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Factionalism tears Molefhi’s constituency apart

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Selebi Phikwe Regional Office had to deal with a very hostile Branch Committee Chairperson for Selebi Phikwe East, Margaret Podiephatswa who collided with her superiors at the regional office over her branch’s elective congress on Wednesday night at Botshabelo Community Hall.

Podiephatshwa wanted the elections postponed for the third time to first deal with grievances from different wards, but the Deputy Chairperson for Selebi Phikwe Region, Master Mmereki went ahead and conducted the election. Selebi Phikwe East Branch (Constituency) whose Member of Parliament (MP), Nonofo Molefhi is in a fierce contest for the BDP Chairmanship against Vice President and incumbent Chairperson, Mokgweetsi Masisi is rocked with divisions. However, the Wednesday elections ensured that like in Selebi Phikwe West, Molefhi’s faction gets a whitewash victory.

After the Branch Chairperson, Margaret Podiephatshwa said there will be no elections, the Regional Deputy Chairperson overruled her decision and conducted the election after he has ensured that the representation in the organs that participates in the voting process forms a quorum.

No voting took place as nominations produced the exact number of delegates required, a technical move that left the aggrieved parties without representation. Podiephatshwa stated after the elections that she does not accept the outcome of the election as due process was not followed. Mmereki advised the Branch Chairperson to follow due process to launch her protest in writing.

The aggrieved parties are Botshabelo East, Botshabelo North and Ikageleng Phase II. These three wards are headed by the only three BDP councillors in Selebi Phikwe who are reportedly supporting the Vice President instead of their area MP. These wards submitted letters of grievance on the Election Day on Tuesday and the Regional Committee postponed the election to Wednesday. The aggrieved parties cited irregularities with the election of delegates at their respective wards. On Wednesday, the problem has still not been resolved but the regional office did not budge.

The problem at wards level is alleged that factions that supports Masisi were defeated and they have resorted to disturbing the smooth process of the election of delegates for the branch. Former Mayor, Leornard Mojuta who is reportedly ready to tussle with Molefhi in the BDP primaries is said to have been allocated Botshabelo East Ward to lead the campaign trail to garner supports for Masisi. Botshabelo East is currently under the leadership of Botswana Congress Party.

Mojuta together with councillors, Lillian Sethula of Ikageleng Phase II and Gaopalelwe Letsobe of Botshabelo North are fingered to be sowing seeds of division within the party in their attempt to win support for Masisi. Some BDP supporters in the constituency accused the councillors of employing divide and rule tactics, thus creating factions in the party. Members of the party opposing the trio have accused them of neglecting their roles as unifiers but instead their leadership has created cracks in the party which they bemoan could diminish the fortunes of the BDP in the 2019 general elections.

The factional line is support of either Masisi or Molefhi in Selebi Phikwe East has divided BDP in the constituency ahead of the coming National Elective Congress in Tonota. Meanwhile, the Branch Chairperson who is also rumoured to be supporting Masisi has been accused of failing the constituency. Speaking at the Wednesday election, Podiephatshwa noted that it was her time to exercise her authority as the branch chairperson.

When announcing that the elections will not go on, she was booed by the crowd, a situation that created a fearful atmosphere. The incensed group of the majority of people who wanted the election conducted questioned Podiephatshwa’s impartiality as the branch chairperson, accusing her of fuelling the tension and factionalism that had engulfed the BDP in the constituency since their Area MP exercised his democratic right to contest against Masisi for the party chairmanship.

Mmereki who was the election officer, warned democrats that their disruptive behaviour was out of line. He read the BDP’s code of conduct pointing out that behaving in a gross manner that disturbs the smooth function of the party is a punishable offence. The Regional Deputy Chairpersons spoke strongly of the outlandish behaviour displayed by some democrats who wanted to make the election process difficult.

At the failed meeting on Tuesday, Selebi Phikwe Regional Secretary, Abraham Chakalisa also warned democrats to address their differences amicably and not bring them into party business and disturb the peace. Chakalisa also told democrats that their Branch Chairperson told them that they are not welcome at the meeting as the Regional Office. “When we arrived here, your branch chairperson did not welcome us. She told us that we are not welcome here but he have welcomed ourselves,” said Chakalisa.

Despite all the disruption and postponement, the election was finally conducted and Molefhi camp celebrated their victory. The democrats supporting Molefhi which were predominantly young women chanted victory songs on Wednesday night. It remains to be seen whether the Branch Chairperson will launch a protest and what outcome will the democrats arrive at.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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