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How BNF YL election was won and lost

MAHALAPYE: Richard ‘Motsabakedi’ Khumoekae came out the man on top in the Botswana National Front Youth League (BNF YL) election, ending months of simmering tension, fears of a factional haemorrhage and anxiety over what will become of the youth wing.

Khumoekae was contesting BNF YL Presidency against Kago Mokotedi.

Congress proceedings which were billed to start Saturday morning went about in the most erratic of ways.

By 7PM Saturday, delegates had not eaten breakfast, official congress rites such as solidarity messages were done evening Saturday while delivery of treasurer’s report and passing of resolutions never saw the light of day.

There were even doubts as to whether the previous BNF YL committee had been formally and properly dissolved.

The abdication of responsibility by those in charge also appeared to continue after BNF leader Duma Boko had officially opened congress.

After Boko had opened Congress, voting, which was supposed to continue after evening meals, at around 7PM never took off.

Previous league president Kemmonye Makatane was nowhere to be seen and was said to not be taking calls on his mobile phone. His then deputy who is also Gaborone City Mayor Kagiso Thutlwe had also ‘disappeared’, leaving a power vacuum that left delegates hung in confusion.

The Khumoekae lobby group smelled a rat. They suspected that the Mokotedi lobby which was dominated and pushed by previous Youth League committee members was seeking to either cause the election to be suspended to a later date, buy time to register delegates at a time when elections were supposed to be commencing and that they were in cohorts with the delegate registering committee as well as the BNF National Executive Committee (NEC), appointed election board.

At 2am Sunday; in the ensuing power vacuum, where the election hall had turned into a dance party of sorts, lobbyists associated with Khumoekae sought to give election overseeing powers to congress. They took charge of the podium and engaged in a selection of individuals from the floor to oversee the election.

The two lobby groups had reached deadlock. Khumoekae had wanted election board member Kwenantle Gaseitsewe to withdraw, reasoning that he was a conflicted man. It emerged the reason was Khumoekae had ‘quarrelled’ with Gaseitsewe a few weeks before the election and the latter had penned a letter threatening to sue the former as he felt that he had been slandered.

Attempts to bring together the two factions were botched in a background of tight rope walking tension. Mokotedi and Khumoekae could not agree on what was to be done next.

The former wanted congress to continue with the presiding election board as he felt that it’s scrapping would be undermining the powers of the NEC while the latter felt that power was now in the hands of Congress. He wanted election overseers to be selected from Congress as he felt the system was littered with Mokotedi sympathisers.

Members from the two lobby groups were now at each other’s throats and sporadic fist fights which at this point did not involve lobby group members, but nevertheless undermined Congress security, would occasionally erupt in the voting hall.

In the ensuing chaos, it was then decided that elections will commence Sunday morning at 6am.

All the while, by all accounts, the Khumoekae lobby was formidable on the ground, shored up by the militating and all powerful Kgalagadi/Gantsi regions’ delegates while the Mokotedi lobby lacked a strong show on the ground, perhaps because a mass of his people had camped at a different venue.

Many felt the Mokotedi group was scheming to steal a mandate. A combination of botched Congress arrangements including lodging for delegates, timely serving of meals and the continued dilly dallying, which left delegates in the lurch, at the height of winter tilted delegate sympathy to the side of Khumoekae.

Some believed that Khumoekae was encircled, as a large chunk of recognisable previous youth league members were openly allied to the Mokotedi lobby while others were seeking re-election in his lobby. They also felt that if elected the Mokotedi lobby will be an extension of the previous Youth League committee, whose unpopularity out rightly emerged at the Congress.

Also, the fact that Khumoekae was said to be a perpetual victim of the opposing lobby, said to have been defeated in dubious ways in the 2012 Thamaga Congress and  subsequently ‘pushed out’  of contesting the Village Council ward in Gaborone Central which was contested and won by Kagiso Thutlwe, in the 2014 general election did not help matters.

Furthermore, the Mokotedi lobby had hogged an image of flamboyance and ostentation. They had lodged at a separate venue from the rest of Congress goers. Their camp at Flowertown Primary School had quickly earned the moniker, ‘Dubai’.

They had also hired services of identically branded coaches from a local transportation magnate and they were generally believed to have been well-heeled and their delegates well-fed, who added to the indignation as meals Congress provided meals were scarce.

Khumoekae however had the blessings of Gantsi North and South, Kgalagadi North and South Constituencies and Jwaneng-Mabutsane constituencies; a powerful and militating swing bloc of constituencies that is feared for determining the direction of elections in the BNF.

The region had previously bestowed one of their own; Kemmonye Makatane in the BNF youth league Presidency in the 2012 Thamaga Congress. A youth from the region was also being given a Sports and Culture post in the Khumoekae lobby.

Voting proceedings had not started by 6AM Sunday morning as promised. At 10AM both lobbies and Congress agreed that two individuals be selected from both lobby groups while another two will come from the election board and some calm momentarily prevailed while tension, suspicion and extra alertness never left.

At around noon Sunday, fist fights ensued over ballot box stuffing accusations, with the suspicious Khumoekae lobby leading the charge. In the ensuing furore, a confrontational Khumoekae sympathiser stormed the election door manned by two strongmen, lunging at election officers.

Afterwards both Mokotedi and Khumoekae settled to call their lobbies to order and a decision to bring in the Botswana Police was reached while the militating and song singing Khumoekae lobby group was restrained.

At one point the melee, a passing Khumoekae was celebrated by the crowd while Mokotedi was jeered and heckled.

Voting started Sunday afternoon and by then delegates from both camps had left without casting their votes. Voting continued into the night without further incident.

By early Monday morning when election results trickled in, they confirmed many congress goers’ opinion that Khumoekae will emerge victorious. The Khumoekae lobby members were winning positions without break, all with a safe margin of over 200 votes while Khumoekae himself defeated Mokotedi with 457 to 240 votes.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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