The newly established Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Council, a derivative of the NGO Policy that was approved by cabinet in November 2012 has been put under the spot light on issues of proper independence as expected of NGOs.
It is understood that since its launch in April 2014, the Council has been housed under the roof of government offices, in particular the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs. However observers believe that the arrangement may hinder the Council in their role as NGOs to effectively hold the government accountable without fear or favour and provide checks and balances.
The NGO sector in Botswana has been accused of deafening silence with regards to participation in national discourse, in particular BOCONGO which, as the umbrella of NGOs leads its affiliates with one voice to tackle issues of national interest.
The weakness in the NGO sector has been blamed partly on self-censorship by NGO’s as they fear to speak up on dogmatic matters. This has been interpreted as them avoiding biting the hand that feeds them.
Weekend Post has gathered that the NGO Council moreover periodically receives grants from government, and part of it is disbursed to umbrella organisations being Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) and Botswana Community Based Organisation Network (BOCOBONET) under a formal arrangement as dictated by the NGO Policy.
However, to elude the self censorship, the NGO Council has hinted that it will establish an endowment fund that would serve as a basket of funds earmarked for NGO support from various strategic partnerships and resource mobilization sources.
“An endowment fund will be in place; it is at formative stage right now as we are still working on modalities on how it will operate,” NGO Council Chairperson, Bookie Kethusegile confirmed at a press conference on Thursday in Gaborone.
Kethusegile explained that the fund would be open for various stakeholders in the society to put money in to assist NGOs and that would enable them to be sustainable in the long run. She pointed out that they are currently involving other stakeholders on how to go about this fund to make it a success.
A member of the NGO Council and former BOCONGO Vice Chairperson, Owen Isaacs also added that since the endowment fund will be derived from private sector, government, donor community and individual citizens, independence of the NGO Council in running the fund will be cast-iron.
The NGO Council was established to bring together government and Non State Actors to partner in the development process of the country. Some of its responsibilities would include implementing programmes that are of national interest and to facilitate the execution of NGO Policy, providing mediation on conflicts between NGOs and Umbrella bodies; provide overall policy guidance on all aspects of NGO operations and activities within the framework on the NGO policy.
Sometimes, the NGO sector may be required to monitor a particular government agency to make sure they are doing their jobs and spending public resources appropriately.
If they are not, that’s when NGOs need to speak up and demand changes, and it is expected that the NGO Council should lead in the role. The NGO Council is in the meantime surrounded by questions of whether they will escape being prisons of government funds before the endowment fund is in full swing.
The Council is made up 14 members: 7 members of Civil Society being Peggy Ramaphane, Oscar Motsumi, Gaontebale Mokgosi, Owen Isaacs, from BOCONGO; and Robertson Mabuta, Isaac Letlole, Dr. Connie Rapoo from BOCOBONET.
In addition there are 5 representatives of government in the Council which includes Jacob Momene from Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Botshabelo Othusitse representing Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Ruth Radibe from Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and a representative from Ministry of Health. There is also 1 member from Business Botswana and an independent person (1) who is also its chairperson Bookie Kethusegile.
Meanwhile, another NGO Council member and BOCONGO Board member Gaontebale Mokgosi has stated in a recent opinion piece that: “cooperating with Government for development projects does not necessarily mean losing the independence, integrity and credibility of NGOs. Such a conclusion is very simplistic, imprecise and misleading. It indicates a spirit of sentimental romanticism.”
The renowned NGO activist also asserted that NGOs should as well have an effective system of accountability in place and provide transparency in the NGO management. He said the NGO Policy postulates Government`s commitment to work with NGOs as the relationship has been very loose and not so formal.
“Certainly NGOs should guard against being controlled by Government and they should not ‘unquestioningly’ accept government initiatives,” he concluded.
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.
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
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.
“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).