Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Ndaba Gaolathe on Thursday evening told multitudes of BMD supporters at the Maitisong Hall, Maruapula School in Gaborone that they have since decided to leave the BMD impasse in the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), to mediate on.
Multitudes of supporters had thronged the hall clad in party regalia to lend solidarity to their “calm and collected” leader. Gaolathe won the parallel controversial party congress recently at Bobonong Community Junior Secondary School while the other was won by Sidney Pilane at Matshekge Junior Secondary School both at Bobonong village.
The meeting was the first he addressed as BMD president. Evidently, he had the support of party elders who graced the event, including former Speaker of the National Assembly Margaret Nasha, counterparts in the UDC and Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Vice President Takula Lenyatso and renowned pastors in the likes of Dumi Mmualefhe and Cosmos Moenga.
Other key people who were also present include Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) leadership consisting of its leaders Johnson Motshwarakgole, Tobokani Rari and Ketlhalefile Motshegwa among others. When he took to the podium, amid applause and cheering, Ndaba said they respect the UDC as a mother body and will duly allocate them a chance and time to intervene in the matter between his faction and that of Pilane. “We need to wait for the UDC. We need to respect the UDC processes and hope that those charged with responsibility will offer guidance accordingly,” Ndaba pointed out to the audience in the fully packed hall in Maruapula, Gaborone.
Ndaba calls for a re-run of a free and fair congress
According to the charming leader, the party should go for a re-run of the national congress to elect a new leadership through fair and fair elections. “We can’t demand at the national level free and fair elections if we are not able at the party level to demand and conduct free and fair elections,” he told the gathering. He also noted that BMD members who support his cause are not convinced about the faction taking the court route in resolving the impasse. He stated: “they do not believe that the court route is viable. They believe that the time and material and cost entail will take away whatever energy we need to offer to Botswana.”
Ndaba faction weighs options of a new political party
According to Ndaba, forming a new party may be an option, as party devotees suggest, but it should however not be the first option. He highlighted: “I know that there is talk about a new political party, and I have to be honest with you. There is pressure yes, there is pressure mounted from different directions to embark on the option. Proponents of this option advance reasons for its course and amongst them they say perhaps we need a fresh home. We need a dwelling home to this consciousness of change.”
He added that “but this should not be our first option, be patient. We need to give the UDC the opportunity to intervene before we consider all other options.” In terms of the new party, Ndaba also observed that many decisions will be taken and some of these decisions will be painful. “This is a consciousness that was inspired by activists, by ordinary people from across different needs. If this consciousness sits with discomfort, as it seems to do right now, then the current configuration, we need to be decisive about how best to transfigure ourselves so that the consciousness could change and thrive towards the kind of Botswana we all want. We will never be defeated,” he maintained on his address.
I am not returning to the BDP – Ndaba becomes emotional
The non conformist BMD leader continued his address to the multitudes of his supporters and quashed rumours about his alleged move back to BDP. “I have also heard a rumour that I want to decamp to the ruling party. I just want to say to you that I am a servant of the people. I serve at the pleasure of the people. And as long as the people think they need me to assist them in the journey that is theirs I cannot walk away from them,” the clearly emotional young leader set the record straight. He further added, whilst holding back tears: “I don’t walk away from people who prayed for me and made me who I am. And should the people say to me at some point that I have done my part, and that they need a new set of leaders, then I will be happy to bow out.”
The BMD leader takes blame for Bobonong violence
The Gaborone Bonnington South law maker further apologised to the families whose children were injured at Bobonong; and to the students of Matshekge CJSS for contaminating their school’s reputation. “It is not who to blame. The buck always stops with the leader. And this is why I take full responsibility for events leading to and after the BMD congress.” He informed the gathering that in the past week, he travelled to Bobonong to see the Kgosi to apologise to him; and to the school to tender his apology; and also visited the police to thank them for being such gallant protectors.
Ndaba also stated that he is aware of the alarm his party caused to many citizens, especially that the party as part of the UDC carries much hope for them. He conceded that he is embarrassed that the party returned from the elective Congress in Bobonong last month with two parallel sets of leadership committees. “Many of you know that that’s uncalled for, they are embarrassed by this. In fact I am embarrassed myself. Some of you have listened to radio talk shows and witnessed and wondering how this great movement of ours has become the skunk of this nation.”
According to Ndaba, their actions and conduct have represented everything that can go wrong in a democratic experiment. He explained that “the perceptions and circumstances that surround BMD have generated confusion. They have generated the disillusionment. They have generated mistrust, and have generated doubts about whether our nation can achieve the change that we also yearn for and desire.”
Further, the maverick leader pointed out that the unfolding of events, tactics and behaviour of the BMD have revealed that they have in their midst, men and women who do not believe in this change that they all see this country needs; “we have men and women whose lack of belief causes them to work against every little effort to present to this country the type of choice of leaders and political formation that our citizens can choose from on an election day,” he quipped.
“This, alone, is a travesty; it is a tragedy, for this is part of the vision that we have shared with so many of our citizens, that our movement is a movement that should be a meeting of great leaders of men and women that ordinary people can choose from in this nation,” he added. He also mentioned that “the current impasse in the BMD is not a traditional difference of opinion. It is not a contest of ideas or a contest of ideology. It is not a traditional competition among leaders for traditional leadership. The current situation in the BMD is much deeper than what meets the eye.”
He takes a swipe at BDP government for poor governance
Ndaba did not spare the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for its misdeeds. He started by pointing out that Botswana needs a government because they are tired of a government that buys Fighter Jets and Gripens at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) at the expense of financing projects that could transform the lives of the people. He added that the country needs a new government because the current one cannot account for major public expenditure saying it’s for security reasons.
“We need government because the current government is not able to manage large national potentially transformational projects. We need a new government because the current one doesn’t believe in the talent of their citizens choking their creativity including their own. We need a new government because the current one is suspicious of everybody, its suspicious of investors, and degrades the workers.”
The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker said BDP government conceals injustices, and that it is a government which has a secret service that runs the government behind the scenes with fear mongering and intimidation. “We need a government that takes care of all its affairs, and cultivates the minds of people that they too can become anything behind the sun. We are that government. And we will become that government. We have so many competent people to transform the lives of our people.”
“We will fight for what Motswaledi stood for”
According to the son of ex and late Minister of Finance and Development Planning, “some in our midst say we are fighting for some power in the high echelons of the party, they say there is place of dominance in this fighting, they say we are fighting for a high place in a high seat in the government of 2019 should we win election.”
However Ndaba thinks otherwise: “no, this is not our fight or our war. We fight for a new Botswana. We fight for our nation the same vision by our great leader Gomolemo Motswaledi, the great vision of all fair minded citizens of this country.” “It is always good to fight for something, even if you are wrong, and indeed we might be wrong,” he highlighted.
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.