BCP President Dumelang Saleshando and UDC President Duma Boko
The long awaited opposition cooperation talks between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) were postponed for the third time this week owing to internal feuds within one of its cooperating partners, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).
WeekendPost has established that the talks have so far been postponed for three consecutive times.
UDC President Duma Boko went on record while addressing the media earlier this year, stating that opposition negotiation talks would commence in April 2016.
Boko was addressing the media on plans that led to signing a Memorandum of Agreement between both UDC and BCP to enable them to officially cooperate in bye elections.
He told the press conference then that “the informal contacts (between him and Saleshando), are a prelude to more formal engagements that we hope to begin and if I may put some time frame to it, the hope is that the beginning of April we may commence these formal discussions between UDC and BCP.”
He added that: “so as I said to you, April we will engage in formal discussion about unity. I have no doubt in my mind that we will succeed. I have absolutely no doubt. And this is an ominous message to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). They must be quaking on their boots as I speak and I know they are freaked out because if there is anything they don’t want to hear and see is in fact this opposition cooperation,” the UDC leader said then.
According to a high ranking source within the cooperating partners at the top table, the talks have been postponed several times – 3 times to be precise and all on account of BMD internal wars. “It is difficult to start. It can’t move. There were a number of postponements made when we were supposed to meet – owing to the BMD. Just recently, we should have met this week on Wednesday but did not.”
The cooperating party official elaborated that BMD president Ndaba Gaolathe, who it seems has lost control of his executive committee, appears to be having deep reservations about the inclusion of Advocate Sydney Pilane in the BMD negotiating team. It is understood that Pilane was roped in by the party national executive which itself is divided among factional lines.
“He has therefore assembled a team of elders led by Kgosikwena Sebele to convince Pilane to withdraw from the team.” So that is the issue really, the source emphasised.
“There is a real possibility that we will drag on and on. We have been postponing this for several times now and we now have to move on,” he pointed out.
“The real problem is that it looks like the BMD does not have a plan for a way out. Most feel that a special congress is the answer. The Mahalapye Women’s wing results were very tight and swung on both factions. It is tricky.”
According to the source, Ndaba is hopeful that if Pilane is removed from the negotiating team he could easily question his membership status at the 2017 party national congress. He said: “but as it stands he (Pilane) is included as a representative of the party and therefore it will be difficult to say he is not a member. He is part of the committee of the National Executive.”
The initial plan was for the unity talks to commence in April through June and allow party conferences to continue uninterrupted from July. The party official revealed that because of the turn of events and delay in the talks, it will be difficult for cooperating parties to report back to their members’ of an outcome or progress of the unity talks, as was initially planned.
UDC, BCP will each dispatch 18 members in the negotiations
The negotiating parties will dispatch 18 members each to the negotiating table. Out of the 18, the UDC will be represented by 6 from Botswana National Front (BNF), 6 from Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), and 6 from BMD.
On the other hand BCP will send its 18 members to the opposition talks. The negotiations will be divided into 3 categories which include one addressing policy issues, the other looking into the issue of constituencies, and another one overseeing governance, constitution and power sharing matters which encompasses legal agreements between the partners. Six members from each party will be enrolled in each category.
Pilane has been roped in on governance and power sharing category which also touches on the legal aspects, and indications suggests that this seems to not sit well with some BMD cadres including BMD President, Gaolathe.
It is also understood that the presidents of the three parties will not make the teams of the negotiating parties and, advice was also extended for parties not to flood the teams with the executive members of the parties as well. It was understood that the executive will only look at negotiation reports from the negotiating teams.
Meanwhile, at the initial stage, new comers at BPP are said to be making serious demands already and indications are that the talks won’t be easy.
When reached for comment UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa acknowledged the delay in opposition cooperation talks but attributed it to recent bye elections. “Bye elections contributed a lot to the delay,” he said. The BCP mouth piece Dithapelo Keorapetse was not immediately available for comment on the matter.
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.
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.
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.”