It is regrettable, but not fatal that the newly created political formation, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) excludes the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The results of Mokoboxane and Tlokweng, where the Botswana National Front (BNF) narrowly lost to the ruling party, were the first to demonstrate that the opposition parties need each other. It appears that the BNF lost because of lack of effective BCP support.
I believe that the BCP had its own reasons for not actively supporting the BNF, but I do not want to go into that, suffice it to point out that in the forthcoming bye elections in Monarch West, both the BCP and the UDC partner, the BPP will find themselves on a collision course, much to the delight of the BDP, who will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of opposition victory.
The problem of the opposition parties always splitting their own votes is now legendary. In 2009 the opposition split votes in nine constituencies, in 2004 it was 12 constituencies, and in 1999 it was six constituencies.
Only God knows how many constituencies will lost due to split in opposition vote in 2014. The loss of two wards by the BNF to the ruling BDP with such small margins shows that the go it alone strategy will not work in the current context of first past the post electoral system. But a BCP victory in Monarch West will only give rise to a false sense of optimism that the go it alone strategy is a viable option.
I want to believe that there is still time for the opposition to get their act together before the next election. There is an urgent need to get out of this self-destructive sibling rivalry where BCP and BNF still see one another as the most immediate tactical obstacle to overcome as a means to a more long term strategic objective of defeating the BDP. This emanates from a well-known ancient grudge between two siblings (in fair Palapye where we lay our scene) who, both alike in pride (or egos), just want to continue with their parents rage, one whom is now deceased (my sincere apologies to William Shakespeare).
One can feel the emerging antipathy between the newly formed UDC and the BCP. But the BCP and BNF (now under the UDC) need each other more than they want to admit publicly. Just look at their policies and manifestoes. When I was roped into the task force merging the four opposition party polices last year, I was surprised about the little differences amongst them, and the ease with which differences were quickly overcome.
Even the new kid on the block, the BMD, sometimes came up with very radical proposals, much to the relief of all of us. It is interesting to note however, that this success story was never publicly acknowledged, instead focus was put on the differences, that is, the problems surrounding seat allocations. But it appears that it is the old habit of the opposition parties to always focus on areas of disagreement rather than areas of agreement and in the process miss the bigger picture: the attainment of state power.
But now that there is the UDC (of the BNF, the BMD and the BPP) a registered political party, rather than a coalition of parties, how can the TWO main opposition parties, namely, the UDC led by BNF and the BCP together move forward and overcome the well-known problem of opposition vote splitting in all the coming bye elections, and on to the 2014 general elections?
My own strong feeling is that the UDC and the BCP must form an electoral pact. The much talked about Memorandum of Understanding of Bye Elections signed by BCP, BNF and BMD can be revived and revised in light of changed political conditions. I know for a fact that there will be no need to formulate a Pact Manifesto, because it already exists.
I know because I was party to its drafting. But I am not sure who should make the first move. May be the conveners of the talks can break the deadlock by inviting Boko, Motswaledi and Saleshando to some wine and cheese get together, and ask Rev Dick Bayford to grace the occasion. To someone like Boko, an electoral pact with BCP might be a bitter pill to swallow as it would appear to vindicate the position of the Executive Committee that he fired.
But political circumstances have changed and a wise man can adapt to the new conditions. The main ingredients of these changed political circumstances include the BNF narrow loss in the last two bye elections, the formation of the UDC and the return home (not defection for God’s sake) of Botsalo Ntuane, and Kabo Morwaeng (and only God knows who is next) formerly very prominent personas in the BMD fold.
Looking at the trends in the popular vote, the opposition vote has always been very high, though fragmented. In the 2004 general elections, the ruling BDP led the popular vote by about half a percent at 50.63 percent, and in the last 2009 elections (with the Khama magic) the lead rose to 53.26 percent, up by about two and half percentage points.
My position has always been that the problem is the electoral system of first past the post, and that it can and must be delegitimized. In a journal article in 2006 I fiercely repudiated (and with the benefit of hindsight, not successfully) a thesis propounded by American Professors, Dandolf and Holm in their 1999 journal article entitled Democracy Without Credible Opposition – The case of Botswana, on the prospects of what they referred to as ‘pre-election coalition’ in Botswana.
Their argument is that Botswana’s opposition parties have never committed themselves to a strategy of coalition building for the purpose of winning elections (italics added), that the de facto one- party system that prevails in Botswana is due mainly to the opposition parties inability to form a pre-election coalition, and that the opposition parties squander their chances by fighting amongst themselves. Whilst I still remain an unreconstructed believer in proportional representation (PR) I now appreciate their argument (better late than never).
And come to think of it, BDP just has to lose elections once, and it will be out of business forever, as has happened with many other ruling parties that have overstayed in government, such as UNIP in Zambia, nationalist Party in South Africa or Communist Party of the Soviet Union days. Can you imagine the BDP in the opposition benches?
It must be noted however, that pre-elections coalition/pact is not the same as merger, and is not necessarily the easy option out. It is not a mechanical operation and party rank and file tend to be sentimentally attached to their parties, so much that some would not vote a coalition/pact candidate out of resentment. But if you were to balance pre-elections coalition/pact with the split opposition vote, I believe that an elections coalition/pact will be the lesser of the two evils. In 2004, the BNF was able to pull back from the brink because of its pre-election pact with BAM and BPP. But those pre-election coalitions/pact negotiations were difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. I know because I was there.
The 2009 elections results also show that BAM/BCP pre-election coalition/pact worked for BCP, and I want to believe that those talks were also difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. Surely if the BCP and the BNF can go into pre-election coalition/pact with smaller parties, and it works, they can go into pre-election coalition with one another, and it would also work, if only it was not because of this ancient grudge! What I find attractive about the pre-election coalition/pact is that the parties in the coalition/pact keep their identities.
The Oasis Motel negotiations collapsed precisely because people had set themselves unrealistic deadlines, little realizing that there were going to be many obstacles to be overcome, including botete ja bangwe, which, even if unreasonable, had to be nursed. There is still time before the next general elections and I will say to UDC and BCP back to the drawing board. And who knows, the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission might just come in handy.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.