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BDP moves to increase number of MPs

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Gaborone Region is plotting a watershed moment for the political landscape. They have resolved that Parliament be lobbied to review the constitution of the Republic in a view to increase the number of constituencies elected through the first past the post from 57 to 80.

The Region is of the view that the last census should have recommended an increase in the number of constituencies instead of realignment and renaming. In their view waiting for the next census to explore the possibility of increasing Botswana’s constituencies is almost inconceivable looking at the vastness and population of most constituencies.  The last census report was compiled in 2011 hence the next census will only come in 2021 and could only be relevant to the 2024 general elections.

The BDP delegates are of the view that waiting until then to address the issue of constituencies could cause more damage as it is evident that service delivery is already compromised as a result of cumbersome constituencies.

According to the resolutions adopted at the region’s congress in Gaborone, they further want the same review to include the review of the constitution to allow for 40 seats to be distributed through a Proportional Representation modality. That the combination be henceforth adopted as a Hybrid in advance of the 2019 General Elections. The BDP delegates believe that this will help Botswana attract women and professionals to Parliament.

In addition they want the party leadership to consider an increase in specially nominated councilors to allow the consideration of more women, youth, disadvantaged groups and people with disabilities. The delegates voiced out the concern that the constituencies in Botswana are too big hence compromising service delivery. They agreed on the need to streamline constituencies to improve the efficiency of Members of Parliament.

Justifying the need to increase Specially Elected MPs and Nominated Councillors, the delegates were of the view that Botswana is not doing well in the area of women representation and mainstreaming the youth and people with disabilities. They are of the view that increasing SEMPs and Nominated Councillors could help balance the gender equation.

The chairman of the Gaborone region, Bontsi Monare confirmed that “we do have a resolution of that form. But note that we are yet to test it internally where we expect members of the party to digest it before we can share any details. We are not at a stage where we could discuss its merits or chances of success,” explained Monare.

The delegates are said to have expressed that countries with comparable economies to Botswana had more constituencies and were using the hybrid model to diversify expertise in Parliament.

They pointed out that the issue of finances should not be the only yardstick used to shoot down the idea of increasing constituencies. They believe the party should look beyond money, because if service delivery is compromised, the country stands to lose out more.

Examples in the SADC region are such that the National Assembly of Lesotho is composed of one-hundred and twenty elected members. Eighty members are directly elected from constituencies and the other forty are elected through proportional representation.

The National Assembly of Namibia's bicameral Parliament has a total of 104 members. 96 members are directly elected through a system of party-list proportional representation and serve five-year terms. Eight additional members are appointed by the President. The sole chamber, the National Assembly, has 150 members directly elected, up to eight nominated by the president. Namibia has a comparable economy to that of Botswana.

The Gaborone region has also resolved that the Party Leadership commissions a team to develop the best model for Political Party Funding most relevant to Botswana for consideration and resolution at next year’s National Council. Political parties funding has been a topical issue lately and BDP’s Gaborone region is not averse to it.

The Gaborone region congress also made other recommendations. They resolved that the Party adopts a resolution to introduce a law on Citizen Economic Empowerment. The Congress believes that a clear law that puts the citizen first is long overdue. They also want the government to move to regulate the rates of rental in the republic to protect consumers from a market which is fast getting unaffordable for the middle class and indeed the poor.

In addition they want the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to review the state of the economy with a view to increasing salaries and wages of civil servants in the republic, and further adopting the incentive of a 13th cheque for civil servants in the context of the Economic Stimulus Programme. The delegates want civil servants to get salary increases for the next four years without fail.

As a move aimed at improving relations between the ruling party and trade unions, the Gaborone region resolved that the Central Committee requests the Labour Sub Committee to share with the National Council its current strategy to find a better more mutual working relationship with BOFEPUSU.
The ideas are expected to be passed on to the BDP National Council which will look at them and pass them to the relevant bodies. The secretary general of the BDP may accelerate the resolutions to the level of congress for deliberation and adoption.

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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

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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