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Civic organs’ Umbrella bickers over makeover

  • BOCONGO’s confidential proposals have ignited boardroom wars
  • Board wants to change BOCONGO name, constitution, vision, mission
  • Changes face resistance from some of the BOCONGO members
  • Existing staff members to be wiped out in the transformation agenda
  • NGO Council not immediately featured in the organisation change plan


Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has compiled a strategy paper proposing drastic changes to the organisation’s constitution. The changes call for a new name, vision, mission and objective statements.


The changes are capsulated in the confidential report leaked to this publication titled “BOCONGO Moving forward 2016 – 2019” which is also referred to as “a new strategy for a membership driven network delivering change in Botswana.”


It is understood that the new vision will be “NGO’s working together for a more just, equal and integrated Botswana” and has been revised to be “BOCONGO members working effectively with other actors for inclusive development.”


This publication has gathered that imaginable names dropped around to be considered for replacement of BOCONGO in the new change-plan. Some of the suggested names include, NGO Forum Botswana (NGOFB), Alliance of Botswana NGO’s (ABNGO), Botswana NGO’s Bongos (BNGOB) and Botswana Coalition of NGO’s (BOCONGO).


WeekendPost can safely reveal that the new change implications for BOCONGO will include a change in membership representation on the board; revision to BOCONGO Secretariat’s support to members; and new framework for member collaboration and active engagement.  


However, the new proposal by the board has been met with resistance from BOCONGO members who are questioning the motive of the amendments while emphasising that as members they have not initiated such change – particularly since BOCONGO’s mandate and agenda is membership driven.


According to some members of BOCONGO who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, “there was a meeting on Thursday (last week) in Gaborone that have put together member representation organisations of BOCONGO and we out rightly spoke against the change-plan because we don’t really understand this concept and we believe we were not satisfactorily consulted. The board just want to impose,” a member stated.

BOCONGO Secretariat also confirmed such a meeting.

According to the report, there will be not only a revised vision, mission but also a new strategic goals and thematic grouping of members that will require significant change in the way that BOCONGO operates.


“The main changes required are a new membership commitment and criteria as well as a new name and new logo to represent these changes,” states the classified report.


It is understood that the changes, once agreed upon after further consultations, will have to necessitate and be reflected in the constitutional revisions or amendments as BOCONGO is governed by a constitution.


The report acknowledges that the 81 currently active BOCONGO members are of critical importance to the changes proposed by the new strategy. In the strategy it is understood that NGO’s will be the main members and membership should include only NGO’s across the country.


It is said a significant change in the “new BOCONGO” will shift from sectors to thematic group (communities of interest) and more decentralised collaboration at regional level (communities of place).


Even as unemployment has ballooned in the country reaching approximately 22%, it is anticipated that the Secretariat may lay down some of the existing staff members who include Administration Assistant, Accounts Assistant, Desk Officer and others in their transformation agenda – as they are also ‘seen’ as resistant to the new change.


It is said that the Secretariat will require only new Executive Secretary, Finance and Administration Manager, and two administration staff. They will also need two project officers responsible for research and advocacy and the other one in Communication and Information and Technology.


The challenges and risks faced by the transformation entailed in the report indicate that there was acknowledgement that there may be opposition to the new plan: “the board and Secretariat will have to ensure clear communication of the way forward and accept that some NGO’s will not support the shift.”


It was earnestly, however, highlighted that “in this context, it was agreed that the current board would continue in order to guide the first year of the strategy. The Secretariat will work on the supporting change and identifying areas in the constitution which will need to be changed.”


According to the report, member ownership of the new strategy and the fundamental changes to way of working and structure of BOCONGO, are essential if the change process is to succeed.


The newly introduced NGO Council derived from the NGO Policy, which is to some extent seen as a duplicate of BOCONGO is not represented or featured in the new arrangement proposal. The report indicated that “the board and Executive Secretary may request a meeting with the NGO Council to clarify the new direction and implications for the relationship.”


“As expectation of the board throughout was that the strategic process would clarify the respective roles of BOCONGO and the NGO Council. The new strategic framework should help the board and the NGO Council clarify their respective roles in relation to the NGO’s in Botswana.”

What prompted the transformation?

When reached for comment to explain what necessitated the need to change direction, BOCONGO Chairperson, Oscar Motsumi told Weekend Post that throughout the years BOCONGO had experienced operational constraints, “Therefore, there was a need to take stock of our organisations and re-position them for the current and future needs.”  


With the new Strategy, he said members will increase their role and active engagement in policy dialogue organised through the four thematic groups that is led by NGO members and supported by the BOCONGO Secretariat.  He added that NGOs will receive greater recognition for the contributions they make as development partners in Botswana.


According to Motsumi there were extensive consultation where members throughout the country identified changes that needed to be made. He added that the Board then presented the proposed Strategy at the last Annual General Meeting which members endorsed and adopted, subject to a few changes.

On staff resistance…

The BOCONGO Chairman stated that matters of organisational transformation and their impact on Staff will be discussed internally and with other relevant bodies such as the Labour Department to ensure that they are implemented in a fair manner, according to labour laws and that any anxieties or concerns by Staff are managed in the best manner possible through the structures they have set up.


“So, this is still very much an internal process whose detail cannot be divulged. In doing so, we are also taking into account that our Staff Contracts are tied to various donors/development partners who have also set their own terms and conditions.  Ultimately, however, BOCONGO’s objective is to ensure that as many jobs as possible are preserved.”

Financial standing of BOCONGO

Although some donors have pulled out of late, Motsumi said BOCONGO is in a stable financial position.


“We still need to attract more partners to ensure that our member activities are implemented without any interruptions,” he said.


He further explained that the organisation’s financial standing has improved greatly from the time the current Board came into office.


“When we took over, the organisation was in a lot of debt. However, the board worked very closely with the Secretariat to manage costs. During the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organizational sustainability,” Motsumi added.

Way forward for BOCONGO

According to the board chair, the current board was mandated by the General Assembly in 2013 to review the Strategic Positioning for BOCONGO.


“The strategic review has become an absolute priority at this point in time because of the need to produce tangible benefits for BOCONGO Members and the NGO sector as a whole.”


Motsumi said that they want to ensure that BOCONGO is put in a position of being able to address any future challenges in an effective manner as is expected by its Members.


“To achieve this, BOCONGO members will continue to be encouraged to work collaboratively. The organization’s processes and systems, as well as human resources, will also be streamlined for better focus.”


According to Motsumi, these are challenging but exciting times at BOCONGO as “we chart a new vision and articulate a new future for the Civil Society movement. This watershed moment requires all to pull together for our goals to be achieved.”


Out of the estimated130 (active and inactive) member organisations, the BOCONGO board members are derived from 11 sectors which include Agriculture and Environment; Arts and Culture; Development arm of the Church; Disability; Gender and Development; Health and HIV and AIDS; Human Rights; Media; Microfinance; Credit and Empowerment; Science, Technology and Training, Youth and Children.


WeekendPost has established that the proposal changes are the hobbyhorse of the new board composed of current Chairman Oscar Motsumi who is deputised by Olebile Machete and with Jerry Moloko serving as its Treasurer.


Motsumi is from Botswana Network for AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO) while Machete from Child line Botswana and with Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA) represented at BOCONGO by Moloko.


Some additional members in the board include outspoken Alice Mogwe of Ditshwanelo, Idah Mokreitane from Emang Basadi, Douglas Thamage standing in for Cheetah Conservation, while Bible Life is represented by Gabriel Tsuaneng and Arnold Kepaletswe in lieu of House of Men and others on behalf of other BOCONGO member organisations.


The Motsumi-led board which was nominated to office on 2013 is currently serving its second and last term destined to end in 2017.

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Media have a Role in Accelerating Harm Reduction Adoption

8th December 2022

African Scientists and Experts Call for the adoption of a Harm Reduction in approach in Public Health Strategies and Tobacco Control. Media have a critical role to play in accelerating Harm Reduction efforts by informing and sensitizing cigarette smokers on the availability and benefits of alternative, potentially lower risk products to cigarretes. Traditional cessation and smoking prevention norms are not the only ways that smokers who cannot or don’t’ want to quit can make healthier choices that cause less harm to themselves and those around them.

This was said during the 2nd Harm Reduction Exchange conference for African journalists held in Nairobi, Kenya on the 1st of December 2022. Speaking at the Harm Reduction Exchange Conference, Integra Africa Principal Dr. Tendai Mhizha emphasized the role that journalists and media houses should play in handling misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discourse that is actually perpetuating the death and disease caused by people continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. “There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on public health.

This has led to policies that disfavour risk reduces products and narratives that completely deny their benefits. The media have the difficult responsibility to curb the scourge of disinformation and misinformation on harm reduction just like on other socio-political stances that are prescriptive and do not uphold consumers’ right to healthier lifestyle choices,” Dr Mhizha said.

The Harm Reduction Exchange cast a spotlight on alternative ways to reduce harm among tobacco smokers. Held under the theme Harm Reduction: Making a difference in Africa, the conference focused on the progress being made through harm reduction strategies in all fields related to public health such as drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sugar consumption, skin lightening and other addictive and behavioral practices. A wide array of harm reduction strategies and initiatives that are deployed towards reducing unnecessary deaths through non-communicable diseases were presented and discussed.

On his part, Prof. Abdoul Kassé, a world renowned and awarded Oncologist and a Professor of Surgery at the Cancer Institute in Senegal, said that Harm Reduction is a powerful public A Summary of the HR Exchange 30th November  1st December 2022 health tool that has the potential to reduce cancer by 30% and should be at the centre of all public health development strategies. Harm reduction, he said, has already benefited many people in public health and is the most viable alternative in tobacco control.

It applies to areas where there is a need to reduce the harm associated with a practice or consumption of a substance that is overused in society leading to increased morbidity and mortality. “Innovative Harm Reduction initiatives will help to keep more Africans alive. Tobacco Harm Reduction initiatives, including the use of popular e-cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums, have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and in the media. However, there is evidence that the use of potentially less harmful alternatives than cigarettes for those who are not willing or cannot give up smoking with currently approved methods may be a solution, not necessarily the best for everyone but by far better than continuous smoking.

Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products is expected to result in benefits for many smokers,” Prof. Abdoul Kassé said. Similarly, views were expressed by Kenya’s Dr. Vivian Manyeki who said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers. “Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence. They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction,” Dr. Manyeki said.

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking—the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality. Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can be also achieved by tobacco harm reduction,” Dr. Kgosi Letlape, an ophthalmologist and President of Africa Medical Association and the president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, said.

Tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. This task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking. Thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative. Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

“The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants,” Bernice Apondi, A Policy Manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said.

During the Harm Reduction Exchange, journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries, including: Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Eswatini, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction,and science-led regulation.

The Harm Reduction Exchange brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Ms Bernice Opondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivian Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

 

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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