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BOPEU wants 3 Ministries of Education

BOPEU General Secretary, Topias Marenga

The Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has weighed on the continued poor performance of students at Junior and Senior Schools levels. The Union’s General Secretary, Topias Marenga says the educational embarrassment is not new; it has been a national trend for some years now. In a BOPEU position paper Marenga says this year we continue to see more youngsters at grade D being advanced to BGCSE.

“This effectively translating to the poor performance we have just experienced. Unfortunately this educational embarrassment is not only about the moment, it is about the bleak future of generations as being built by an education system that does not address immediate concerns with the urgency they arise; the urgency they so vehemently require,” he said.

To address this fiasco, BOPEU proposes that Botswana must act on an urgent basis to amicably find resolve. “As a country we cannot take comfort in the subject of deteriorating education system without visible action. BOPEU appreciates that a number of efforts have been made to improve the condition of service for the teachers. That notwithstanding, must tally with an improvement of results.”

Marenga says his unions continues to implore that it is time the Government of Botswana urgently implements the three education Ministries system.

“It is our view and conviction that dividing the Ministry of Education into three functional special areas to serve the country and the people of Botswana, will ignite better performance and bring about an improvement in the results.”

“This is because, there will be more focus by the assigned Ministry to see an improvement in their area, as they will be each held accountable for a more manageable chunk of the Ministry. This will also bring efficiencies in the Management systems within the Ministries, extending to the teaching staff. It is our believe then that this will bring not only peace and harmony amongst the teaching staff, but will most importantly drive the motivation to achieve the desired results envisaged for the future as embedded in the vision of this country.

This will further cultivate and produce the zeal and energy needed to move beyond today with outmost vigour and produce the right quality of educated, skilled and upright citizens to take this country forward,” Marenga says.

According to the BOPEU Secretary General, concentration on education is an urgent need; in the short term it will alleviate the high unemployment rate which the country is struggling to curb, and in the long term it will continue to be a positive indicator for growing the economy. Marenga says our education results cannot be separated from the labour market dynamics because all these function within the labour supply chain.

He observed that developing a quality education system has its impact translating in a productive labour force, and the opposite is otherwise an unproductive sector coupled with a population that is highly dependent on government, which would not survive elsewhere.

BOPEU through Marenga deducts that poor results, which lead to high unemployment is acerbated by our inability as a society to create alternative sustainable employment means.

“Citizens are all expecting jobs from the government and naturally so, when failed by the government education system, it becomes almost impossible to become a part of the main stream society where they can compete and create employment for themselves and others. We appreciate that our ever growing population has not been kind to accommodate the level of educational developments needed to grow this country, and we are also of the view that action has been very minimal.”

According to BOPEU, the continual lack of Botswana to prioritise education, if allowed to continue, will bring disastrous results in the end.

Marenga says no one wishes to see a revolution of young people in future addressing the issues of unfairness and educational injustices perpetuated by the past, and hence there is an urgent need to resolve this disaster.

The BOPEU position is that the Ministry of Education in its current format is unnecessarily huge for a country that has developed like Botswana, “our firm proposal continues to be that it is high time the Ministry of Education is divided into the three Ministries.”


BOPEU proposes a Ministry of Pre-Primary and Primary education; A full Minister at this Ministry will be in charge of both Day Care, Nursery, Pre-School, Reception and Primary Education. These will include the necessary operatives covering the Teaching Staff, Teaching Administrators, Researchers, and Directors amongst others. This Ministry like the two others will also be responsible for safe guarding and taking care of its own infrastructure, study materials and necessary resources amongst other things.

BOPEU further proposes the Ministry of Low and High Secondary Education; At this ministry a full Minister will be in full charge of the ever growing Secondary Schools and the associated challenges related to managing a teenager. This growth of Secondary Schools is a result of a growing population and every growth in population brings its own challenges.

The Minister at this Ministry will also address the plight of the Teachers who for a long time have asked to be engaged in finding resolve to their woes. Their appeals for engagement on welfare, housing, allowances, terms of employment and progressions etc. continues to be almost impossible to resolve due to the hectic schedule of a Minister who has to run such a huge Ministry.

Last they propose the Ministry of Tertiary Learning: They opine that in neighbouring countries, Tertiary Education is up in flames, riots are a daily affair. There is a Setswana saying that “ere obona bodiba bojeleng ngwana waga mmago, o bo kakologe”. Back home in Botswana, at the time of issuing this communique, several Technical Colleges around the country have been closed due to strikes and fear of escalating violence, Private institutions are no exceptions.

The University of Botswana is forever in clashes either between students and the Government or the students and the University of Botswana Management. These scenarios cannot be simply ignored or wished away as they are a clear manifestation of things not going right. We are not apportioning blame, we are simply raising a red flag that the government of Botswana needs to act progressively and with outmost urgency to ensure that different needs are handled with the due care.

SYNCHRONISATION

“Though every Ministry will be independent from each other and receiving its budget directly and independently from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Botswana Qualifications Authority (which has just been established by merging both the Tertiary Council and the Botswana Training Authority) should together with the Botswana Human Resource Council be tasked with close monitoring of standards at the respective Ministries,” Marenga says in his position paper.

“This will simply be done through not only examination results but also through the relevance of subjects in each secondary so as to ascertain if they meet global development and education demands. This will further ensure that concerns over the Botswana Examination Council grading system and associated worries will be addresses at this level and hence reducing conflict of interest which often unnecessarily result in blame shifting and blame apportioning.

Furthermore this will inform the relevancy of upgrading the syllabus on regular basis align it with global emerging trends. We can’t be holding unto a 1966 syllabus model in the year 2016 and yet expect 2016 developmental relevance.”

BOPEU is of the view that the issue of compensating the poor performance of our children with the constant and continued lowering of the uptake thresh holds does not serve as a solution to an ailing education system. It stated that what is important rather is to build efficiencies within the management and operational systems of concerned entities and ensure that sustainable solutions take course. In addition they opine that automatic promotion of students will surely not be necessary when the right structuring, the right attitude, the right energy is exerted or ignited within our systems.

“Independent Ministries will have the prerogative to do all it takes to remain relevant and competitive where they are held to account. With proper Monitoring systems in place we see a leap from the current mediocrity to an excellent performing system. Within this system the nation should not be ashamed to repeat students who fail giving them sufficient chances to mature and perform better before being progressed.”

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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