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Gaolathe slams MPs salary increase demands

Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Bonnington South and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe has expressed discontentment over calls made by fellow legislators who want MP salaries to be increased.

In an exclusive interview with Weekend Post, Gaolathe argued that it was improper for some MPS to be calling for a salary review while they could instead be fighting for reforms in the governance system including the empowerment of parliament through the provision of greater intellectual infrastructure and autonomy through an independent parliamentary service with a parliamentary budget office and fully-fledged bill drafting capacity.

“If Botswana had a well configured political or parliamentary system, this debate would not have occurred in the first place, and if it did, such a system would have realised that members of parliament are ill-positioned to be the ones spearheading the debate,” he said.

“Secondly, our parliament needs the resources and facilities to do its work, before compensation can even become an issue, and as it is, our parliament will remain a side-show-talk shop without any meaningful contribution to the development or transformation of our people’s lives.”

Gaolathe holds that parliamentarians should never have to conceive debate and approve their pay in any system, as this would constitute abuse of a privileged position. “This is why a separate, independent structure and mechanism for determining the remuneration of parliamentary remuneration is necessary,” he asserted.

While he said he understood why the debate cropped up in the first place, the outspoken MP said he believes that unless parliament is reformed, even if salaries were to be doubled it will not address the real problem.

“Consider the circumstances of a member of parliament from Okavango, or one from Gantsi.  They have to travel 600 or more than 700 km to reach the capitals of their constituencies.  The areas of their constituencies are vast, or even larger than some countries,’ he said.

Gaolathe believes that  the country’s democratic system should be carved in a way that the state is the one that facilitates the reach of those elected to represent or service the people irrespective of how far they live from the centre.

“This is therefore not a matter that should be resolved through salaries of representatives but through adequate facilitation of travel by representatives.  The debate should not be about salaries, but about facilitating the reach of public representatives to ordinary citizens,” he added.

“The question should not be, and indeed is not, about salaries, but one of finding effective and sufficient means to facilitate such dutiful reach, for the sake of adequate representation of the people.”

The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator has slammed the state of the country’s legislature, noting that it is poorly resourced and the executive dictates its business.

“It is the executive that dictates parliamentary business – in a five year week, four of the days, save for a few short questions, are mainly executive branch business,” he observed.

“Only one of the five days, on Friday, when most are itching to take off for the weekend, is private members day, a day on which ordinary members of Parliament may table their own bills and motion.”

Gaolathe also said MPs do not have capacity to draft bills because of lack of personnel which means ordinary members of parliament, can only draft bills through private networks in the legal fraternity or when members of parliament raise funds, privately, to fund them.  

“This is a significant anomaly. Most progressive parliaments around the world have several drafters and invest considerable time drafting bills on behalf of MPs.”

He noted that the same problem applies in parliamentary committees as they have little access to senior professionals in key disciplines, and chairpersons are selected along partisan lines.

“Many committees remain paralysed simply because chairpersons are at a loss on what their responsibilities are, and this is true especially in committees responsible for the economy and finances of our country,” he argued.

“This is a major blight and lapse in our system, which conceivably will cost our economy billions of Pula over the years.”

Gaolathe said this further demonstrates that the debate should not be about pay, but about empowering members of parliament with the intellectual infrastructure to pursue their role effectively.

The former Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) think tank slammed the practice of allowing MPs to submit as many motions as they wish, sometimes more that 50 or 100 by one member of parliament, as is the case currently.  

“The motions need not necessarily be well researched, or reasonable, as is so often the case,” he said.

“This means, parliament may go on for long periods considering the motions of only one member of parliament no matter how superb the ideas or motions of other members of parliament who may have submitted their motions later, those ideas will not see the light of day.”

Gaolathe said, as a result of this, substantial motions are left to languish for months.

“Motions noticed on water and power regulators, mortgage guarantee schemes, health regulator, and on special types of investments remain in limbo because of our system,’ he said.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

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.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

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

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

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.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“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).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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