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MPs query multi-billion pula military spending

Opposition Members of Parliament are not ready to let go of the controversial multi-billion pula military spending. Opposition firebrands, Dithapelo Keorapetse and retired Major General Pius Mokgware evoked new perspectives to the debate when responding the State of the Nation Address (SONA) recently in parliament.


The Youthful Selibe Phikwe West lawmaker, Keorapetse had no kind words for what he termed a defunct National Defence Council. He also spoke strongly about the poor conditions of service for soldiers; while Major General Mokgware of Gabane – Mmankgodi constituency has a plethora of questions and wants the history of of procurement at the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) probed.


Furthermore, the two law makers want careful watch on the future multibillion pula purchases since the defence and security’s 22 billion pula budget has been approved for the National Development Plan 11 which will run for the next six years. The former army general observes that the BDF has been questionable from the time when President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama (then Brigadier General) was overseeing the procurement when he was Lt General Mompati Merafhe’s Deputy Commander under the Chief Command of his Father, the late Sir Seretse Khama the then first President of Botswana.


Mokgware’s argument coils around the millions of pula worth of tenders awarded to a logistics company named Seleka springs, which is associated with Dr Ian Khama’s brothers, Antony & Tshekedi Khama, now Minister of Natural Resource Wildlife & Tourism and the other a millionaire business mogul.
Furthermore Mokgware told this publication earlier this week that more oversight has to be channeled towards the purchase of the supersonic arms of war and gripens.


“Now more billions of taxpayers’ money will be chewed up in the NDP 11 towards purchase of these military gadgets, more public funds will be embezzled on unproccedural BDF procurement tendering,” he said. Opposition cites an example of 1998 procurement. “In 1998 BDF acquired over 90 SK 105 tanks, including recovery armored and command vehicles, from Austria these were obsolete vehicles, they were overheating and could be good for very cold climates and not our semi-arid land  or hot climate. It was for all intends and purposes a fraudulent procurement which couldn’thelp the BDF meets its operational needs, consequently putting our armored regiments at risk’’.


For his part the Minister of Defense Justice & Security, Shaw Kgathi continues to justify the expenditure as meeting the ever evolving security vulnerability of today‘s advanced crimes and terrorism. He labels Mokgware an “irresponsible leader”. He says these alleged unprocedural acquisitions could have happened right under his nose when he was still with the army.


CAPTURED & TOOTHLESS DEFENCE COUNCIL


The Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse observes that Botswana’s defence constitutional framework is rotten. He singled out the Defence Council which he labelled toothless and captured by the Presidency which is given absolute powers by the same constitution.  


Keorapetse argues that the Defence Council is useless and incompetent as an institution mandated with defence and security oversight. Deliberating on the ineffectiveness of the Defence Council in a communiqué he sent to the WeekendPost, Keorapetse states that “Section 8 of the Botswana Defence Force Act establishes a Defence Council and the lack of functional clarity has been decried by many analysts.

The President as the Commander in Chief appoints members of the council and the Commander is an ex officio member. Keorapetse is of the view the legislators should have more say on the operations of the Defence Council.  “Parliament also has a member in the Defence Council and this member has, since the president decided to appoint an MP to the council, always been picked from the ruling party side and the reason remains a myth. It is our considered view that the same principle applied on the chairmanship of the PAC should be applied when appointing an MP member of Defence Council,” he explained.


DEFENCE SPENDING AND QUESTIONABLE PROCUREMENT

According to Keorapetse, the BDF is under siege from vultures masquerading as military hardware suppliers. He observes that procurement is forced into BDF by the well-connected middle men who want to enrich themselves in many cases against the advice of defence experts. “What is procured by the BDF sometimes is unneeded; there is a need for a forensic audit and corruption investigation into all BDF major arms acquisitions,” he argues.

The Selibe Phikwe West MP says the armored regiments are supposed to be battalion size formations equipped with battle tanks including challengers, recovery and command vehicles, but currently and for many years Botswana has been with ill equipped armored regiments and the BDF is now trying to acquire 45 8by8 General Dynamics Piranha Armored Vehicles (and MDA air defence systems from Switzerland)to equip its armored personnel.

Botswana is currently negotiating for Saab Gripen multirole jet fighters which will cost the tax payer between 16-18 billion or US$1.4 billion-1.6 billion). That there were negotiations was confirmed by Sweden’s Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). “Why does Botswana want to invest in reach or a third layer of air defence without adequate first and second layers?” quizzed Keorapetse.

He further explains that are the BDF air defence guns are dead, anti-aircraft missiles are decommissioned and the army is grappling with obsolete avionics. The Gripens can reach Abuja (Nigeria) and back without refilling. “Who do we want to reach that far?” Keorapetse threw in a rhetorical question calling for arms investment that is up to date with evolving technology and ICT: “Why not invest in radar systems and other technologies to guard our airspace rather than spending on luxury? These fighter jets will only be used during BDF day celebrations, apart from training, he says.

The Legislator says the BDF needs multipurpose helicopters which can be configured according to situational needs. He adds that it also needs ordinary military vehicles for transporting soldiers in operations.

POOR CONDITIONS OF SERVICE FOR SOLDEIRS

Keorapetse, who is also the BCP spokesperson shared on Tuesday that he is surprised that the government spends on arms hardware while soldiers are unmotivated and serving on poor conditions. ”BDF men and women in uniform are unmotivated because of poor conditions of service; they are poorly remunerated; are promoted after longer periods of time, if they are lucky to be promoted; and are seldom debt free. There is no special pay model or X-Factor for the soldiers,” he observes.

According to Keorapetse the BDF continues to ignore a White Paper Authorizing unitary pay structure, urging that the pay structure must be implemented. “Training and development is slow for some and absent for many. Some officers live in tents, others in ramshackle like structures called zozos; while many live in deplorable 100 men blocks and others, including those that are married, live in shared accommodation.”

Keorapetse further points out that career development is a challenge at the army. He explained that there are soldiers who haven’t been promoted for over ten years. Training, including attainment of academic and other qualifications is slow, the MP alleges further citing that selection for training and development is not systematic: “it is haphazard and unfair. Self-development is extremely difficult because of the nature of military duties; some soldiers are misplaced in various units putting their careers in jeopardy,” he lashed out.

But there is one glimmer of hope according to the BCP MP. He notes that government must be commended for setting up the Defence Command and Staff College including the building of the facilities at Glen Valley as well as the engagement of the University of Botswana (UB) for Post Graduate Diploma and Master’s Degree in Defence Strategic Studies. He further advises that government should set up a BDF training academy under the Force Training Establishment and improve the Junior Command at SSKB and Flying school/training at Thebephatshwa air base.

“There is serious shortage of uniform and some soldiers have to cut their boots to level the uneven soles of their boot and there is also basic transport shortage. He said soldiers have no voice because bargaining structures are seen as recipe for mutiny. According to Keorapetse BDF soldiers’ conditions of service must be improved as soon as possible. “The government should also open up about the Tsa Badiri Consultancy on the conditions of the BDF soldiers, we need to know what the findings were and the recommendations as well as what has been done about the report.”

Keorapetse further notes that ideally a country must keep a young motivated and disciplined army. “BDF soldiers therefore retire at 45 years or after 20 years of service or for senior officers mostly at 55 years of age” adding that consequently, former army officers end up with monthly pensions of 20%-30% of their last salary or less, instead of the ideal 75% of last salary. He argues that this condemns former BDF soldiers to poverty upon retirement.

“This is a great security threat because trained soldiers may device unorthodox means to survive including crime or worse – such as selling of military state secrets, BDF soldiers can’t operate businesses like other civil servants could do, they can go away on trips in the bush for 2-6 months.” Keorapetse boils his argument to stipulating that the alternative therefore is for them to be paid well and for the government to contribute more to their pensions.

“There has to be a robust and well-coordinated demilitarization program to integrate soldiers into society upon retirement, The BDP must get the message that a soldier remains constant, the army can change equipment or technology, but if the soldier is unmotivated it will lose battles and the war. In fact there are worries that former and serving army men may be involved in serious crimes due to poor working and retirement conditions,” said Keprapetse.

Keorapetse further delivers BCP stance as not against military spending: “we are for spending informed by thorough security threats analysis and needs assessment, most threats the country is facing are unconventional threats; they are human security threats such as poverty, unemployment, income and wealth inequalities, environmental issues and health challenges such as epidemics, he observes.

According to Keorapetse, the region enjoys relative durable peace since the fall of oppressive apartheid and the risk of inter-state total wars in the region are small to absent. ‘’We are for the reduction of the powers of the President in relation to the armed forces and the strengthening of democratic oversight of the armed forces, including parliamentary oversight of defence and security.

 

We are against the ensuing state capture cloaked under “addressing operational requirements” of the security sector. We are for X-Factor allowance in recognition of the unique nature of soldiering. It is important that there is reduction of Operations Other than War for the military. Soldiers must train for war during peace times and be removed from policing duties for instance. There is a need to deploy BDF in peace keeping missions abroad,” said the BCP MP.

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Sex on the Alter: Demons lurking within holy walls

29th September 2020
Sex-on-the-Alter--Demons-lurking-within-holy-walls-

From time immemorial the church was seen as a sacred haven for weary souls and those who need rest from worldly aches and pains. This is even written in the Holy Bible; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

This being said, anyone would be forgiven to think that the first place to run to would be the church. Time has however changed this.

The atrocities perpetrated by the church and their pastors or those who have been called upon to ‘lead the flock’ have not only distorted their mission, they have caused followers immeasurable pains.

Adorned in the finest regalia in church, the so called men of God are nothing but wolf in sheep’s clothing as they lurk in church corners to prey on the innocent and vulnerable in a place where victims thought was their ‘Father’s house’.

Behind every monster are those who clean up after it and in this case, these are church followers who are alive to the inhumane acts caused by the very men of God whom they have put on pedestals. These followers, more often than not are Elders in the church or those in the revered pastor’s inner circles. These followers would, in an attempt to shield their ‘man of God’, portray the victim as a Jezebel, and shield their pastor and the church’s reputation, forsaking the trauma inflicted upon the victim.

The author of ‘Sex on the Alter’, Kaelo McCoffee was inspired to pen down his book after seeing the endless and unreported incidents that occurred within church walls.

It’s like a play, a drama based on true stories of how “men of God” abuse women sexually, use them and dump them.  Not just that, but it addresses how desperate women are for marriage and relationships, resulting in pain. This is covering ill activities happening in the church,” said McCoffee.

“The purpose of this book is to open someone’s eyes, not just ladies, even guys, that church might be seen or recognised as a good place to be, that might be true yes, but people shouldn’t feel comfortable because they are in church. They should be aware of the dangers that can happen to them in church, like I talked about abuse. I wrote this book to bring awareness, mostly to women because they’re the ones always going through such mostly.”

If one is to look at the grabbling GBV cases within Botswana that occur on a daily basis, one would expect the church to intervene. Not this time around, seeing as how the church is marred with such cases.

“I’ve seen young girls being used because they fell in love with the guy in a nice suit, they get deceived by material things, they get lied to, “I’ll marry you” but after sleeping with them, they leave them, young girls end up reporting cases of rape, yet the truth is they were in love, but because the promises weren’t fulfilled there’s always drama. Some get paid to be silent. I won’t mention anyone by names, but this is what has been happening in many churches, hearts are being broken in the name of the “anointed one”. I’m not saying every man of God, I’m talking about things I know of and I’ve heard happening,” he said.

“And to God it’s an abomination to drag His name into sin and claiming to be righteous, if God has promised in His word that His servants will even face more punishment for diverting His people into wrong doings then they deserve to be punished, they’re humans and they are not even doing what they preach. If the men of God in the Bible got punished for such doings what more of these guys who mess with our sisters.”

In an Interview with WeekendPost, the founder of Epistle of Power International Church (EPIC), Duncan Katse confirmed with this publication that these devious acts are very much present within churches and orchestrated by the so called ‘pastors’.

“It is true and one thing that makes it true is that we have got a lot of pastors who are not really trained in the area of becoming a pastor and there was no discipline instilled. Young ladies also trust their pastors and spiritual mentors with their all; their lives, their bodies. So when these pastors notice that they are highly regarded they can do anything. If there is no alignment in the mentorship, it is easy for the pastor to manipulate the congregants with spiritual things.”

“Some would say ‘God wants us to have our moment alone’, they will start manufacturing funny prophecies to make the person comfortable to relax with them. Sometimes in private spaces, which becomes very dangerous for a young lady. Not all the ladies who go to church have the intension of sleeping with the man of God. Most women do not report these cases because some judge themselves and are afraid to be accused for falsely accusing the man of God,” said Katse.

How women are raped in church

According to close sources, these so called ‘men of God’, threaten young girls after sleeping with them and that they will be cursed should they decide to speak out. Some will be threatened with the infamous line; ‘touch not my anointed.’

“They use their spiritual and prophetic authority to manipulate these women into raping them. There is also an oil called ‘do as I say’ and most of the girls who became victims will tell you, after being raped, they did not know how the rape occurred. Once they apply that oil, whatever they say you are going to do it whether you like it or not.  That is why most of these girls are raped and left sick because most of these men of God are sick. They are sick of HIV/AIDS and STI’s. Before raping these women they prepare them emotionally by taking them out for dinners and they end up raping them.”

Botswana Council of Churches responds

Sexual violence and abuse has been an enormously painful and common feature of our collective past. No sector of society, churches included, has been immune to the problem of sexual violence. It is horrible. Whenever we have seen sexual violence, it has always been an offence to God, and a shattering of God’s good, redemptive hopes for the human story. Sexual abuse is clearly a shattering of God’s intentions for our humanity,” said Bishop Metlha Beleme from Botswana Council of Churches

“When God’s ways are honoured, there is love, because love – the Scriptures tell us – is the very nature and character of God. When you think about it, sexual violence does all the opposite of 1Corinthians 13:4-7, which talks about love. God wants us to experience love. So, apart from the laws of the land, the Church also has Canon law and the Church court for the trial of such offences as Sexual Immorality.”

Beleme further highlighted that; ‘‘there are other healing processes that follow e.g. forgiveness and reconciliation, counselling. Amongst other things we can confess that Church Leaders and Pastors are sinners too, and must be held accountable,” he said.

Maybe when all is said and done, the long arm of the law will forever elude churches as evidenced by the many cases internationally regarding the Catholic church and the cases of paedophilia and child molestation that have been ongoing for years on end. And very rarely in Botswana do pastors face criminal charges in court for sex offenses and that may also be because very few women come forth for fear of being ostracised by both church and society.

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Parliament caucus: The toxic destruction of MPs’ legislative duty

29th September 2020
Parliament

Every five years, a cohort of newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) gather at parliament buildings to take a symbolic oath to assume new role as rarefied individuals who make Botswana’s laws — as prescribed in the constitution — for the good governance of Botswana. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA observes an abdication of responsibility that has become a new normal in the business of parliament. 

Few days before President Sir Ketumile Masire cleared his desk at Office of the President to end an eventful and successful 18 year presidency, his apparent heir, Festus Mogae was reaching out to opposition legislators in a bid to solicit for support for his choice for Vice President.

Since 1997 constitutional amendments, parliament has been mandated with the responsibility of endorsing the Vice President before assuming office.

Mogae was scheduled to ascend to the highest position in the land in wake of series of events in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that made him the only viable candidate. Beleaguered by factions, Mogae could not count on his polarised party.

As many noted, Mogae was relatively a new entrant in the BDP politics. Though he was an accomplished technocrat, he was not a political power horse and was without the charisma that the likes of Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and the late Lt General Merafhe had.

Luckily for Mogae, his choice for Vice President was a likeable figure — Lt Gen Ian Khama — and accepted across factional divide, and even more remarkably, by some in opposition ranks. The name was endorsed by all BDP MPs, and the cherry on top; by additional two opposition MPs.

The build-up to this accomplishment however highlighted one major thing that Mogae never took for granted — the legitimate power of MPs.

Even in his presidency, Mogae sought to use parliament caucus for the purpose of achieving consensus rather than imposing his own will. Throughout his presidency, Mogae had to navigate through the hostile factions that kept him on his toes.

In 2003, Mogae in what proved to be naïve, publicly endorsed his Vice President- Khama, in the party chairmanship race against Kedikilwe, the co-leader of what was then known as Kwelagobe/Kedikilwe faction, and later Barataphathi.

Inevitably, Khama won the chairmanship — a development that saw Barataphathi losing control of the Central Committee, for the first time since 1981. With victory in 2003, emerged a rebranded faction called A-Team, led by Merafhe and Jacob Nkate.

The faction will come to dominate both the Central Committee and cabinet after 2004 general elections. Mogae had left out Kwelagobe, Kedikilwe, and GUS Matlhabaphiri out of cabinet after 2004 general elections, inadvertently strengthening the backbench which closed ranks with opposition MPs to subject the executive to scrutiny.

At the height of exercising their power, the backbench blocked and rejected government policies and other pieces of legislation brought before parliament.

By 2006, cabinet found it difficult to pass bills, including the Judges Pension Bill and the crucial intelligence bill which created the DIS in 2007.

Faced with a rigid backbench, Mogae reshuffled his cabinet in 2007 restructuring ministries to accommodate members of rival faction in cabinet. Thereafter, the relationship between cabinet and backbench became cordial.

“I am fully aware that the MPs, both the former ministers, the cabal of some new MPs and the rest of the House, can make and unmake me politically,” Mogae famously said at 2001 BDP Congress in Palapye, as he deliberated on some of the demands brought forward by MPs.

Like anywhere else in democratic dispensations, MPs hold their own and are not pushovers, even in instances where the executive belongs to the same political party that controls the legislative house.

Mogae had accepted that MPs have their own responsibility and that their power was legitimate. Throughout his presidency, his modus operandi was to consult MPs through caucus whenever an important decision was to be made in parliament.

The approach was also the tradition during the presidency of Masire, the founding father of both the BDP and the nation. Masire considered therisanyo paramount prior to any decision making and was described by Mogae during his memorial as, “consultative, collaborative and patient.”

In 2008, things started to change. In recent years, BDP caucus has become increasingly powerful. Unlike in the past, instead of seeking consensus, MPs have been forced to support decisions of the cabinet, even when MPs are not in agreement.

“Caucus has always been there and it is part and parcel of parliament in democracy. Caucus can be flexible depending on leadership. Some issues are allowed conscience debate if caucus cannot reach consensus,” said a high ranking BDP member who served as MP under both Mogae and Khama.

“Mogae was liberal and allowed MPs to use their conscience when there was no consensus. Caucus only became a contentious issue during Khama [Ian] presidency and today.”

In 2011, weeks after civil servants called off strikes that lasted nearly three months, and crippled the economy, then junior minister in the ministry of Local Government, Kentse Rammidi resigned from the cabinet amid a position taken by the party.

In trying to deal with power of civil servants, cabinet brought before parliament a Bill that sought to prevent a number of cadres in the civil service including teachers from participating in industrial action by making them essential service.

Rammidi, who had sympathised with workers during the strike chose to quit the party after BDP caucus forced MPs to support the bill which was to be brought to parliament by then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele.

The development set had ushered in a new era in the governance of BDP, with the Executive effectively rendering Parliament — which by all intent and purpose is meant to prove checks on it — a rubber stamp.

The BDP caucus effectively derives its mandate from President as the head of executive.

The latest victim of the domineering caucus is Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Reggie Reatile.

Two months ago, the maverick MP was slapped with suspension for abstaining instead of voting alongside agreed party caucus positions.

In the build-up to his suspension, Reatile had on numerous occasions voted against the BDP on the Parliament floor. Reatile also abstained when voting was called on the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Amendment Bill meant to create the position of Judge Advocate General.

Reatile was also the BDP black sheep that voted against Speaker of Parliament, Phandu Skelemani’s decision to suspend Leader of Opposition (LOO) Dumelang Saleshando, from parliament last month.

Prior to Reatile, maverick Ignatius Moswaane, Francistown West legislator, was also suspended. Moswaane has also proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party as he consistently refused to toe the party line, instead following his conscience.

Moswaane has since resigned from the BDP in favour of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The insistence on block voting have seen parliament being ultra-polarised, and inadvertently at the expense of the public and good governance.

Despite the country grappled with rising incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV), the ruling MPs rejected a motion tabled by Mahalapye East MP, Yandani Boko, following a caucus decision.

Boko had tabled a motion on urgency calling for parliament to request President Mokgweetsi Masisi to set-up a Commission of Inquiry on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and other Sexual Offences.

During the BDP caucus, it was agreed that the motion should not be agreed upon, but instead be countered with a suggestion that the duty be referred to an Inter-Ministerial Committee.

Commissions of Inquiry Act empowers the President to set-up a commission and to set its terms of reference.

The motion was however withdrawn by the mover following lack of support from BDP majority.

The rejection of the motion is part of many that have not survived the might of BDP caucus.

In the run-up to 2019 general election, Masisi promised to repeal the infamous Media Practitioners Act passed during his predecessor’s administration. The promise was buttressed in the BDP 2019 election manifesto.

However, when Selibe Phikwe West lawmaker, Dithapelo Keorapetse, brought before parliament the same bill, the ruling party caucus tore it apart. In brief; it was rejected.

The constitution of Botswana, adopted in 1966 following independence, vests legislative powers in parliament. Parliament, through its committees is empowered to provide oversight.

Parliament, indirectly elects the President and also has power to dissolve parliament through a pass of motion of no confidence on government supported by simple majority.

Parliament also approves national spending and also entitled to amend certain provisions of the constitution, save for entrenched provisions.

In giving parliament the legislative duties, the constitution also gives the President the power to ascent to bills passed by parliament or return them to parliament if not satisfied. Nevertheless, if parliament insists on not making any amendments, the President is compelled to ascent to the Bill failing which parliament will lead to the dissolution of parliament, necessitating new elections.

With so much power at its disposal why is parliament abdicating its true responsibility?

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Gov’t urged to stimulate economies until 2021

29th September 2020
Gov’t-urged-to-stimulate-economies-until-2021-Women-are-amongst-the-most-vulnerable-and-hard-hit-groups,-including-migrants,-young-people-and-informal-workers

The latest edition of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Monitor shows the continuing and devastating impacts of the pandemic on jobs and labour income since early 2020, and the massive disruptions in the labour market that will persist into the fourth quarter of this year.

ILO analysts argue that policymakers will need to maintain support to employment and incomes over the coming months and well into 2021, and to address key challenges.

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