Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has dismissed President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) saying the president should have instead acknowledged that the closure of BCL mine was a mistake on government’s part. According to Keorapetse, SONA was just hopeless arrangement of words and pronouncement of questionable figures.
“SONA offers no hope for the unemployed former BCL workers and people of Phikwe, Khama should have acknowledged that liquidating BCL was a mistake,” he said, citing that its impact on the people and economy is huge.
Keorapetse observed that the government was ill-advised by the Mineral Development Corporation and called for reopening of BCL Mine.
“Government has to accelerate diversification of the town’s economy yes, but in the mean time, P2 billion in recapitalization and restructuring including non core activities and good management, BCL is a profitable venture for the next 7 years or so,’’ he explained.
When delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) before legislators in Parliament this past Monday, President Khama had, contrary to expert views and specialists’ analysis, said that the closure of BCL mine will not cease billions of national economic activities, saying that the mine closure will in fact have less negative impacts on the country’s economy.
However, Keorapetse, who is also BCP spokesperson, said President Khama did not provide assurance for the people of Phikwe following the trauma of having their lives turned upside down by government’s ill advised decision to shut down the mine.
“Khama doesn’t say what he plans to do with the jobless former workers, people are leaving Phikwe empty handed with banks and other lenders taking a big share of their small terminal benefits, the pitiable benefits are so depressing that some are committing suicide,” he said.
According to Keorapetse, Khama‘s failure to acknowledge the socio-economic impacts of the mine closure proves beyond reasonable doubt how insensitive and his government is. “The President says BCL demise will have no impact on fundamentals of the economy but fails to acknowledge the enormity of the problem, he just glosses over the issue and understates the problem.”
Keorapetse told WeekendPost that it is unclear how Khama intends to create jobs in Phikwe, noting that the President is just ambiguous about revitalizing the economy and has no clear targets and set timeframes and easily assessable progress tracking mechanism.
In his SONA, President Khama also said that government treasury will be less affected by the decision to put the eastern bloc economic nucleus on provisional liquidation.
“We anticipate an overall domestic growth rate of 3.5% for this year and 4.1% in 2017. In this respect, while the liquidation of the BCL Group of companies will continue to have economic and social implications, particularly in the area of employment, it is anticipated that it will have limited direct impact in terms of our exports, Government revenues and overall growth,” President Khama said.
Khama however noted that they shall continue keeping a closer eye on the situation surrounding the dissolution of the former copper nickel giant, “Government shall, nonetheless, continue to closely monitor developments with respect to the BCL liquidation process with the view of updating our macro-economic projections as may be necessary.’’
He however acknowledged that a harsh liquidation aftermath may arise in due time. “The negative effects of the liquidation of the BCL Group may reduce this figures ,its medium to long term impacts on the economic growth , export and government revenue should be manageable,’’ he noted.President Khama further said that Phikwe would not be left to relegate into a ghost town.
“Madam Speaker, a Board for the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) has been appointed and is already engaging a Technical Advisor for the rollout of the zones. Priority is now being given to the development of the mixed use Special Economic Zone at Selibe Phikwe.”
Further emphasizing on the Phikwe revitalization strategy unveiled two weeks back under the coordination of Linah Mhohlo, Khama added that the Phikwe localized diversification vehicle SPEDU has engaged with communities in the Region to resuscitate and support development projects in such areas as piggery, fish farming through co-operatives and development trusts.
“SPEDU is also facilitating the establishment of a Regional Chamber of Commerce and the development of the strategy to incorporate the SMME’s into the mainstream economy in partnership with Business Botswana,” he said.
Khama further revealed that SPEDU is facilitating the allocation of land for the establishment of an air separation plants and an aloe Vera farm and plant. “These businesses are expected to be fully operational before the end of the 2016/17 financial year, while plans to facilitate dam tourism are also underway.”
For his part, Policy Specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development, Lawrence Ookeditse cautioned against implementation failure.
Ookeditse who continues to gain respect in policy crafting and impactful undertakings after pioneering the Job Summit and Youth Business Expo observed that the President should have stated how the issue of poor project implementation and monitoring was going to be different with Phikwe recovery. When responding to the SONA Ookeditse observes, “A chunk of money is allocated to SPEDU, the revitalization strategy is encored on SPEDU undertakings, and the same SPEDU has been there for almost 10 years and they failed dismally,” he said.
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.”