Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)’s impending special congress will prompt a debate on constitutional reforms following an impasse which left the party president and his deputy toothless in the battle for control of the party.
So divided is the BMD that its Vice President, Wynter Mmolotsi has admitted that the party, which is a splinter group of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), has reached crisis stage and is losing integrity in the eyes of the public.
Speaking at a regional meeting over the weekend in Gaborone, Mmolotsi suggested that recently BMD affairs are characterised by unruly behaviour where employees at BMD offices insult the President and nothing has been done about it while committee members are running party affairs willy-nilly.
Mmolotsi particularly accused his colleagues in the party National Executive Committee (NEC), Secretary General, Gilbert Mangole and Chairman, Nehemiah Modubule of having ulterior motives in as far as running the party is concerned.
At the centre of the debate and Mmolotsi’s concern is the “unprocedural” re-admission of the former BMD Spokesperson, Sidney Pilane and the former Secretary General, Freddie Ramodise, into the party.
“We were told that Freddie Ramodise and Sidney Pilane have re-applied to join the party. We were clear that with regards to Ramodise, having had resigned from the BMD to contest against Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), in a ward allocated to Botswana National Front (BNF) we needed at least for a year to lapse before considering his membership,” said Mmolotsi.
His contention was that, they “did not want a situation where it would seem like we sympathised with him when he contested against UDC in a ward allocated to our partner.”
UDC is an umbrella party which was formed ahead of the 2014 general election by three opposition parties, BMD, Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana people’s party (BPP) as a pact against the BDP.
Mmolotsi further lamented that recently elected pro-Pilane NEC members went on to use their majority to bring Pilane and Ramodise back into the party.
“They have resorted to using the same tactic that BDP use in parliament. Every time we disagree on an issue and need for it to be given particular attention, they embark on voting,” he said.
“I and the president [Gaolathe] are just watching from the sidelines, with the chairman and his team calling the shots,” the former party Secretary General demonstrated the party’s crisis.
He stated that the pro-Pilane team has also introduced the new party membership cards, which now incorporate the logo of both the BMD and the UDC.
“We raised this matter, that there is an obvious breach of the party constitution by incorporating the logo of another party in the membership card of the BMD. BMD and UDC remain separate political parties,” he said.
“They went ahead and printed the cards, recruiting members even from our UDC partners under false pretences that they were advancing UDC courses.”
Mmolotsi further said he wants the special congress to consider giving the president more powers and enable him to suspend or expel dissidents to avoid a situation where the party is thrown into turmoil.
The current BMD constitution vests the power in the NEC, and allows the president to be overruled by NEC majority in decision making.
Some party elders have however raised concerns with giving the party president powers to suspend and expel NEC members amid fears that in future, it may work against the party if a dictatorial president is elected.
“It was in 1995 at Sebele that party constitutional amendments resulted in BDP president being given power to suspend members for 60 days. None of the previous presidents used it, and it was only Khama who used it to persecute Motswaledi,” said one of the elders.
Gaolathe told party members that the current NEC lacks seriousness and that party would not be able to accomplish the goals it has set for itself, considering the manner things are being done.
That notwithstanding, Gaolathe does not want a constitution that will give him more powers as party president as he firmly believes party structures such as the region and branches should be given more power. Gaolathe is expected to present his proposal to the party.
So far the Southern Region, Kweneng Region and Gaborone Region have spoken in support of Gaolathe and Mmolotsi. The party members may use the congress as an opportunity to dissolve the current NEC and call for new elections.
The party is also likely to convene the party special congress in either August or September. The party constitution states that the NEC shall convene a special congress, should one third of the branches call for it. One third of the branches constitutes to 19 constituencies.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).