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Independence of NGO Council questioned

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.

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Khan: Boko, Masisi are fake politicians

18th January 2021
Masisi & Boko

While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.

Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.

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Ookeditse rejects lobby for BPF top post

18th January 2021

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.

Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.

Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”

“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.

He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.

He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.

According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.

There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.

Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.

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BDP cancels MPs retreat

18th January 2021
President Masisi

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.

“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication.
The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.

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