Foreign Affairs Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Motoi has intensified her bid for African Union (AU) chairpersonship as she enters the final phase of her campaign.
Following the postponement of the election to 19th January 2017 in July last year, Venson-Moitoi will face four other candidates in a contest that will put to an end to a lengthy spell of campaigns. Observers express that the fact that there are four other candidates puts Venson-Moitoi in a pole position to ascend to the throne. Venson-Moitoi will face Dr Amina Mohammed (Kenya), Moussa Mahmat (Chad), Agapito Mokuy (Equatorial Guinea), and Dr Abdoulaya Bathily (Senegal).
Venson-Moitoi currently enjoys the backing of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) having got the at last year’s July summit in Kigali, Rwanda, and latter in Swaziland for a second bid. In July last year Venson-Moitoi faced only two contenders for the position in; Dr Specioza Wandira Kazibwe of Uganda and Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea. Other candidates had dropped off the race during the course of voting. Venson-Moitoi emerged with more votes in July Last year but could not garner the two third majority required by the regulations to ascend to the post. Dr Venson-Moitoi garnered 23 votes far cry from the required minimum of 36 votes.
About 28 countries had abstained from the second round of voting, citing wanting qualifications among the two candidates. Since then, Moitoi, who refused to suspend her campaign after falling to win enough support in July has been sourcing for support across the continent and has expressed optimism that she will get the required support at the next summit.
Venson-Moitoi has premised her campaign around the good standing that Botswana enjoys from the international community. Botswana, often referred to as the miracle of Africa is has managed to stay conflict free, stable and peaceful in continent raved by unending civil wars and corruption.
“I strive to share the peace and stability that Botswana is known for and champion this across our beautiful continent,” she said. As Africa’s longest standing democracy, Botswana have managed to hold general elections every five years without fail and have seen three presidents since independence leaving office voluntarily. Botswana also have a good record in human rights and its home to thousands refugees who flee their home countries as result of war and other human right violations acts. Botswana is currently ranked the least corrupt country in Africa by Transparency International, the prestige it has enjoyed in the last few decades.
Venson-Moitoi who has also led ministries such; Ministry of Education and Skills Development, and Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism has spent the better part of her career in the public service as top civil servant. From the early 1980s to the late 1990s, Moitoi was part of civil service which transformed Botswana’s economy. Between that ear, owing to discovery of diamonds at Jwaneng and prudent public service, Botswana’s economic growth averaged 13 percent.
Venson-Moitoi, if she triumphs will have to preside over a continent which is still not conflict free, ravaged by poverty and disease. The former minister of Education and Skills Development has emphasised that dialogue should be at the centre of problem solving in African and has pledged to promote it during her tenure.
“Dialogue is African. It is one thing that binds us together. We talk and we act, this is how we show progress,” she said. “I believe in the power of dialogue, of getting involved, and of working with others to drive progress.” Botswana’s former head of states; Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae have been engaged on African missions before to broker peace and end conflicts in various nations. Masire was instrumental in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peace negotiations in the early 2000s while Mogae was recently engaged to try to bring to an end a conflict in South Sudan.
Mogae has been spearheading Venson-Moitoi’s bid. Mogae who is also the winner of the Mo Ibrahim $5 million award, last year grabbed the opportunity at United Nations in New York introduced Venson-Moitoi to many African countries where he is highly respected. Dr. Venson-Moitoi, on her part, gave an impassioned speech about her own qualifications, why she is quite suited for the post of Chairperson of the AUC.
Venson-Moitoi is vision is to an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena” is one that is very much within reach in championing a sustainable future for Africa. She says this is because the AU Assembly adoption of Agenda 2063 was grounded upon this vision.
“Now is the time for the implementation of Agenda 2063 as clearly articulated in the first ten-year implementation plan. Implementation of this will result in quick wins and galvanise the desired transformation programme,” she stated. Venson-Moitoi also envisages AU as an efficient and effective organisation and notes the need to bring institutional culture of a high performance organisation for the purpose of the successful implementation of Agenda 2063.
“We need to develop and implement communications strategy that is aimed and popularising Agenda 2063 and ensuring the kind of buy-in that drives its success. This is another critical activity coinciding with the next tenure of Office of Chairperson. I will therefore ensure the development of the effective communications strategy to gamer further understand and support for Agenda 2063, thus instilling the culture of ownership among the citizen of Africa,” she said.
With Africa experiencing changes in population dynamics, Moitoi says the contennet is now dominated by young men and women who have not been given the opportunity to utilise their creative to propel the country forward. Venson-Moitoi says she has the plan do deal with this matter and ensure that Africa reaches its potential and become in influential player in global affairs.
MOITOI’S VISION FOR AFRICA
Ambitious Africa Guided by our shared principles peace, justice and equality, we as citizens of Africa we must keep on working for greater democratic governance in international decision making. This includes working to ensure that global institutions and bodies including the United Nations, Security Council accurately reflect the realities and dynamics of today’s world. To this end, the need for reform of Security Council cannot be overemphasised.
The time is now and we are on the right path. We cannot look back after more than seventy years of existence of the global body, to place this reform agenda on the priority list. We have continued as African leaders, to agitate for extending the number of permanent members to Security Council, thus making it more representative and better equipped to address the challenges and opportunities that the world faces, particularly in the area of international peace and security.
From MGDs to SGDs According to annual reports on the implementation of annual MGDs, African countries were recording steady improvements on most targets. The focus now is Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). To achieve this, I believe policy makers must pursue inclusive goals strategies that promote broader participation of the active labour force. At the same time, we must ensure that returns from growth are invested in programmes that enhance productivity capacities of broad segments of society particularly women, young people and the vulnerable. Furthermore, African governments need to keep expanding agricultural policies through better policies and heavy investment in improved seeding, integrated farming, used of fertilizers and increased access to finance.
Realising Agenda 2063 Much has already been achieved by au through the development of the Agenda 2063, and the ground work has begun. I believe as the chairperson of the AUC I will be well placed to drive our continent to “The Africa we want!” that is ensuring that Agenda 2063 and its 10 year implementation plan delivers on its ultimate objective; to change the lives of all African people for the better. My focus will be putting in place the systems and procedures that will help us deliver of those aspirations. I believe my visions and experience, coupled with the internal expertise at the AUC, will help me deliver of this task.
Transformation Agenda I consider myself a transformist, rather than a conformist. Thus I fully support the transformation agenda of the AUC and am pleased to have this opportunity at a time when the development trajectory of the continent is strong. The AUC’s agenda 2063 enhances the momentum of this and makes clear the desired objective through the key strategic levels. Implementation of flagship projects will constitute the real vehicle for transforming Africa and achieving its integration, development and prosperity goals. I am confident that this dream that we have and share at the AUC is where within reach.
The Africa we want One of the greatest wishes of all AU members is to “silence the guns” on our continent. To see all school going age children attend class and get an education. To see the rights of women and men; girls and boys on the continents given their rightful place in the laws of the country they live in. To see democracy flourish. This is the Africa we want. It is my dream to be a part of that process.
Driving the democratic development across Africa As chairperson, the AUC, i will commit to promoting practices that seek to enhance Africa’s quest for democratic development. I will galvanised the support of all members states of the AUC to ensure that, together, we champion democratic governance by promoting the strengthening of democratic institutions, safe guarding human rights and guaranteeing the rule of law.
A United and Prosperous Africa We live in world with daunting challenges that respect no borders. No country, big or small, rich or poor, can solve these challenges on their own. They require a concerted effort from all of Africa citizens. This is an era of collective action and we, as the people of Africa, need to work together to make a different to ensure an integrated, peaceful, developed, and prosperous Africa. We have the resources, expertise, passion and evolving mindset in political, social and economic spheres to work together to make this vision of a united Africa a reality.
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.