 50 000 US dollars from OSISA.
The Executive Director said time has turned and NGOs are doing the implementation of the projects while the Secretariat is holding the money for them. “As such the role of BOCONGO has changed. BOCONGO reports financially to the donor while NGOs report narrative.” Furthermore, Seboko revealed that BOCONGO has also requested for funds to resurrect the defunct Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana office. According to him, MISA will start operations soon as OSISA has approved funding for it at the tune of US$ 50 000.
“We did a proposal for EU as well for 2019 General Elections focusing on the disabled particularly the blind, for the first time in this Republic we will see documentation in Braille for the blind,” Seboko said. “The project was funded for 144 000 Euros to be spent in the next 2 years. The blind will be able to vote and teach others on how to vote in the next elections owing to the project.” This, Seboko pointed out, will be done in conjunction with the Botswana Society for the Deaf and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA).
“We have also approached the Canadian Embassy to lure them to fund us so that we assist hold Councillors accountable. They have thereafter funded us with 2 000 Canadian dollars. We need to develop for our communities a check list based on management system based on public office bearers at District level that the communities can assess and check what the Councillors said in their manifestos,” he revealed. Seboko also highlighted that for the last 10 years BOCONGO has received 1.2 million per year consistently from government through Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs as they are obliged to do in their partnership with Civil Society. He also said they will work harmoniously with the NGO Council.
He also pointed out that BOCONGO remains non partisan and does not even provide opinions on topical political issues. Seboko also stated that they have so far pulled 3 successful panel discussions being: controversial Electronic Voting Machines; Freedom of Information (for a build up to MISA resurrection); and a debate over who is funding our political parties. BOCONGO is notorious for an acrimonious relationship between the board and the head of the Secretariat (Executive Director) which often leads to the sacking of the latter.
Before Mabilo, Boitshepho Bolele was also unceremoniously kicked out while on probation. Prior to her, Executive Secretary Mosweu Simane also abruptly resigned from the position to be the General Secretary of an affiliate member Botswana Council of Churches (BCC). He was followed by Nobantu Kalake who also left for greener pastures at the British Council. The hot position has also seen resignations from Barulaganye Mogotsi to Debswana, Baboloki Tlale and Ketlhomilwe Moletsane were also in the mix.
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.”