The former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) nominee for Gaborone Central constituency, Gape Motswaledi has addressed new twists in the power struggle roiling the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
BMD, the newest political formation in the country, is on the brink of an ill-timed split which imperils the integrity of the opposition coalition, on the last mile to the 2019 general election. BMD has two presidents and factions which are claiming legitimacy, one led by Advocate Sidney Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe. Gape is the younger brother to the late BMD president Gomolemo Motswaledi, who died in a freak auto accident in 2014. His name was put forward as a possible candidate of UDC after the passing of his brother, alongside trade unionist Andrew Motsamai, cleric Thuso Tiego, lawyer Uyapo Ndadi and the now area parliamentarian, Phenyo Butale.
Motswaledi told this publication in an exclusive interview this week that it is his opinion that both factions should part ways before relations take any further sharp twist and also for the interest of time: “I think quite expeditiously that UDC and the two camps should ascertain whether they can continue with the marriage. Can they mix together? They should ask themselves one question. Do you stay together when you have forsaken each other? (Do you stay together) when you are emotionally detached? Or do you separate while you still have mutual respect and you can work together as separate entities.”
He further said that even in matrimony, there comes a time when a couple has to ruminate over fact that it has become emotionally detached. “You rather not share space and care about each other that not caring about each other and sharing space. It doesn’t safeguard the expectations of Batswana that their destiny is delayed. You don’t expect your aspirations to be realised during the lifetime of your great grandchildren.” He also said that while he is not in the BMD, he has observed that it has come to a point where the levels of mutual trust have tanked to lowermost depths; a prospect which will undermine genuine reconciliation.
Motswaledi, who is also a firm believer of scripture, expressed hope that regime change might still be possible in the 2019 general election, stating that, God willing, a lot of things can still take place in the interim. To buttress a point that working relations have become irretrievable between the two camps, he said it is impossible to imagine former sworn archenemies working together under a single roof.
“As a Motswana, I was observing when Mr Pilane wanted to be readmitted into the party and others were circumspect. If he leads, will he forget that at some point he was looked upon with distrust? If Mr Ndaba (Gaolathe) leads, will he forget that these people at some point didn’t want me? That thing delays the journey. The two camps will spend their time closely eyeballing each other with distrust. I think one of the workable options is when others say, let’s secede and we will work together in a different arrangement. Other suggestions are but ordinary human yearnings that will not be feasible.”
Motswaledi further voiced his disagreement with the prolonged silence of UDC with regards to informing the nation on the progress of the report compiled on the death of his elder brother. He further said that his family never solicited any report or further investigation because it was resigned to the fact that it would not bring back their loved one. He also revealed that the Motswaledi family would have allowed any other political formation or organized body to execute a deeper investigation for national closure if it came in sincerity.
“What worries me is that when you take a long time without apprising the public, they develop their own perceptions and their perceptions become their truth. If an individual believes that the funds were pooled for other reasons than the report; that is their truth. One thing that neutralizes such speculation is when you bring forward facts on your progress, even if the job is not complete.”
He also appeared to take a swipe at Adv Pilane: “The other day I read in a newspaper that someone promised to produce the report. But you see, that individual in a way is peddling a perception that the report is neither nigh nor is there. That it is in someone’s pocket and at his behest it can be produced. It’s a perception that this person is creating and it is very dangerous. It tarnishes the credibility of a movement that came to us in sincerity. That kind of character, that person gets the power to do that because he is filling in the space that is left by those who were supposed to report duly to the nation,” he said.
Motswaledi also said that his father is not interested when it comes to the frivolity of politics “He is not concerned. He can only worry if someone claims that they can produce the report, as if he goes around carrying it in their pocket.” Furthermore he revealed that UDC has also not submitted the report to the family noting that they will receive it like other Batswana when it is finalised. “We are fine with it, but if they take their power and forfeit it to people who might tarnish their name by peddling a perception that this report is something you just pull out of a drawer, it will be a lapse of judgement on their side.”
Motswaledi who is also a chorister and educator, also told this publication that in the period preceding his death, Gomolemo had done something he had never done before in his political life. “I said at the funeral that he invited all the relatives to the launch of his candidature in Gaborone Central. He requested that I mobilise all the relatives. This was the first time that he had wanted his close relatives involved in his political expeditions because normally he kept them at bay from such.”
He continued to state that in retrospect his elder brother might have had witnessed a grand familial gathering in his sub-consciousness which he might have not wholly discerned. “In the spirit, he must have noticed relatives and friends converging at the launch of his candidacy, but he didn't know that it was a spiritual launch into heaven.” He also shed light for the first time why he turned down contesting with the UDC ticket in Gaborone Central noting that he wanted to independently make his own mark and realise his own individual potential, without a slight assistance from his sibling.
“I resisted inheriting anything from him for so long. I resisted at KTM (Choir) which he had founded and where I was based for some time, before I proceeded to join BTU (Botswana Teachers Union) choir because I was also into trade unionism.” He also said that besides seeking to chart his own paths, he nevertheless had to acquaint himself with the especially broken political terrain of 2014 before making his leap. “I couldn't just step in because of him. I had to ask myself, do I know the needs of residents of that constituency?”
But above all, Motswaledi said that Gomolemo had already groomed Young Turks who were at the time equally refined to take up the assignment. He further noted that had he been one of them, he would have been happy to step up to the test. “He was a destiny bearer, but he didn't finish his mandate. He had to hand over the baton but it was only appropriate to do that to his mentees. If I was one of them, I would have accepted. Stepping up to the political challenge is not just assuming a position of power, there is much more to it,” he explained.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.