COMRADES PARADE: Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, Duma Boko has only had kind words for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in recent weeks. The two parties are preparing to launch their marriage, and Dumelang Saleshando, the BCP leader may be rewarded with a green card to contest in Gaborone Bonninton North, as Boko focuses on presidential bid.
That the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are headed for talks is not in doubt. What could be overworking the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) think tanks is the confidence that is mounting among opposition ranks.
Opposition lobbyists on the ground want Duma Boko to purely focus on the Presidential bid in 2019 and not distract his bid with the side dish of a constituency battle – and this could be another add on to mending relations between the UDC and BCP.
Events on the ground dictate that Boko has settled the debate of who should or will be the President of the all-encompassing UDC, while on the other hand the BCP’s Dumelang Saleshando has accepted his fate – that should an agreement be penned, he will be Boko’s running mate, and one of the two Vice Presidents under the UDC.
Some BCP stalwarts who spoke to Weekend Post indicated that the BCP has always been a proponent of opposition cooperation and that there is no doubt that they will be part of the UDC in the run up to the 2019 elections. “This effectively means that we are going to also work with the UDC in all the bye-elections that will come before 2019.”
This publication gathered that the BCP central committee is expected to meet on Saturday to come up with a roadmap for the talks. “The central committee meeting will deliberate on how the party handles the talks internally. The party expects a lot of trade-offs, including on constituencies,” said a source.
Much has been said about the hierarchy of the UDC, should the BCP come through. Now that the ink has dried on who is head, lobbyists from both camps want Duma Boko to focus on the Presidential bid in the 2019 elections campaign. They are of the view that Boko could be central to a potential victory in 2019, if his offensive charm is unleashed across constituencies. The thinkers are also taking cognisance of the possibility of a direct election of the President, should the BDP sponsor such a law.
The opposition is also wary that a new legal dispensation in regard to election of the President of the Republic could give President Lt Gen Ian Khama another bite at the cherry if he so wishes. There are murmurs that some within the BDP are not confident enough about their prospect of success without Khama at the helm. But as of now, it is a non-issue; automatic succession is still the order of day.
“There are many reasons why we wish to see comrade Boko profiled for State House; if he makes way for Saleshando, it means that Gaborone Central remains with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and there will be not a lot of debate as to whether Saleshando should go back to Gaborone Central or not,” said one of the lobbyists.
While some had doubted Boko’s political stamina and appetite in the past, the BNF leader has already proved his mettle; he was at the forefront in the Goodhope-Mabule bye-election when Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II annihilated Presidential Affairs minister, Eric Molale.
And through his actions, Boko has demonstrated that he is ready to challenge for the highest office in the land, his followers have not even an iota of doubt. There is also no threat from the BNF front, it is evident that there is and there will be no vacancy for the position of president at BNF in a long shot.
Indications are that Saleshando could then be shifted to Gaborone Bonnington North, which will be one of the two or three constituencies awarded to the BCP in the southern part of the country. Informants have indicated that preliminary discussions point to the BCP being given the majority of the northern constituencies except for Francistown South and Maun West.
Political analyst, Dr Wazha Morapedi of the University of Botswana believes that should Boko give way to Saleshando, it will be a masterstroke. He said the gesture could also have the potential of warming up BCP members who doubted the genuineness of the cooperation. He also pointed out that the move could free Boko to focus on the bigger and broader issues of the campaign towards the 2019 general election.
Morapedi also told opposition parties to focus on UDC only, “any other thing will not yield any results. The BCP should just come under the UDC and they should all dissolve their parties,” he said. Morapedi pointed out that things like a pact will not work. “They must eject all those against cooperation and focus on the UDC and they will see the results.” He said it is not that important as to who will stand where, but rather the model.
According to UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa, the BCP gesture not to contest Boswelatlou is welcome because it paves way for the BCP to come under the Umbrella model. He said the two parties are ready to engage each other, “and we would very want the BCP to come under the UDC,” he said.
On the issue of Boko paving way for Salesghando Mohwasa cautioned members to desist from making certain moves which may put the leadership under unnecessary pressure. He said they should allow the talks to commence and conclude and the leadership will make final announcements.
BCP spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse said: “We are not standing in Boswelatlou ward in Lobatse and we will assist the UDC to retain the seat. The cooperation in Botswelatlou is a culmination of both parties’ attempts to forge relations that would usher in an amicable working relationship and is a big step for the envisaged opposition cooperation leading up to 2019 general elections. We are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding for bye-elections from now onwards and we hope not to oppose each other in 2019.
The BCP believes that Batswana and opposition parties enemy is one, BDP, therefore we ought to do as much as we can to retain seats held by opposition and wrestle those in the BDP in future bye-elections. BDP has become corrupt and bereft of ideas and has to go and it is only through opposition cooperation that we can achieve that.
So failure to cooperate is not an option, we have to find a way to emancipate Batswana who clearly want change now. On how we are going to cooperate in terms of the model, it will be discussed by the two parties looking at would work. We remain optimistic however that all will go well.”
For the first time in history the BDP has had its popular vote slip to below 50 percent of the total votes. The opposition is confident of unseating the BDP at the next election and the ruling party has been forced to introspect and re-engineer some of its own internal processes such as primary elections.
Duma Boko easily won the Gaborone Bonninton North constituency against BDP’s Robert Masitara and BCP’s Annah Motlhagodi. Motlhagodi is expected to lean on the side of her president should the constituency become a bait in the unity talks.
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.
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.
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.”