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Khama powers Cabinet more

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.

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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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