Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has moved to make amends with tribal leaders in a gambit intended to pull them to their ranks and counter the opposing Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s influence ahead of 2019 general elections.
Two weeks ago, BDP welcomed to its ranks Mmusi Kgafela, the young brother to Bakgatla chief, Kgafela Kgafela II. The move is intended to neutralise the influence of UDC in Kgatleng following government fallout with Bakgatla chieftainship in years leading to the 2014 general elections, reliable sources have indicated.
According to impeccable sources, BDP had made efforts to coax Batlokwa chief, Puso Gaborone to join the party and contest the upcoming bye-elections under their ticket. BDP’s efforts however were not successful, as the Batlokwa chief decided against joining active politics.
BDP secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane has however denied that the ruling party has lost the support of tribal leaders to opposition parties. “We assume Dikgosi of different communities in Botswana are apolitical until they publicly state otherwise. So far I know of only three; Kgosi Khama IV [President Ian Khama] of BDP, Kgosi Lotlamoreng Montshioa II and Kgosi Tawana Moremi II of UDC respectively. Now BDP has Morena Mmusi. With these examples how is BDP losing support of Dikgosi?” he said.
“As for Kgosi Puso Gaborone I have no knowledge of him being recruited apart from idle bar gossip. But like any citizen he is free to join politics subject to necessary protocols,” Ntuane stated. Ntuane has however admitted that in Kgatleng, the stand-off between government and Kgatleng tribal leaders has contributed to the party’s poor showing in the 2014 general elections. He also concurred that Kgafela’s arrival could be used to enhance the party’s chance in 2019.
Kgafela is reportedly going to contest for the Mochudi West constituency, a constituency currently held by UDC’s Gilbert Mangole. In trying to make amends with Bakgatla tribe last year, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane, begun a consultation process with the tribe in order to pave way for Kgosi Kgafela II’s return.
BDP had a difficult campaigning period in 2014 in Kgatleng following the acrimonious relationship between Bakgatla paramount chief and government. Subsequent to court battles with government, Kgafela II went on exile in South Africa, where he is currently residing. This was not before he was de-recognised by government as the tribal leader of Bakgatla.
In the aftermath of the 2014 general elections BDP lost both constituencies with Mangole and Isaac Davids of UDC defeating Unity Dow and Rev Mpho Moruakgomo for the two constituencies respectively. Kgatleng has however been a stronghold of Botswana National Front (BNF) with Kgosi Linchwe being credited with helping in the formation of the party.
On the other hand BDP’s traditional strongholds are in the Central district, previously known as Gammangwato Reserve during the colonial time. The Central District fell under the jurisdiction of Bangwato chieftainship, therefore BDP profited from the tribesmen goodwill when Seretse Khama founded the party in 1962.
Although BDP remains strong in the central district, the scales have been tilting in some other parts of the country. Opposition UDC have been enjoying the backing of tribal leaders in recent years, boasting two Paramount chiefs in its ranks in parliament; Kgosi Tawana II of Bakgatla and Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II of Barolong.
Prior to defecting to Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2011, Maun West constituency had never been in the hands of opposition parties. Kgosi Tawana II who joined politics amid controversy, first tried his luck in 2003 but was vetted out from contesting. He would successfully try his luck for the second time at the 2009 general elections under a BDP ticket, but later defected to BDP’s splinter party, Botswana Movement for Democracy, which Botsalo Ntuane was among its founding members. BMD is a member party to UDC.
In 2015, Barolong Chief, Lotlaamoreng agreed to contest a bye-election under UDC. The post was left vacant by the resignation of then MP for Goodhope-Mabule, James Matlhokgwane. Lotlaamoreng won the subsequent bye-election, defeating Eric Molale of BDP. The BDP has tried to use UDC gambit at Tlokweng for the incoming bye-election but was unable to convince the youthful Bakgatla chief. Tlokweng has been in the hands of opposition since its creation in 2004.
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.”