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BDP MPs, Ministers clash over ESP

The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane was this week hauled before the red-hot coals by his fellow Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament over the faltering P1.6 billion Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) projects.

In addition the Legislators faulted Tsogwane, who is seen as one of Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi’s favorites’ on a number of goofs recorded under his nose by the Ministry. At some point Tsogwane’s name was mentioned along those who aspire to Vice President come April next year when Masisi takes over as President. But now his colleagues are questioning his delivery card. Where are the ESP projects you promised? They fired at a BDP caucus this week.

Unlike last week’s party caucus meeting whose primary objective was to shoot down an opposition Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse’s disciplined forces bill, this time around focus was primarily on constituency developments, and a number of MPs queried the apparent skewed development agenda. Of course, at the top of the agitated MPs’ wailings was the controversial Economic Stimulus Program (ESP). According to Weekendpost sources MP’s are demanding a report card of the program – some have boldly stated that the overhyped initiative has failed to live up to expectation and it safe to say it is a failed idea.

“It milked government millions if not billions of pula and it’s only appropriate to demand to know to what extent the initiative has stimulated the economy. You will find that some constituencies were promised a number of projects but two years down the line, there is nothing, we expected around 500 houses in Dukwi from the program, nothing!” said Nata-Gweta’s Polson Majaga. The ESP is reported to have pulled P1.6 billion from government coffers. When it was launched in Sefhare Ramokgonami constituency a number of areas were promised their share of the cake but most are yet to receive the goods.

“Though I can’t vividly remember which projects were allocated to which area, to be honest the ESP has fared below average, look at my constituency there is nothing, but initially I was promised a junior school in Ngware,” observed the BDP Chief, Whip Liekat Kablay. It is said Tsogwane was instructed by the party Chairman, Vice President Masisi, who was also leading the ESP idea to deliver the report card at the latest by next week. But his fellow MPs are of the view that he will still give them the ‘everyday rhetoric’. There is a view from within the party that the ESP was intended for cabinet ministers’ held constituencies and some “well-connected party arm chair activists”.

Kablay accused the government for focusing developments only in one direction. He said the northern constituencies are treated with kids’ gloves. “I can’t say the ministers’ areas are given priority but that’s what people are saying, look a hospital is being erected in Sefhare-Ramokgonami and there are other projects in Palapye, and a Police Station is also being built in Mochudi, but our constituencies are idle,” said Kablay. Still at the caucus meeting, BDP MPs would just not give Tsogwane a break, when thought he could take a breather, another issue emerged – the P10 million Constituency Funding.

This was widely criticized when it was first announced because it was viewed as yet another wild BDP political card. Legislators complain of lack of consultation on the initiative and they want the whole idea to be scrapped if not changed. “This is dubbed constituency fund, not council fund,” said Majaga before adding that “This money should be under our control because we are aware of the neither challenges in our constituencies, not the Village Development Committees (VDCs) nor Council. They cannot claim to know the constituency better than us, besides, we are their principals and we know the priorities. Look at the Nata-Gweta we were affected by Dineo floods and I could have prioritized accordingly more so that traffic was inconvenienced,” Majaga said.

Though the MP’s were given an opaque response as to whether they will get to control the P10 million, they told Tsogwane that they will fight for the proper channeling of the fund. “Maybe in the next financial year we would get the fund to be placed directly under MPs control, but for now there are no signs that this fund will placed with us. The next financial year is fast approaching and we hope to see action,” Kablay said. The complaints by the BDP MPs follow a number of protests from the opposition camps over the fund which were thrown out of the window.

In his own world, minister Tsogwane is said to have claimed that to the best of his knowledge the ESP projects were ongoing and everything was smooth. The Botswana government launched the Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) with the aim to boost the national economy. The ESP is a program that is meant to boost economic growth through increased government spending in identified sectors, diversify the economy and accelerate employment creation, said President Ian Khama at the launch ceremony in Machaneng village in eastern Botswana.

The Program was a response to the current unfavourable economic climate following the world economic recession of 2008/2009 which has resulted in job losses. "One of the major challenges in the economy is fall of commodity prices in the mining sector including diamonds," said Khama at the launch. "There is a need to diversify the economy even more so as to create sustainable jobs and to be able to cushion the economy against the international shocks of the mineral process," he said.

The program aimed at boosting the national economy through accelerated job creation and citizen empowerment using the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and harnessing the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) program for citizens, has been given national attention since its introduction by Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama in last November. The caucus discussed other issues including the welfare of MPs. This coming Monday Parliament will amend the standing orders as per the request at last week’s caucus.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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