The outspoken and fearless former President, Dr Festus Mogae recently paid the Coordinator of the National Aids Coordinating Agency (NACA), Grace Muzila a personal visit to explain his departure from the Chairmanship of the National Aids Council (NAC).
In 2008 when the current president, Lt Gen Ian Khama decided to keep Mogae as Chairperson of the National HIV/AIDS Council given his (Mogae)’s experience and passion in matters of HIV/AIDS. The post according to the NAC is reserved for the sitting president but given his busy schedule, he normally delagates his deputy.
Given Mogae’s unparalleled record in fighting HIV/AIDS, this was hailed as one of the best decisions to have come out of Khama’s government in the area of health as many said the move will make sure that the country maintains the momentum achieved in her fight against HIV/AIDS.
A few days after the recent swearing in of President Khama and his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, the nation was told that Mogae will no longer chair the National Aids Council proceedings. Many swiftly concluded that he has been kicked out because of his controversial and liberal views on sex workers issues and homosexuality. Mogae was outspoken and fearless – attacking government on its handling of issues of HIV/AIDS.
Weekendpost can reveal that Mogae recently shared reasons behind his depature with Muzila. However the NACA Coordinator could not go into the nitty-gritties of the meeting.
Called to offer the nation and stakeholders a credible explanation, she described Mogae’s depature as ‘just a move’. She continued that ‘people always move and that Mogae is not an exception’. Muzila however acknowledged the former president’s extraodinary experience in the area. She insisted that Mogae will still be available to carry out other national assignments in the area of HIV/AIDS.
Reports suggest that news of Mogae’s departure have saddened stakeholders. At the NAC, Mogae was the embodiment of wisdom. He challenged the Council to confront the deadly virus head on and be credible and practical when making suggestions and recommendations. He clashed with those he considered conservative, progressive but eventually gave in when they offered credible arguments. Mogae encouraged open debates and nurtured a conducive environment for that.
Former Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA) director,Uyapo Ndadi who has attended a series of National Aids Council meetings chaired by Mogae says ‘news that Rre Mogae was deposed hit me hard’.
“No person in Botswana comes close to matching his impeccable profile on matters of HIV! The HIV epidemic evolved under his watch and so are his views! He moved from a conservative approach to a liberal and accommodative approach! He moved the NAC from an idealist or denialism body to a pragmatic body that faces, and not avoids issues,” said Ndadi, himself a renowned human rights activist on issues of Aids.
Ndadi who often clashed with Mogae on the views of an organisation he once led says he enjoyed his healthy exchanges with the former president.
“He meant well in everything he said or did! Some people found his views unpalatable or offensive to culture but the views were in my view legitimate and valid! I wonder now what direction the NAC will take, I just hope it doesn't become a networking structure by civil servants,” he charges.
No explanation has been given to stakeholders yet but sources say a brief but reticent explanation might be given at the next NAC meeting. The NAC conference failed to convene last week as was scheduled. NACA said the meeting has been postponed.
Insiders say there has been behind-the-scenes bickering over whether Mogae should have been given the last opportunity as the chair to say his goodbyes or not. This they say was highly improbable as the venom-spitting former president was highly likely to touch base about his mysterious and shocking departure. Some sources however say Mogae has given Muzila a few words to say to the NAC.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.