Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
In a rare admission, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has swallowed his pride and openly conceded that he is saddened by his party’s by-election losses.
BDP has performed dismally in the by-elections conducted subsequent to 2014 General Election.
All the seats were scooped by either the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) or Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which has become pins and needles for the BDP’s 49-year uninterrupted rule.
The by-elections involved council seats for Moshupa West, Ngware, Goodhope Council, Bokone Ward and Lobatse of which BDP failed to win a single one.
In addition the party also tumbled in a parliamentary by-election for Goodhope Mabule constituency.
In power ssince independence in 1966, BDP performance for the first time plummeted from 53% to 47% in the General Election held last year.
Although it was returned to power in the 2014 balloting, the party has lost subsequent by-elections – a thorny development that has not gone down well with its adherents.
As a former military man steering the BDP ship, Khama is known for his indisposition to concede defeat but this time around inside party sources, who attended the Southern Regional meeting recently, say he has had to bite the bullet.
“In view of the losses, he expressed intuitive reservations on the matter citing BDP members’ disunity, which he pointed out had played a role in the recent by-election defeats,” the source, who was dressed in the red party jacket, told Weekend Post this week.
Southern Region comprises Moshupa/Manyana, Kanye North, Kanye South, Mmathethe/Molapowabojang, Goodhope Mabule and Lobatse. The President’s visit was part of his consultations with the party regions during which he assesses its standing across the country.
Known for putting up the veil, Khama is said to have told the Southern Region that the losses have virtually left the party with an egg on the face.
According to the highly-placed BDP insider, “The President emphasized that (madomkrag ke rona re ijesang ko ditlhophong) meaning that BDP is literally its own enemy at the elections. It is BDP that can manufacture its defeat at the polls and not necessarily the strength of the opposition parties. He believes the opposition is still weak.”
The BDP president highlighted that opposition parties won the recent by-elections due to disunity inside the BDP as some democrats sabotage others especially at the national polls – particularly those that claim to have lost unfairly in party primary elections.
“He therefore emphasized that there is need for party members to be united and vote for BDP at all times.”
In Khama’s judgement, according to another source who attended the said region meeting, the party commander is certain that while the popularity of BDP stands at 59%, they garnered only 47% at the last year General Elections – which, he said, leaves much to be desired.
He said what the BDP garnered at the polls was not a true reflection of the party’s popularity. “The problem in the BDP is that the party members did not vote for the party. That’s why we performed less than our popularity,” Khama reportedly said while falling short of confessing that the party was in sixes and sevens.
The source also said the President talked at length about the need to revive party structures across the country – to strengthen the party that Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire formed in the early 1960s.
Another bone of contention was Bulela Ditswe, a primary election process which was recently reviewed by party members led by Peter Siele and included party stalwarts in the likes of Dr Lemogang Kwape.
In the new-fangled Bulela Ditswe there will be registers of voters roll and a copy of the register would be sent to party headquarters – Tsholetsa house, thus making it hard to manipulate going forward to 2019.
In addition, Khama and the region touched on the need to vet candidates to ensure the quality of contenders representing the ruling party in future elections.
According to the source, Khama believes it’s crucial to do extensive consultations and that the vetting processes must be thorough to come up with competitive and credible candidates.
Khama also expressed worry that government programmes like Ipelegeng, Tirelo Sechaba, Poverty Eradication, Graduate Volunteer Scheme, Internship programme, Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) and others do not at times reach the intended recipients.
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.”