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BNFYL shudders at 1998 Palapye congress déjà vu

BNF youth wing Vice President and mayor of Gaborone City Council (GCC) Kagiso Thutlwe

Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) is running helter skelter as its elective congress fast approaches, all the while determined to steer clear of the ironic Palapye village where its mother party splintered to smithereens 18 years ago.

The BNF youth wing Vice President and mayor of Gaborone City Council (GCC) Kagiso Thutlwe said earlier this week at a press briefing that the youth league has come to formally consider three locations to host its 2016 youth elective congress. He said that they mulled over the villages of Tonota, Mahalapye and Palapye but since the mother party had already indicated that its national congress will be held in Francistown they struck off Tonota as an alternative, owing to its proximity to the city of Francistown where the Botswana National Front (BNF) will be descending in July.

According to Thutlwe, between the two last options of Palapye and Mahalapye they settled for the latter after getting locked in a tough deliberation, in time agreeing that Palapye would only work to legitimise fears of factionalism currently nascent inside the youth league. He added that they view Mahalapye as a neutral location.

“We had a debate over Palapye, of which you all know what happened in 1998. The moment we mention Palapye some of you would conclude that their (camps of candidates’) differences are going to be very high,” Thutlwe revealed.

He also mentioned that the agreement on Malapye as the host town was a unanimous decision and did not come about as a result of a vote and all league members are happy with the resolution.

Mahalapye is also a home town of the party founder, the late Dr Kenneth Koma and the current leader, Duma Boko.

The youth league elective congress will be held on the last week of May from the 27th to the 29th.

Thutlwe further asserted that BNF leaders had implied that the two BNF youth league presidential candidates should find middle ground and craft a compromise entry that will include both men in the league presidium to avoid a probable proliferation of warring factions in the youth wing. At present, they are still awaiting directions from the BNF command on which direction to take, Thutlwe added.

The BNF youth league’s fear of the ill-omened Palapye village is reinforced by detectable spectre of creeping factionalism thick in the air as contenders and their backers start to throw jabs at each other.

Despite the persistent BNF youth leader’s denial of the reality of a factionalised youth wing, the palpable hostile atmosphere suggests otherwise. It is believed the BNF youth wing is torn between former University of Botswana (UB) student leaders Khumoekae Richard and Kago Mokotedi, with the upper executive and the bulk of incumbent league members leaning toward the candidacy of the latter contender. Thutlwe is reported to be gunning for the Secretary General position while the incumbent Information and Publicity Secretary is also reported to be seeking re-election under the Mokotedi undercard.

The BNF youth league is anxiously evading holding its 2016 faction prone elective congress in the same dusty village where its mother party went for congress and came back haemorrhaged by a factional fissure in its 1998 national congress.

After garnering 13 Members of Parliament (MP’s) in a momentous 1994 general election BNF crashed and burned at Palapye a year before the 1999 general election. The bone of contention that triggered the split was the stewardship fashion of its late leader and founder Dr Kenneth Koma who dissolved the party central committee following an aborted national congress. The decamping dissidents formed the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which took away with it 11 of 13 sitting BNF MP’s.  Koma was to later be kicked out of the BNF and formed the National Democratic Front (NDF) with support of the current BNF leader, Duma Boko who was the party’s Secretary General.

However, the arc of the political universe has in reality proved to be long and indeed curving toward a political reunion. The NDF which has always been the smallest of BNF splinter parties as well as Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) rejoined the BCP through an electoral pact. The BNF and BCP are also set to reunite and form an opposition party’s coalition through the Umbrella for Democratic Change amalgam, together with the Botswana Peoples Party and Botswana Movement for Democracy.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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