Following a false start comprising numerous delays of the commencement of the anticipated unity talks between main opposition parties in Botswana, the talks have finally been instigated, albeit at the exclusion of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Ndaba Gaolathe, Weekend Post can reveal.
The negotiation team comprises of individual parties; Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).
Weekend Post has it on good authority that the negotiation talks between the parties were commissioned last week on the 12th September 2016 at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng township, just outside the capital city Gaborone.
It is understood that there are no mediating partners in the negotiations this time around and that Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will be temporarily set aside to enable talks comprising individual parties to commence on a clean slate.
In fact preliminary indications suggest that there may be a new constitution, new name and the new-fangled colours which are projected to make part of the discussions and therefore the present-day UDC name may be changed if need be, particularly as there will be a new entrant being the BCP.
An impeccable source who sits in the instigated opposition negotiations table revealed that: “we are all committed and we are all pushy. Already some of the cooperating partners with the sense of urgency have drafted the governance structure and constitution of the expected new political formation and some even have submitted and more dialogue will take place and conclusions made thereafter.”
“You know we are most probable to start afresh with new constitution, name may be altered, with no UDC cards which have been the subject of debates, and existing individual parties will continue in the meantime,”he said.
It is understood that the interchanges are premised on three layers in which the first layer, which has already launched so far embraces streams which include; one team assigned to address policy issues.
Still on the stream, the other will be negotiating on the contentious subject of distribution of constituencies while the last one is intended to look at matters of governance, the constitution and power sharing arrangements.
The second layer on the talks will incorporate the central negotiating body where fiery, heated and intense debates and exchanges are anticipated to fly thick in meetings.
Information gathered suggests that the third and last layer will tackle questions of leadership of the new political collaboration formation particularly as to who becomes its president, and by extension, the president of the country if it gains power in the forthcoming 2019 General Elections.
Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando are seen as frontrunners in the presidential contest together with Ndaba Gaolathe. Speculations are rife that Margaret Nasha, Sidney Pilane are likely to add to the mix.
Although the UDC has been downgraded, initially the plan was to dispatch 18 team members from UDC and BCP into the negotiations. Out of the 18, it was understood that the UDC will be represented by 6 from BNF, 6 from BPP, and 6 from BMD. On the other hand BCP was also expected to send through 18 of its members to the table and was being waited on, and eventually it was arranged then that six members from each party will be enrolled in each category.
The impeccable source who was present at the 1st official meeting revealed that:“the first leg has started and will drag for the coming three weeks in which the next will follow and the overall talks are anticipated to complete end of October.”
In the commission historic meeting, BNF President Duma Boko was present together with BCP leader, Dumelang Saleshando. BPP was represented by its Secretary General Botho Seboko while party Chairman Nehemiah Modubule stood in for the BMD.
It attendance also was notably Margaret Nasha and Advocate Sidney Pilane both of whom are from the BMD fold. Perhaps in a more revealing way, BMD President, Ndaba Gaolathe was absent at the ground breaking meeting for reasons which this publication could not establish.
When justifying his absence at the momentous meeting of the opposition talks, Ndaba told this publication that during the meeting, he was attending the Parliamentary committee on statutory bodies throughout the week.
He added that him, Boko and Molapisi are not in negotiating teams. “We have delegated responsibility of discussions to various leaders within the UDC,” he said.
The BMD has been a thorn in the flesh for delayed commencement of talks owing to the internal feud and power struggle within the party between its National Executive Committee (NEC) and President and Vice president on the other side.
Indications suggest that Gaolathe does not see eye to eye with Pilane and queries his inclusion in the party negotiation team. Pilane has been roped in to represent the party on governance, constitution and power sharing category.
It is understood that this does not sit well with some BMD cadres including the president. In earnest they believe that Gaolathe is being side-lined at the negotiations which have now taken full force.
Meanwhile when reached for comment UDC Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa confirmed that indeed the talks have started although he could not divulge more details.
“Yes it is true we have started the talks but we will update you soon on the matter,” he told this publication briefly.
Mohwasa shared sentiments that BCP Publicity Secretary, Dithapelo Keorapetse concurred when asked by this publication if they have gotten the ball rolling as far as unity talks are concerned.
He said: “yes we have commenced.” The BCP mouth piece added that they should be given peace and time to continue with the talks composedly.
Meanwhile local Political Analyst, Leonard Sesa said that Batswana expected a lot in terms of opposition cooperation before and after the 2014 general Elections but they may have been disappointed as they bore no fruits.
While he averred that the talks could have started earlier, he however commended them that at long last they have officially set foot on the paddle.
“If indeed the talks have arrived, it’s a good move. BCP banks on the talks while UDC indeed must move forward, and am hopeful they may bear good results this time around,” Sesa highlighted.
The academic cautioned that it is good for the opposition especially after numerous delays that they have moved a step forward particularly as he pointed out that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has started campaigning and coming up with strategies to triumph again in the next general Elections.
According to Sesa, all opposition parties’ committees must be up and running and involved; “And since we are talking about different people with different minds, there may be need for counselling to the members well on time especially those against the cooperation if it indeed comes to pass and contest next elections as one unit.”
The UB Political analyst also asserted that the cooperation, however, will not come easy and there has to be serious sacrifices made between the UDC/BCP, while conceding that at the end and going forward it will give the ruling BDP a run for its money and enhance competitive democracy.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.