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Panellists punch holes into BDP rule…


The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) panellist at a roundtable organised by the University of Botswana’s Democracy Research Project, Lawrence Ookeditse was forced to be on the defensive and declared that “the current government is a victim of its own success” and it was being judged unfairly by some in the society.  


Panellists were scrutinising the state of affairs of Botswana’s democracy and the level of development in the country. Ookeditse was the only soul veneering against the stance that the country is on a trance of rearward regression. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando did not show up and so was the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) representative.


The jumbled panel featuring print journalist, Spencer Mogapi; University of Botswana czar of Political Science, Professor Balesi Tsie; BDP activist, Ookeditse; as well as trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) President, Johannes Tshukudu sketched a gloomy picture of the country’s stance and prospects on a myriad topics ranging from the state of affairs in public education, national fiscal deportment, democracy as well as government control over state media, among others.


Defending the status quo, Ookeditse pointed out that Botswana is on the right path as it continues to attract favourable rankings in the region and Africa on aspects of human development, the economy, human rights and democracy. He cautioned that people should be aware that the state media’s purpose is for nation building and held firm that it is doing its job well.


He said while Khama has not addressed the UB academia and the media broadly, he has chosen a more functional approach to engage the populace. However he conceded that a lot can still be done to make Botswana more prosperous.

“The BDP government is the only government in the world that has not downsized its workforce despite advice from the International Monetary Fund,” he said. Ookeditse is convinced that the BDP will still win the 2019 general election.


UB political science lecturer, Professor Tsie poked holes on the many fronts of the country’s picture perfect façade outing it as a smokescreen concealing an increasingly dysfunctional government. He signalled to Botswana’s position as the fourth largest unequal society in the world trailing industrialising and developing BRICs economies with millions of people in population despite Botswana having a small population of just over 2 million.


Tsie also alluded to the country’s failed economic diversification drive which he contends should have long been executed when the country was still experiencing unfettered steady economic growth. He further argued the economy’s continuous hinge on minerals and mineral extraction leaves the country riskily liable to global economic unrest as circumstanced by the 2008 economic recession.


The UB Don further brought the forgotten debate of old to the fore, questioning and probing Setswana’s quasi-arbitral elevation to status of national language over other languages in a republic state, continuing to state that cultural minorities in the country are not fully recognised.


Tsie lampooned the Parliament of Botswana as a weak oversight institution, “There is a serious democratic deficit in parliament of Botswana and it is very weak, in fact far weaker than the Independent Electoral Commission.”


This, he attributed to the principle of collective responsibility as government ministers and assistant ministers are drawn from the executive wing of state concluding that for that reason parliament of Botswana finds itself not mirroring the plight and prospects of the nation.


Tsie also poured scorn on the constitutionally engrained selection of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and nominated councillors as undemocratic as it bears the hallmarks and trappings of political patronisation.


For his part, BOFEPUSU boss, Johannes Tshukudu held the viewpoint of Botswana as a regressing nation; positing that the country has a populace not well conversant with political education. He said the educated city and town dwellers represent a tiny fraction of the country’s educated and politically conscious section, a prospect he is convinced spells doom for participatory democracy and progression.


Tshukudu also observed that there is a thick air of intolerance hung in the corridors of state power as responses to national issues by the country’s political leadership is often met with fiery personalised retorts. He went on to say that while the country’s civic society lacks political consciousness, its Non-Governmental Organisations are also hamstrung by their monetary links to government thus failing to accurately execute their roles of providing oversight duty to government.


Private media journalist and columnist Spencer Mogapi attributed the country’s dwindling fortunes to being lost in the nostalgia of the national success of yester years, describing it as being “hostages of our own history.”

Mogapi who chided Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s perceived ignorance on the latest national unemployment figures said that it becomes hard for Batswana to embrace and assist the BDP in developing the nation while the popularised Ntuane reforms are aimed at saving the party and not the country.


He also ridiculed the government for glorifying poverty by shelling handouts when it could have long cut poverty when the country was experiencing unfettered economic growth adding that it is difficult to see the results of the P500 million pumped into poverty eradication.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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