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Gov’t may abandon EVMs

…as Opposition issues threats

The Secretary General of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botsalo Ntuane has issued the strongest indication yet that the ruling party is developing cold feet on the use of scandalous Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) in 2019.

The EVM’s were transformed from simple idea to bill and lastly into an Act of parliament in controversial fashion with the speed of light and VIP right of way. The chief opposition parties’ gripe with the election machines is concern that the ruling party intends to steal a mandate to prolong their stay in power in an election where the opposition bloc is projected to be at its peak. The unease with the voting machines is proliferated by the fact that they coincide with a time when most observers believe the ruling party is in its last days in power.

Ntuane stated at a panel discussion this week that the EVM question will be top priority at the party’s elective congress in two months’ time. The discussion was hosted by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung and Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations. He however, repeatedly stated that he believes that the solution that will come out of the congress will be in consonance with the views of the larger public. “We have since decided that this issue will form a natural agenda at the July congress. We are flexible and we remain open-minded.”

Ntuane further described the issue as “a lightning rod that we must discuss and recognize as such because ultimately when we win as a ruling party we should win legitimately.” He continued: “From here we are going to engage. We are going to discuss. It’s an agenda at the next congress. It’s a much larger platform. Let’s go and discuss this matter. It will come to conclusion one way or the other.” “We are very much alive to the controversy but it’s a natural debate. This is ongoing but we are confident that it will be to the satisfaction of this nation. I can comment her without fear that the position we take will be in good terms with the public.”

Ntuane however sought to absolve his party from formulating the EVM idea stating that it is a conception of the Independent Electoral Commission and that they will not throw the commission under the bus in the face of vitriol. “IEC brought this idea to us; however we are not throwing IEC under the bus. We can’t disown laws passed by our own majoritarian caucus. Debates are going on inside the BDP.” IEC in the same day also sought to absolve itself of conceptualizing the EVM voting process.

When asked why the commission is hell-bent on fixing a functioning system, EVM coordinator Gabriel Seeletso responded thus: “I don’t know. Somebody who saw that it was broken decided to fix it. We only implement. That question is beyond the audience, Bharat and the commission to answer.” The Spokesperson for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Dithapelo Keorapetse and former Gaborone Mayor and Botswana National Front representative,Nelson Ramaotwana issued the chilliest warning as yet with regards to the use of EVM’s in the 2019 general elections.

Keorapetse stated that they are not only going to boycott elections and fold their arms but will ensure that they do not take place and that they will take to the streets. “We will not go to the polls that will be rigged and we will take to the streets.” He warned. Keorapetse also sounded the same warning in parliament recently on an EVM debate. Keorapetse described the EVM concept as ‘an unwelcome development’ which comes at a time “when the BDP legitimacy has been eroded since independence.”

He also state that the citizenry was not consulted in the introduction of the machines into an Act, something which is of fundamental importance in a democracy and matters of elections. “Democracy presupposes that people be consulted by the rulers. Real participatory democracy and not paternalistic democracy where a parent decides for the child.” he stated. He further noted that there is a factual finding in a top Indian court that EVM’s are not foolproof. Ramaotwana also wondered why government is intent on introducing the same machines that are causing strife where they originate.

He stated that the introduction of EVM’s did not follow a referendum in contradiction to a Court of Appeal ruling on general elections. “When you come up with a system that determined who gets into power, we are saying, are we going to have a dictatorship of the people in voting or dictatorship of will cause chaos in the country.” Ramaotsana said.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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