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Tshekedi clears Khama over caves

Tshekedi assures villagers that Khama not up to mischief

The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has defended President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s direct involvement on tourism issues, including his interest in the Gcwihaba caves. The Minister told residents that the President is not intending any ‘mischief’.

 
Some sceptical observers are of the view that the President’s involvement at the popular Ngamiland District’s Gcwihaba caves stems for his personal interest in the area. But it is clear from Minister Tshekedi Khama’s address to Xai Xai residents that President Khama is genuine in his involvement.


Khama has been at the centre of almost every activity taking place at the caves and Weekendpost can reveal that he enjoys frequent consultations and briefings on the developments taking place at the caves, and most of the hours he donations to the area are done in personal capacity.


Tshekedi Khama urged the villagers to disregard reports that Khama may be up to some mischief. The same was echoed by the area Member of Parliament, Thato Kwerepe who also had an opportunity to speak at the event. Also present was the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng.


Gcwihaba and Waduum caves are widely known as national monuments administered by the Botswana National Museum and protected by the revised Monuments and Relics Act of 2001.


This week, Khama officially opened the tourism facilities at Gcwihaba National Monument, at the invitation of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism. The Village councillor, Lelejwang Sokwe also announced that they had wanted President Khama to officially open the facilities because he has been key in pushing for the development.


Some observers argue that the President should be given an opportunity to develop the caves and monitor their developments for effectiveness and efficiency. They say with his a strong hand behind it; the cave may transform the lives of people around the area in a short space of time.


The facilities include a gatehouse with ablution block constructed by Xai Xai community in partnership with Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism through Ipelegeng Programme; campsites built by the Botswana Tourism Organisation; borehole provided by De Wet Drilling; and concession boreholes provided by the United Nations Development Programme – Global Environmental facility.


KHAMA EXPLAINED WADUUM CAVE SITUATION
Recently some of the Xai Xai villagers had expressed reservations over the President’s frequent visits to some caves, such as the Waduum Cave. The same cave has not been accessible to the public but only to Khama. But given an opportunity to explain the scenario, President Khama said Waduum cave needs special skills for one to enter and has a big dangerous snake inside.


Khama explained that he has taken over the keys and the control of the Waduum cave as it is dangerous and risky. “There is a big snake there, you need to be accompanied by army officers to go inside and there are high chances of coming out from there lifeless. When we go inside we use army tactics like crawling and so forth, and when you meet the snake you should know what to do,” he said.


When asked about the keys to the Waduum caves by Batawana recently, Khama responded:


 “The only keys I have in my possession are for the Waduum Cave not Gcwihaba. Waduum is special as opposed to Gcwihaba which is now dilapidated and untidy. I first got engaged with the Waduum cave around 1995 when I was still in the army after been engaged by some whites who discovered it.”


MULTIMILLION PULA LODGE
This publication learns that a big lodge is to be built near the caves. The owners of the lodge are however not yet known. The village councillor, Sokwe said it is true that there has been such a proposal. “The authorities together with the Trust are of the view that it would provide the necessary shelter for the tourists and improve the profits,” he said. Sokwe could not share the timeframes of the project implementation.


The government says the aim of providing the facilities is to empower Xai Xai Tlhabologo Community Trust to implement tourism activities in and around Gcwihaba National Monument area as well as to enhance the diversification of tourism products in Ngamiland.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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