Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama is said to have cast a frustrated face at a party caucus recently following events that unfolded in Parliament when his two new Specially Elected Members of Parliament went through the formal voting process.
Reports indicate that the President was not happy with the actions of some of his Members of Parliament during the voting session. He is said to have interrogated his battalion of party legislators at a party caucus this week over the spoilt votes during the voting of the SEMPs, WeekendPost has learnt.
Parliament was asked to vote for Mephato Reatile and Bogolo Kenewendo as Specially Elected Members of Parliament. The two were brought forward by President Khama as his preferred candidates to fill the two vacant posts that arose following the passing of an amendment that allowed for the increase of Specially Elected Members of Parliament from four to six.
Out of the 48 lawmakers who took part in the duo’s election, four votes cast by BDP members were “spoilt” as all the eleven opposition members’ who present during the voting session had abstained from the vote. The spoiling of votes by the BDP legislators is said to have irked the party president who was physically present at the caucus that certified his choice of SEMPs last week. Only 33 cast their votes for Reatile while Kenewendo was voted for by 31. Insiders say those who spoilt votes deliberately were communicating their displeasure at the choice of candidates for the two new SEMP posts.
The caucus’ resolution that was reached after copious justifications was that Reatile was a politically charged hard worker while Kenewendo was a world class economist and both would add value to the party. The BDP president is said to have “aired his concern” over the spoilt votes and told the BDP lawmakers that it was not the right thing to “spoil votes” and added that party members should always respect the decision of the caucus even when they had previously disagreed with such decisions.
“Yes it is true President Khama was concerned about the four BDP MP’s who spoilt their votes on SEMP nomination despite having endorsed both two SEMP nominees at the party caucus,” BDP Chief Whip and Letlhakeng/Lephephe legislator, Liakat Kablay confirmed to Weekend Post on Thursday.
MP Kablay explained that, “the caucus is binding and every decision is a consequence of heated debates amongst colleagues and ultimately the majority takes the order of the day and that’s how they came to a conclusion to endorse the president’s choice.”
This publication has gathered that the President felt embarrassed that some MP’s nonetheless went ahead and defied the party caucus decision. “Some MP’s felt that it will be difficult to trace those 4 outcast party legislators otherwise they would have called for their removal from the party,” Kablay maintained.
Indications suggest that two MPs may have apologised to the president already for contravening the party line. According to the BDP Chief Whip, “all MP’s were cautioned about breaking ranks with president Khama after caucus and they should refrain from frustrating him as a party leader.”
This publication understands that there were some legislators who raised alarm over Reatile’s being returned to parliament- instead proposing the name of party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane. In particular the MP’s wanted to sabotage the inclusion of Reatile on SEMP dispensation as they felt it was unreasonable and uncalled for.
At the said party caucus, Francistown West lawmaker, Ignatious Moswaane and Shashe West legislator, Fidelis Molao were amongst those who did not shy away from breaking ranks with fellow party members and rather suggested Ntuane.
However it is understood that party MP’s turned down their offer on account that the president cannot be opposed on his choice. The general belief among the MPS was that the president might have had his own details in choosing the twosome that would possibly aid the party and consequently government. It is not clear whether the two were amongst the four that went further to spoil their votes in protest of president and by extension caucus’ choice of SEMP.
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.”