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Boko, Saleshando begin talks in April

UDC cum BNF president Duma Boko and BCP president Dumelang Saleshando

Opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this week stated that the official opposition cooperation talks will commence in April this year.  

The consultations come after both parties have in the past committed to cooperation towards the decisive 2019 General Elections – which is expected to be more competitive.

Towards 2014, the umbrella talks which were inclusive of all opposition parties then, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) collapsed although BNF, BMD and BPP forged ahead and contested under UDC banner.

Excluding the BCP in the cooperation, UDC went on to garner 17 seats against BCP’s paltry 3 which reinforced the conspiracy theories that the nation may be yearning for one opposition block that will make the buoyant ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been in power since independence, run for its money.

In his preface statement the BCP president Dumelang Saleshando set the tone to allude that there are divisions in the BDP and indeed even on opposition. “Of course we have a divided opposition and on this one we have to take responsibility as opposition parties, to try and heal the society and come up with something to make them closer to each other,” he told a fully packed press conference on Thursday afternoon in Gaborone.

The former Gaborone Central legislator highlighted that indeed opposition division creates room for BDP’s misrule and mischief.

“And so we are here today not to sign any agreement yet, but to inform you that we have agreed on the document that will regulate the bye elections from now going forward, which documents will be signed on the 13th of this month in Sekoma where the UDC candidate will be launched for the coming bye election.”

According to Saleshando, the signing of the agreement will be the first step towards building the unity that the nation desire and possibly building a consensus of Botswana we all want to build and that it’s a very important milestone that they plan to celebrate when they actually get to it.

“It sends a strong message that the plan is to succeed. But I must also admit that its insignificant compared to trials that are ahead for us as BCP and UDC.”

Ofcourse the prophets of doom, he said will say ‘we have seen this before, they have done this before, but they ultimately failed.’ “Yes we have not succeeded in the past, but you know if life it’s not how many times you fail that matters, is what you do after failing whether you are able to stand up and dust yourself from the failures and say I will do a better job next time. So we are ready to do a better job,” the calm and collected Saleshando highlighted.

He also said that their members need to come closer to each other, as it is not only about the leadership of the parties coming together. In any case, he continued, “contrary to what many people have always suspected, there has never been any acrimony whether intense or mild between myself and UDC leader Duma Boko.”

Past failures he said were not on account of personal differences but was because they represented separate organisations that held separate positions and therefore it must never be construed that the 2 of them had not get along well.

“But ofcourse now we realize that we need to dialogue with each other for us to succeed and we want our members to do the same,” the BCP leader asserted. “And that is why we have decided to call our parties’ structures, constituency committees as well as regional committees that during the months of February and March we expect all structures to jointly hold at least one activity in their respective areas.”

Saleshando also maintained that he pins his hope on the nation to also support the activities that will be held countrywide as a build up to the full proper talks.

However he pointed out that “let’s remember that this agreement is only about bye elections and we believe it will keep the BDP away from victory stand on all bye elections that will be held until the 2019 General Elections.”

The BCP president added that it doesn’t matter what the locality is and that even in constituencies of BDP stronghold they will go there. He said the plan is to deny them any chance of victory nationwide while adding that it doesn’t help them if they only plan to win their strongholds against the BDP.

Of course we expect members of the cooperating parties to be cordial to each other and use the language that is consistent with people trying to build a relationship, he cautioned.

On his part, his counterpart UDC cum BNF president Duma Boko asserted in his prologue account marking the official declaration for the dates leading to the cooperation talks, “we will begin engagements,” he told the press conference.

“And to pre-empt the question that you will ask me members of the press, we have had formal engagements amongst ourselves at this level of leadership because it is important for us.”

He also added that they had informal whereabouts while emphasizing that it is important for them sometimes to hold these meetings away from the public and even away from their members, and he said some of these have not been discussions on the issue of cooperation but just to break bread together and just to have a cup of tea together as they have always done before.

Boko, who is also the leader of opposition chunk in parliament highlighted that “so those informal contacts, 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 Umbrella for Democratic Change and Botswana Congress party.”

According to the top notch qualified lawyer, “the nature, the scope and depth will define itself as we go out so I just wanted to clear this out so that you remain in absolute no doubt about what we are doing and that we make no apologies for it because it has to be done – as it’s about time” he asserted.   

In those recent wine and dine meets, Boko told the journalists that they have touched on the thorny issue in the process of finding out what it is that has separated them from working with each other from the past.

“So yes we have met, all over the place in this country and even at each other’s houses so that you may be shocked and surprised,” he stated wearing his signature laugh with his eyes glued down from the audience.  

He cleared the air by stating that it goes to reinforce the fact that there is no acrimony between him and BCP leader Saleshando, “we are not fighting with each other and we have never fought, and we have never insulted each other at least at the level of leadership,” the Gaborone Bonnington North law maker stressed.

So, he also insisted that “we are here today as you can see, in part to begin another step. We have responded to the budget speech yesterday, some issues that arose from our intervention yesterday are issues we will pursue together, both the leadership of UDC and that of the BCP and going forward we will jointly pursue these matters. And one of these matters include skyrocketing military expenditure.”

The Member of Parliament has also underscored that both parties acting jointly need to pursue the government to push it to account. “These are the things we need to pursue for the betterment of this country. We will call on this government to be as transparent as the situation demands. There are many issues that we will deal with together. Issues will be tackled from a common platform.”

He added that they will also refine their own issues together. We want solutions that work for our country, he said. He however cautioned that when they get to the terrain (of opposition cooperation talks) they should approach it with open mind. “We will quarrel from now and then, and we will strike a compromise here and there,” Boko stated.

He also advised that politics is more dynamic, more interesting, more engaging and that we need to rescue it from this caricature of “ideologues” but do what works for the country.  

“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 postulated.

So now we are giving them a sneak preview so that when they run around and tell us who their president is or is not they know, he stated to a thunderous applause from both the UDC, BCP party members who were present alike.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.

Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.”  She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.

“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.

The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.

She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.

She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon.
“The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.

Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.

Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section.  “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”

She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”

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