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I won’t be Minister for long – VP Masisi

SWEARING IN CEREMONY: Mokgweetsi Masisi was endorsed Vice President by Members of Parliament this month. President Lt Gen Ian Khama immediately announced that the new Vice President will continue to serve as Minister of Education and Skills Development. He is currently being assisted by Dr Dow and Mr Moiseraela Goya in the Ministry.

Vice President Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi has revealed that he will not be Minister for long because he will in the near future move over and give way to one of his juniors or whoever President Lt Gen Ian Khama will find suitable to head the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.  

Masisi was named in President Khama’s Cabinet, an announcement that preceded the endorsement of Vice President by Parliament. Soon after his appointment as Vice President, it was announced that the Vice President will still continue as Minister.

The Vice President was also appointed the Chairman of the National AIDS Council, a position which was held by former President, Dr Festus Mogae. Masisi is currently assisted by Dr Unity Dow and Mr Moiseraela Master Goya at Education.

Last week Masisi met with the head of Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA) and shared his disdain for a motion calling for the investigation of tertiary institutions in the country.

The meeting between Masisi, in his capacity as Minister of Education and Skills Development, and the Authority, happened last week Friday, a few hours after Member of Parliament for Okavango, Bagalatia Arone’s motion requesting government to appoint a task team to establish whether all private tertiary institutions in Botswana have attained the required organisational attributes to provide quality tertiary education.

The reasons behind the motion were that since the advent of private tertiary institutions in Botswana, not much has been done to ensure that provision of higher quality education was provided through such institutions, and as such a task team should be assigned to see to it that they complied as prescribed in their accreditations.

He said the expectation of provision of tertiary education in Botswana was to provide quality education; therefore, there should be a fundamental way of thinking regarding approaches that will lead to successful implementation of standards leading to quality education in Botswana.

He said, to determine whether the country was on the right track in terms of provision of quality education in private institutions there was need to establish such a task team.

The motion was rejected on the floor of Parliament this week. The majority party in parliament used its numbers to reject the motion.

At the meeting between VP Masisi, BQA Acting Chief Executive Officer and BQA staff, Masisi expressed his disdain for MP Arone’s motion calling it “a shame.” Abel Modungwa also dismissed the intentions of the motion, saying it sought to cast aspersions on the mandate of the BQA.

Masisi dismissed the motion saying some of these issues “we passed them fifteen, twenty years ago. Masisi challenged the BQA to rise and be counted: “Do not be a regular Authority.”

He revealed that Government is fully aware that diamonds are not forever and that the human resource skills in the country will have to become the most valuable asset for the country.

The country is faced with an acute mismatch of available skills and the requirements of industries and the newly rationalized BQA as well as the Human resources Development Council (formerly Botswana Training authority and Tertiary Education Council respectively), are charged with fixing the mismatch by engaging industries to determining their needs when setting up training programmes.

For his part, Mondungwa promised that the BQA will do its best and that Masisi “will lose elections for other reasons, not because BQA failed to deliver.”

Masisi implored BQA to be more relevant and prove its quality assurance mandate in major projects that are happening countrywide, including Dikgathong Dam, and the mining of steel and iron in Shakawe.
“We have a reputation for development and Governance but where are the standards?” asked Masisi.

To buttress his point, Masisi revealed that the head of an Indian business development firm, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) which will together with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) set up a Rapid Incubation Center to impart technical and business skills, actually got his business and administrative acumen while working in the Ministry of Finance in this country.

Masisi took the opportunity to spell out the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s intentions regarding job creation, saying: “We promised jobs and there will be jobs,” adding it is a planning issue and a matter of statutory requirements.

Masisi said major projects that will provide jobs include: the planned Lobatse Leather Park, the Cut 9 project at Debswana Diamond Mine in Jwaneng; agro business project at the along the Zambezi River and two new power stations, a greenfield and brownfield project that are currently being commissioned.

He also pointed out that the much maligned Ipelegeng Public Works programme is here to stay, adding that, “we have limited resources, we are not in Norway neither do we have oil.”

Masisi also touched on the issue of the standing orders court case brought forth by the Attorney General, which delayed the commencement of parliament, saying “We knew something that you didn’t know, but we got our wish in the end and we remained faithful to our leader.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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