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Masitara joins presidential contestation

Former Gaborone West North law maker Robert Masitara

As the clock ticks towards the 2019 General Elections, more Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) insurgents are emerging from the shadows and declaring their interest in contesting the party’s presidential elections.

WeekendPost has this week established the latest party presidential entrant in the battle-field is former Gaborone West North law maker Robert Masitara.

Known for his signature trademark and loathe for corruption, the provocative politician will join other rivals who are said to be bidding for the country’s top post together with current Vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Masisi is expected to be the next president when incumbent President Ian Khama steps down after his 10 years term on April 1, 2018 – as automatic succession dictates. The Moshupa Manyana MP will be president for one year following which in 2019, there will be a special congress to elect the president who will take the party to the General Elections later on that year.

Masitara joins some top names who are believed to be contesting for the presidency which include Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology and Selibe Phikwe East MP Nonofo Molefhi and, Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism and Serowe West legislator Tshekedi Khama.

The list also comprises of former Minister of Communications, Science and Technology and Palapye legislator Boyce Sebetlela, former Minister of Education and current Ambassador of Botswana to Japan Jacob Nkate as well as former cabinet minister and Botswana’s Ambassador to the United States Tebelelo Seretse.

A spick-and-span source close to the maverick politician cum philanthropist who founded and chairs Masitara foundation told this publication that Masitara joins the contest as “many of the youth in the ruling BDP and even opposition parties see him as the only person who can rescue the BDP from losing power in 2019”.

It is understood that the controversial political figure is entering the race specifically for two reasons. “Firstly he cited that he has never associated with any of the talked about factions in the ruling party and therefore will be a neutral figure when elected as president of the party and can be a unifier of note.”

Another motive that facilitated Masitara to feature in the presidential contestation is that the latter is “well educated and experienced with linkages to World Bank, Interpol and other regional and international bodies – therefore making him better positioned to fight corruption tooth and nail in the country and to make sure that everyone involved is prosecuted”.

However, at one point Masitara was put under a cloud following his unsavoury remarks that former Vice President and ex-Minister responsible for Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Ponatshego Kedikilwe, who was overseeing Morupule B, the most expensive project thus far which has cost government more than 11 billion – should be prosecuted – as he has failed the country. He was however reprimanded by party top brass and bowed down.

Although Masitara’s marked exposure and experience has lent him the podium to be at the rudder of championing of good corporate governance, it has at the same time lent him in hot soup and in some instances pitted him against his companion party members.

The nonconformist politician fell out with some in the party and government while still MP carrying out investigations of corruption on government ministries and parastatals through the two parliamentary committees that he chaired.

The two committees include Parliamentary Committee on Governance and Oversight as well Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Owned Enterprises and Statutory Bodies – which has given him a bad name to some. “But he remains buoyant in the combat for corruption,” the highly placed source close to the corruption busting former MP highlighted.   

Masitara has also had differences with his councillors in Gaborone Bonnington North in the run-up to 2014 General Elections. While others have thrown stones at him, indications suggest that some foot soldiers in domkrag like militant Ratsie Setlhako and few young turks have been fighting in the corner of the debatable fellow party member.

When asked if Masitara understands the dynamics of politics and if he has a grasp of the pulse of BDP: “on the ground Masitara is having a steady grip on the party,” stated his associate who spoke to Weekend Post on Tuesday.

It is not the first time Masitara harbours presidential ambitions. In 2013, it was reported that Masitara believed that President Ian Khama – who he says recruited him into the party – has groomed him to be the next president.

According to the report, Masitara fancied himself as a politician with great credentials, high sense of humility and, in touch with the ordinary masses and therefore better positioned to lead Botswana after Khama.

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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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