Fako warns lawmakers against creating new institutions
The University of Botswana (UB) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thabo Fako has warned that the creation of Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) if not properly managed will prove to be counterproductive as it will destroy the existing University of Botswana as a result of unnecessary competition.
Fako expressed his concern on Thursday this week in a briefing with leaders of different political parties in Botswana to update them on the achievements and the challenges facing the leading highest learning institution in Botswana. Fako observed that if recent developments are anything to go by, BIUST may prove to be an ill-advised move as its arrival will suddenly lead to the demise of UB.
Ever since BIUST started operating, University of Botswana has lost a considerable number of academic staff to BIUST especially in the faculty of engineering and other science related programmes of study. Not only is University of Botswana losing its academic staff to BIUST but a considerable number of talented students at the UB are also considering pursuing their studies at BIUST instead.
Fako is of the view that BIUST and UB should not have been made to compete but instead to complement each other. Fako is also worried that of late, BIUST has received favourable funding from government while UB has been denied similar support.
In his view this on its own will literally lead to prosperity on one institution while the other one (UB) will not enjoy similar privilege. “Government should be careful with the creations of these new institutions because they will destroy UB,” warned Fako.
The Vice Chancellor also warned government about “prohibiting” immigration laws which he said compromise the quality of academic work at the institution if UB is not allowed to hire foreign academics who are highly qualified and could add value to the university teaching. “Immigration laws should not have requirements that will deter us from attracting the best talents from elsewhere,” he said.
Fako’s concerns are backed by government’s decision to declare former University of Botswana Political Science academic Professor Kenneth Good a prohibited immigrant following his critical publications on the government of Botswana.
The UB Vice Chancellor also requested government to consider more funding for UB in order to make the university competitive so that it can compare with other international universities. “Without finance you cannot attract the best talent,” he asserted, also adding, “Integrity should be at the forefront of recruitment and we should look for competent and skilful academic staff and UB should avoid this coming crisis.”
He pleaded with political parties to consider forming a united political parties’ forum where they would discuss the UB state and challenges it is faced with. He lamented that in the past UB used to receive 100% funding from government but it was no longer the case.
Fako also warned political parties against politicising their debate when it comes to University of Botswana matters because the university was not necessarily meant for government but for imparting knowledge internationally.
For her part, Deputy Vice Chancellor responsible for student affairs, Professor Lydia Nyathi-Saleshando said they are worried by new developments where they are unable to take action against students who break the university rules. Nyathi-Saleshando said laid down disciplinary procedures are not practical since students choose to run to the courts to seek intervention and more often than not the court rules in their favour. The University of Botswana has over time had a discordant relationship with its student representative body, resulting in strikes, suspensions and court cases.
Saleshando challenged lawmakers to consider an alternative way of restoring order in the institution by enabling it to take action against misbehaving students. She noted that currently they have lost their powers to the courts since the students resort to the courts every time they go against the university procedures.
Dr Phenyo Butale, of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Member of Parliament for the area conceded that BIUST could pose danger to the UB if the process was not properly managed. He also said UB should consider the challenges faced by graduating students who study Biological Sciences as they are not accredited to practice in their profession, saying the arrangement should be similar to students who were study nursing who are not facing any trouble with practising as nurses after completion of their studies.
Dr Kesitigile Gobotswang, the Secretary General for Botswana Congress Party (BCP), who is also a former UB academic says the crisis facing the University of Botswana is the politicisation of the institution by the government and lack of tolerance for ideas from the opposition parties. Gobotswang says they are worried by the composition of the University of Botswana council which he alleged is predominantly made up of members of the ruling party.
Meanwhile Mpho Balopi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) said he was shocked by the revelations made by Fako on the challenges faced by the university and its relationship with the new BIUST. Balopi told the gathering that he will compile a report and give it to the party leadership in the view of deliberating on the issues raised by the Vice Chancellor.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.