Members of the executive have increased by four after President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama promoted a couple of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators from the backbench – a move that some say literally seals cabinet’s power over the other arms of government.
Following the elevation of the four backbenchers namely Ngami Member of Parliament, Thato Kwerepe; Boteti East Legislator, Itumeleng Moipisi; Tati West Member of Parliament, Biggie Butale; and Mmadinare law maker, Kefentse Mzwinila to cabinet, the third arm of government’s grip on power is expected to bolden further.
Kwerepe has been appointed assistant minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration which headed by former permanent secretary to the president, Eric Molale; while Butale is Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry which is led by Vincent Seretse. The decision to promote Butale automatically sends his litany of proposed motions to the gutter. Butale was intending to challenge establishment with some of his motions, calling for introduction of mother tongue language in schools, among other controversial subjects.
Itumeleng Moipisi is the new assistant minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. He will be under the supervision of Prince Maele. The newly renamed Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development respectively has a new assistant Minister in Kefentse Mzwinila, the most educated Member of Parliament who boosts several degrees, some at masters level.
Observers believe that the level of quality of debates is likely to decrease since the ruling party back bench has been weakened. In particular maverick law makers such as Biggie Butale will be silenced because of the collective responsibility approach of the executive. The pointed debates from the Tati West legislator will be a thing of yesterday as he will be expected to toe the line.
The controversial ‘opposition motions’ such as the introduction of indigenous languages to the curriculum and establishment of community radio and television stations will not see the light of day, at least in 2016 as their most energetic champion, Biggie Butale has been silenced by a cabinet appointment.
Butale appropriated the motions which in previous years were raised by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and noticed them in parliament for re-debate. But it is likely that the motions will be picked up by another Member of Parliament most likely from the opposition benches.
Butale told this publication two weeks ago, with gusto, that he was confident his motions would be debated in parliament when it reconvenes in October. But now President Khama has rewarded him with a cabinet position.
He further argued that it does not mean that if the ruling party rejected similar motions in the past, it will continue to do the same at other times. “Times change, it doesn’t mean that they will continue to reject them,” said Butale a fortnight ago.
Butale, who is also a pastor, further said that he continues to resurrect them because he feels they can be of assistance to the most vulnerable of society. He expressed optimism that the motions will pass because BDP parliamentary caucus had already given them its blessings.
Butale also stated that the motions are not in any way pro-opposition but in actual fact will serve to demonstrate that BDP is answerable to the needs of the larger populace.
The initial motion to introduce other indigenous languages in the education curriculum has previously been rejected in the ruling party quarters as “divisive and impractical” and further described as “some new form of Bantu style education”
It was introduced by former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) politician and Selibe Phikwe Member of Parliament (MP) Gilson Saleshando.
His motion calling for the establishment of community radio and television station has also in the past been trashed by ruling party MP’s reasoning that the same have fueled ethnic divisions in Rwanda.
Previously when the motions were tabled by opposition parties’, current cabinet big wigs such as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Defence Minister Shaw Kgathi dismissed them with a passion.
A single motion by Thato Kwerepe calling for the introduction of a law for people with disabilities will also fall by the wayside.
BDP MPs who spoke to this publication reason that the reason they supported the addition of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament was in recognition of the latest development where President Khama recruited four backbenchers. “The back bench was going to be bankrupt, we just hope that the President’s two nominees for SEMPs will add value to the debates in Parliament,” said one of the BDP MPs. He pointed out that opposition did not have foresight to realis that the impending reshuffle had the potential to cripple Parliament because Cabinet will be too strong and weigh on the backbench and combined opposition.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Shoshong Member of Parliament, Dikgang Makgalemele has been redeployed from Office of the President to the Ministry of Health and Wellness as Assistant Minister. Observers are of the view that he is not happy with this move but he will take it anyway. He is an ambitious politician and he would have loved a promotion instead.
Kitso Mokaila has been given the Ministry of Transport and Communications following reports that he did not want the Minsitry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. It is evident that his latest portfolio was a compromise.
Dr Unity Dow has been named the minister of the newly created Ministry of Basic Education. She will be assisted by Master Goya. Others are of the view that she would have wanted to be at Tertiary level.
Nkage Member of Parliament Edwin Batshu will take care of the newly created Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs ministry.
Dr Alfred Madigela has been promoted to senior minister at Tertiary Education,Research,Science & Technology and he is assisted by Fidelis Molao. Sadique Kebonanghas also been promoted to head the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. He was assistant minister at Trade under Vincent Seretse.
FULL LIST OF MINISTERS
Mr Eric Molale is the minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration assisted by Mr Thato Kwerepe.
Mr Shaw Kgathi remains Minister of Defence, Justice and Security.
Mr Patrick Ralotsia is Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security assisted by Mr Kgotla Autlwetse.
Mr Nonofho Molefhi is Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development.
Dr Unity Dow is Minister of Basic Education, assisted by Mr Moiseraele Goya.
Mr Tshekedi Khama is Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.
Mr Kenneth Matambo is Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation.
Ms Dorcas Makgato is Minister of Health and Wellness assisted by Mr Dikgang Makgalemele
Mr Tshenolo Mabeo is Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development.
Mr Prince Maele is Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services assisted by Mr Itumeleng Moipisi.
Mr Slumber Tsogwane remains Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and still assisted by Ms Botlogile Tshireletso and Mr Frans Van Der Westhuizen.
Advocate Sadique Kebonang is Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.
Mr Vincent Seretse remains Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, assisted by Mr Biggie Butale.
Mr Kitso Mokaila is Minister of Transport and Communications.
Mr Thapelo Olopeng is Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development assisted by Mr Kefentse Mzwinila.
Dr Alfred Madigele is Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, assisted by Mr Fidelis Molao.
Mr Edwin Batshu is Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.
The Cabinet appointments take effect from October 1.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.