President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s courageous but dicey remarks calling for ageing President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe to step down have attracted support, intriguingly from an unlikely political figure.
In September last year president Khama told United Kingdom (UK) based news agency that it is time for Mugabe to step down from the presidency of Zimbabwe and allow a new leader to take over. His reasons then was that Mugabe is too old and therefore is unable to provide the kind of leadership that Zimbabwe needs and now, a long time Mugabe sympathiser and admirer, Julius Malema who is a leader of South African opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has come out clear this week stating that the time has arrived for the veteran leader to step aside.
While Malema praised the legacy of Mugabe, when speaking in Braamfontein early this week, he said with his age and ailing health the wise thing for Mugabe would be to “let go and allow other people to continue that legacy”. “The Zimbabwean situation is bad… President Mugabe cannot even handle a spade when he tried to plant a tree just recently… that is how old he is. He is no longer capable of discharging his duties and then they nominate him for presidency again in 2018,” said the concerned Malema during a press conference on Monday.
The South African firebrand was basically echoing concerns raised by Botswana President, Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama who had earlier stated that, “it is obvious that at his (Mugabe’s) age and the state Zimbabwe is in, he's not really able to provide the leadership that could get it out of its predicament.”
Khama’s contention was that, Mugabe’s continued stay in power, “is a big concern, it is a problem for all of us in the region – and it is a burden. There's no doubt about that." His stand was dicey given the silence that the entire continent had kept regarding the situation in Zimbabwe and given the fact that Botswana has also been accused of not being part of the “African agenda” but always taking the side of the west on various issues concerning Africa.
Malema for instance, had in the past criticised Khama’s foreign policy, labelling Botswana a puppet of the west for the decision the country’s leadership made in the past; decisions which were completely different from the rest of other African countries. Conversely, this time around Malema shares the same sentiment as Khama.
“We do not hate Mugabe, they can respond and insult us however they want… but those comrades in Zanu-PF are a group of cowards for not being able to tell an old man like Mugabe to go. Fidel Castro (Former Cuban president) let go when he was no longer able to lead. Grandpa, it is enough now… allow other people to take the revolution forward in Zimbabwe," Malema is now chanting this chorus.
Malema said African revolutionaries such as EFF were following the footstep of the Zimbabwean leader, but by staying in power for long, it undermines what was initially achieved through revolution. "Those leading (the) struggle tend to overstay and destroy a legitimate revolution… and that is not good for the struggle, the SA Development Community (SADC) and reclaiming the land back in Africa. There are capable young people in the Zanu-PF to continue the legacy."
Malema also criticised the leadership of AU, saying it should have taken the leading role in the political crisis which was ensuing in Gambia following last year’s elections. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was able to avert the danger through political and military intervention.
Following negotiations, Yahya Jammeh who had been in power for more than two decades agreed to pave way peacefully. He then went on exile in Equatorial Guinea. "The ECOWAS work is something that we wish to see happening across the continent. The AU should have been the first body to declare that stand taken by ECOWAS… but then the AU, toothless and useless as it is, is led by people who have no idea where they want to take the continent to and were found wanting,” said Malema who then suggested that, “The upcoming AU summit should focus on finding ways to deepen democratic practices, and how to avoid long term presidencies in the continent."
Botswana’s Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi will be running for the leadership of AU, a victory will give her a challenge to transform Africa with regard to democratic process and transition of power. The continent is still marred by leaders who refuse to leave power at the end of their constitutional term.
Botswana has openly spoken against leaders who refuse to leave power or extended political terms amid violent situations. On the Gambia political crisis, Botswana was the first African country to state that it has stopped recognising Jammeh as president of The Gambia. The stand earned Botswana admiration from the international community and enhanced Venson-Moitoi’s bid for AU chairmanship.
“As chairperson, the AUC, I will commit to promoting practices that seek to enhance Africa’s quest for democratic development. I will galvanise 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,” said Venson-Moitoi in her campaigning message.
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.
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.
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.”