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Our 100 million Pula bash

The P100 million budget given to the BOT50 committee to prepare for the Golden Jubilee celebrations has been justified. The event that marked the opening ceremony for the Independence celebrations held on Thursday night also put to rest doubts over the P14 million tender awarded to Redpepper to organising the opening ceremony for the 50th anniversary Independence celebrations.

It was the biggest and best party in the 50 years of Botswana’s Independence.

The best way to capture events of our Golden Jubilee celebrations is to line up words according to letters of the alphabet and re-live the moments from the eve of Independence to the D-Day.  Putting these words into action in their order of sequence gives a picture of what transpired on September 29th and 30th at the Gaborone International Conference Centre and the National Stadium:   

The Redpepper organised Independence eve ceremony invited Admiration; it lived to the expectation of a national  Anniversary, hence our Anthem got to be Appreciated by our international guests ; It was a Blast of Blue, a Boisterous Celebration that saw Citizens Colour a Commemoration well-Coordinated by Redpepper and BOT50 organising committee. The Crescendo of Crowds in Darkness was Dazzling. There were Demonstrations of fireworks Detonated in Dramatic fashion to mark 50 years of self-rule. For some, it was an Emotional Experience filled with Energy, Entertainment and Enthusiasm. The Explosions of firecrackers gave meaning to the Extravaganza. It was Fabulous and Families that attended at the national stadium were Fascinated by the Festival of Firecrackers. It was a Glittering Gathering that marked our History on a Holiday that Inspired Hope and Hoopla. Our people Celebrated.  

It was Jaw dropping, this was a Joyous moment, full of Jubilation and Laughter – the event is Legendary. It gave us Light into our Memorable past and the Memories of September 29th and 30th shall last because of the Music and the National Noise that we caused to happen. It was an Occasion and Outing not to be missed, it was Overwhelming, Everybody Participated in this national Party, a clear sign of Patriotism organised in a Pattern that demonstrated Pomp, and Power of unity; as well the importance of Preparations, but most importantly it captured our Pride as a nation.  The event was peppered with Quality in all its aspects. 

The Red lights that flashed as the BDF and artists performed reminded us of Redpepper’s excellent work in organising the event; everybody was Rejoicing with Responsibility. Our Traditions were on display as we paid Tribute to our forefathers and ourselves.  It was an Unbelievable and Unique ceremony.  From different Views at the national stadium, one could paint a Vision of where coming from and going as a nation. President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama punctuated the celebrations by launching the new national Vision 2036, which also introduces the National Development Plan 11, as Botswana matches to a centenary of celebrations.

PRESIDENT KHAMA’S DANCE MOVES

Multitudes of those who attended the pre-Independence ceremony at the national stadium, including President Khama could resist the local tunes. President Khama, a known enthusiast of music made use of his dancing skills but this time around he was not responding to the soft sound bites of Polka, he was mesmerised by Dr Vom’s Tsaya Thobane. The number one citizen accompanied by Minister of Youth Sport, and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng nailed the Dikhwaere melody. The two displayed a well-coordinated dance up the grand stand of the national stadium with almost the entire crowd cheering them. Once again Dr Vom proved that he is a crowd favourite.    

LOCAL ARTISTS ROCK THE NIGHT

It was a night to remember for local artists who came out to perform during the eve of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The golden queen Maxy led the pack with her 2008 hit song Re Batswana which captures our history and character as a nation. Dr Vom was in his element as he got President Khama and Minister Olopeng to put on their dancing boots to recognise his famous song Tsaya Thobane – one of the biggest songs to ever be produced locally. The phenomenal Vee could not miss such an event of pomp and class, as usual he did his magic and the crowd was impressed with his performance. Veteran kwasa kwasa and rumba musicians, Franco, Alfredo Mos and Jeff Matheatau re-lived the old memories with some of their hit songs from yester years. The music part of the celebrations was worth it, and the fact that it was all local glossed the self-rule tag.

SOUND, LIGHTING GLOSS UP CELEBRATIONS 

With a fourteen million pula budget, Red Pepper PR did not compromise on quality, they brought the best sound ever and the lighting was very professional. Throughout the event, the mood swayed along in different lighting patterns such as up- lighting, string lights, pattern projection as well as pin-spotting which was beautifully done with almost all the colours. It was a night to remember, Batswana were given the best party in 50 years of Independence.

BDF STILL RULES THE ROOST

Our National Stadium has a capacity of over 25000, the BDF has never struggled to fill up the stadium with their annual BDF Day celebrations. The army men still lived up to their billing as they proved to be the darling of the crowd with their coordinated moves. They are very excellent entertainers through their music and drills. They captivated the crowd with the Independence eve drills and music. With the pride associated with celebrating 50 years of Independence being the major crowd puller, there is no doubt the BDF was also the magnet that wooed Batswana to the National Stadium.

IT WAS A FIRE CRACKING NIGHT

Many will attest to the view that most people at the national stadium have never attended a fireworks show. The Coordinator of the BOT50 events, Ms Charity Kgotlafela had promised firecrackers like no other, and indeed she delivered. Our people were treated to one of the best fireworks displays on Thursday’s Celebration marking the opening ceremony of our Independence Day celebrations.

Everyone was fascinated by the fireworks display, their movement, sounds and lighting – some shot straight up before exploding, others whirl in a spiral, some shatter into thousands of sparks, others tumble like a scarlet waterfall or float in a glittering silver shower.  There were various colours as the crackers exploded, we experienced blue, red, green, silver, green, yellow and all the noisy colours and the shapes were plenty.  The  movements kept one’s eyes pinned to the sky as the fireworks would coll, jet, spin, spiral, whirl, whisk, burst, spurt, shoot, spatter, splatter, spurt, gush, rain, spray, scatter, dart, whizz, zoom, float, flitter. The light quality was dazzling, blazing, shimmering, glittering, sparkling, glowing, glimmering, twinkling.  There were happy faces all over the stadium and at homes. Oh yes, hundreds of thousands were glued to their television screens to be part of history. It was a sight to behold.

KHAMA LAUNCHES VISION 2036

On Independence Day, President Khama launched Vision 2036, which takes over from Vision 2016. The new vision borrows from the just concluded vision and marks the beginning of National Development Plan 11. 

The new national vision tagged ‘achieving prosperity for all’, has been in the oven for over a year and is ready to be rolled out. The vision is hailed as a game-changer in the socio-economic and political space. It is anchored on four pillars that are expected to lead Batswana to the “Botswana we want by 2036.” The pillars are Sustainable Economic Development, Human and Social Development, Sustainable Development and Governance, Peace and Security. The vision was arrived at following three broad questions; what kind of Botswana do we want to build by the year 2036? what kind of person would a Motswana like to be in 2036 and lastly in order to achieve these dreams and aspirations, what should be done, and by who?  The Vision 2036 document suggests that, “by 2036, Botswana will be a high-income country, with an export led economy underpinned by diversified, inclusive and sustainable growth driven by high levels of productivity.”

OUR FRIENDS GRACED THE MILESTONE EVENT  

Various Head of States and international guests descended in the capital Gaborone to witness the historic event, which marked 50 years since Botswana began the journey of self-rule.

The 29th of September started with an award ceremony that recognised our founding fathers and other pioneers of the modern day Botswana. The awards were followed by an opening ceremony that we described above. Go to page 7 of this issue to read more on those who were awarded by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama. 

Britain, which granted Botswana independence in 1966, was represented by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is the second son of the reigning Queen Elizabeth II.  Queen Elizabeth II, ascended to the throne in 1952, and it was under her rule that Botswana gained independence. Before independence, Botswana had been a protectorate since 1885.

Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Chairperson and Swaziland monarch, King Mswati also attended our celebrations. Swaziland and Botswana share a common history and had good relations from time immemorial.

King Letsie III of Lesotho was also in attendance. Lesotho, just like Swaziland has worked closely with the Botswana government since 1966.

 Namibia was represented by Vice President Dr Nickey Iyambo and its former president Hefikepunye Pohamba. Namibia and Botswana are good neighbours that share common interests. In July this year, incumbent President, Hage Geingob visited Botswana at the invitation of President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama.

 Former president of Nigeria Gen. Dr Yakubu Gowon was also in attendance. Nigeria and Botswana have a relationship which includes training of members of the military and the police. The two have enjoyed a cordial relationship over the years.

The United States of America assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield also attended the celebrations. The United States is one of Botswana’s most significant diplomatic partners, and through its agencies and other non-governmental organisation, the US continues to assist government of Botswana and its communities.

Cuba’s vice president, Mr Salvador Valdes Mesa also graced the occasion. Cuba has been one of Botswana’s allies in the area of health, with Botswana having a significant number of doctors from Cuba.  Cuba also trains some of our medical practitioners and our sports heroes. 

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe who missed the eve ceremony, joined the Friday celebrations. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe also gained independence from Britain, following the collapse of Ian Smith’s rule.

Mozambique president, Filipe Nyusi was also in attendance. Although Mozambique was ruled by Portugal prior to self-rule, its relationship with Botswana is historical. Other countries, which have a relationship with Botswana, were represented by their ambassadors. 

 

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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