THE CHALLENGE IS ON: Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang will take on Taolo Lucas for vice presidency; while Kentse Rammidi confirmed he will challenge for secretary general position.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) heavy weights will go for jugular when the party meet for its elective congress in Kanye next month and indications are that old faces will be removed from the much slimmer central committee.
The party will head into next month’s elective congress following the 2014 general election ignominy, in which the party emerged with only three parliamentary seats.
Still smarting away from the defeat, a number of influential BCP members are gearing up to contest for executive committee positions, including that one of presidency. The incumbent party president Dumelang Saleshando has been unchallenged since ascending to the throne in July 2010.
Weekend Post has it on good authority that James Olesitse, the party’s former parliamentary candidate for Palapye in the last general elections may contest for the presidency against Saleshando should his handlers continue to push him. Olesitse contested for party chairmanship at the party’s last congress but was defeated by Motsei Rapelana.
Another interesting development is Dr Kesitigile Gobotswang’s second bid for the party’s number two post. Dr Gobotswang served as party Vice President from 2005 until 2010 deputising, Gilson Saleshando during his tenure.
Gobotswang contested for the position of Secretary General at the Maun congress in which a gentleman’s agreement was reached to strategically pave way for Ephraim Setshwaelo in the party Vice Presidency. BCP had just merged with Setshwaelo’s Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) a few months before the congress.
This time around former party secretary general, Taolo Lucas will take on Gobotswang for Vice Presidency. Lucas is the incumbent Information and publicity secretary, having been in the post since the Maun Congress. The Vice Presidency post is now lucrative in the BCP new constitution.
In the past it was just a ceremonial position and under the new regime the BCP vice president is responsible for policy development and convening the policy forum. Gobotswang may relish the chance because during his tenure as vice president he spearheaded the development of BCP Demoracy Alerts and also pushed the CKGR investigations among other things.
Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse will contest for the Information and Publicity Secretary post. Keorapetse will be challenged by former party parliamentary candidate for Nata-Gweta Dr Ditiro Majadibodu for the position. Keorapetse is the only party MP who has so far expressed interest to serve in the party’s executive committee. MPs Bagalatia Arone and Samuel Rantuana prefer keeping a low profile at the moment.
Meanwhile political firebrand, Kentse Rammidi has allegedly refused to contest for the position of Secretary General, raising doubts about his future at the party after losing his parliamentary seat under his BCP ticket. Rammidi, who was initially elected as BDP MP in 2009, quit the party to join Botswana National Front (BNF) in 2011, before joining BCP in 2012.
Phillip Monowe, the Kgatleng based activist and academic will contest for the position of Secretary General. Rammidi’s noncommittal stance leaves him as the lone contender for the position. Dr Philp Mbulawa, another party former parliamentary candidate has emerged as a strong contender for the position of party chairmanship, which is currently held by Rapelana.
For the better part of its existence, BCP has been viewed as avoiding clashes for leadership positions, especially the influential ones. The 2010 party congress saw leadership positions being contested through compromise model. Retiring Gilson Saleshando was succeeded by his son Dumelang Saleshando, Setshwaelo becoming his deputy, while Gobotswang was moved to the position of Secretary General. Lucas replaced Dumelang as party spokesperson.
In 2013, former BAM president, Setshwaelo announced that he will not defend his position as the party’s number two. The development saw Anna Motlhagodi tussling for the position with Batisani Maswabilili, with the latter emerging as the victor.
In the last party congress in 2013 the following sailed to the position of the executive committee unopposed: Saleshando (President), Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang (Secretary-General), Akanyang Magama (deputy Secretary-General), Dennis Alexander ( Treasurer), Morgan Moseki (Secretary for Legal Affairs), Lebogang Letsie (Secretary for Public Education), Florence Shagwa (Secretary for Political Education)Obakeng Kanthaga (Secretary for Economic Affairs), Thuto Thuto (Secretary for Sports), Steven Makhura (Director of Elections) and Dr Habaudi Hubona (Secretary for Health).
The change in the status quo is however believed to have been triggered by the dismal performance of the party in last year’s October general elections. Although the party increased its popular vote by 2%, the number of seats gained in the last elections fell dramatically. BCP lost Chobe, Ngami constituencies to BDP, while the constituency which was always believed to be party stronghold Gaborone Central was won by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) cutting short Saleshando’s 10 year spell in parliament.
BCP also could not retain the constituencies it gained through defectors losing both Kgatleng East and Kanye North to UDC and BDP respectively.
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.”