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BDP backbench asked to support Presidential exit package

Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata/Gweta, Polson Majaga

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership has given up on one of their own and have completely thrown in the towel as efforts to soften Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata/Gweta, Polson Majaga hit a snag.

Majaga has been vehemently bashing his party in his National Assembly contributions.

While backbenchers in MP for Tati West- Biggie Butale, MP for Boteti East- Lelatisitswe Sethomo and controversial Francistown West MP, Igantius Moswaane have toned down, Majaga has reportedly vowed to maintain his stand of fearlessly speaking his mind. At a recent Parliamentary caucus, Majaga is said to have refused to be swayed and told his party members that he will never allow himself to be turned into a puppet when he has a mind of his own.

So unsettled is the BDP that it allegedly sent the “reformed” Moswaane to Majaga’s house while he was away over the just ended President’s Holidays to persuade his family to reason with him regarding this matter.

“Moswaane was one of the MPs sent to try to persuade Majaga to toe the party line and accept caucus decisions,” a source revealed.   

The recent bout between Majaga and BDP top leadership was during the party caucus regarding the upcoming presidential package, which Majaga has, according inside sources, rejected and promised not to support.  

The presidential package, to be offered to President Khama after leaving office states that among other benefits, “a retired President is given the option to choose between having an office, where he or she prefers, of the standard and size specified by the President or receiving office accommodation allowance using the prevailing Gaborone market rental rates.

WeekendPost has gathered that, BDP leadership, in an effort to garner support for the presidential package bill, is dangling a juicy carrot before backbenchers and have secretly told some of them if not all, that they would be considered for one of the ministerial post to be availed by another amendment bill in parliament.

The amendment bill will create two more ministries in the process creating four posts in cabinet, for two ministers and their assistants. It is reported that although, Khama could fill the top two ministerial posts with Specially Elected members, two current back benchers would be appointed as assistant ministers. Khama is likely to reshuffle his cabinet after the endorsement of Special Elected MPs.

Inside sources indicate that BDP would use the enticement as a bargaining tool for support of the bill, which has already raised eye brows in the public domain.

While each member of the 16 BDP backbenchers is hoping to make it to cabinet, Majaga is not about to compromise his freedom of expression for the sake of his party’s image. A fortnight ago, he joined the opposition brigade in criticising the controversial Trade Dispute Bill and even went to the extent of warning Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Edwin Batshu that the bill would create a bad legacy for him.

The Trade Dispute Amendment Bill, which is now at committee stage, will make a number of civil services to fall under Essential Service category, prohibiting them from engaging on industrial action in future.

“I feel uncomfortable to support this Bill because of the reasons I have. That is my nature. If I do not agree with something, I feel compelled to just say outright my reasons to be heard,” he told parliament.

“This country has democratic procedures that allow Batswana to go on strike. I really agree with that notion because it is a way of showing their disgruntlement with the government of the day.”

Before that, Majaga had dismissed the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) during this year’s Budget Speech. ESP has been popular since it was announced by Khama at a BDP Special Congress in October last year.

Majaga criticised it as not addressing the problems faced by his constituents, arguing that, chief amongst the problems they are faced with was projects backlog from National Development Plan- NDP 8 up to NDP 10.   

“Many people think ESP is meant to address all the problems that we are facing and that all projects that were not undertaken will be carried out. I looked at the projects planned under ESP and many projects that were left out in the previous plans from NDP 8 up to NDP 10 are still not part of ESP,” he told parliament.

“People are expecting these developments to be undertaken under ESP, because I went there to inform them about the programme, and I have to come back to this house to represent them…I am here representing my constituents, they sent me here and I will speak without fear.”

Majaga denounced any chance of success for ESP as long as core problems faced by the people are not addressed; further stating that it has only raised false hopes.

At the beginning of the 11 th parliament, more BDP backbench were vocal, including the likes of Biggie Butale who called for rigorous change in government, including an infamous motion in which he wanted government to honour the fallen opposition leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi of the opposition, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

Although the unpredictable Moswaane is currently the one who is said to be used to soften Majaga, during his first months in Parliament, he was even more vehement towards his party as he sought President Ian Khama to be hauled before parliament to answer question from MPs and account for government actions.

Khama, who was worried by the development seized a moment at Mmadinare Congress last year and remarked that the party will take a stern warning against MPs who have the tendency of attacking government in parliamentary deliberations.

Khama even stated that the rebellious cohorts were “forgetting the hard work which the party put in to get them elected”.

It was widely believed that, back then Khama was targeting Moswaane. The latter has since forsaken his earlier stance to not dance to the party tune.

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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 Développement (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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