Before the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could even celebrate its triumphant 2019 general election victory, the party faithful is already hunting for the next secretary general of the party as the future preoccupies their 2020 agenda – they want an agent of renewal to breathe life into President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s promise to renew the ruling party.
Cocktail conversations marked by uncertainty are dominating BDP circles, and from various sources, it is evident that the party wants to continue of the path of ‘renewal’ as promised by its leader President, Dr Masisi. What is also emerging though, is that this is likely to be a completely different BDP where leadership positions are likely to be contested for ‘genuinely’ with very little magic of influence from the leadership.
BDP members are hopeful that the behind the scenes systematic handpicking of office bearers may just be over. This President may just allow a natural selection that will be punctuated by the ‘winner takes all’ principle.“Most of those in the current central committee are of the view that Democrats should allowed to throw in their names for leadership positions and elected accordingly. The probability of the leadership giving direction as to who should be elected is at a minimal,” opined a BDP insider who preferred not to be named.
At the heartbeat of the ensuing leadership contestation is the position of secretary general, by historic analysis, the most powerful after the President in the BDP hierarchy. Reverberations and echoes of ‘Who?’ Why?’ ‘Really’ dominate muted lobbying currently besieging the party that was founded in 1962 to push Botswana’s eminent Independence from the Queen of England.
This publication has it in good authority that Kanye North Member of Parliament, THAPELO LETSHOLO is one of the fashionable names in the lobby cabins. Whilst some see him as a party intern and still wet behind the ears politically speaking, those who are pushing for his candidacy for the position of secretary general are convinced that he represents ‘renewal’.
Letsholo is one of BDP’s freshmen who were expected to make the cut to cabinet only to fall short at the declaration of the President. Although talk is that he was disappointed, the youthful Member of parliament whose physical features satisfy the general public scale of good aesthetics has found a voice in Parliament, slowly but slowly molding himself to become ‘The voice of reason’ in the BDP backbench.
Not only is his name being touted to be synonymous with cleanliness, hope, renewal, and unifier – his would be sponsors are likening him to the maverick former BDP Executive Secretary, and later Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane. They point out that when he stepped into the secretary general’s office, Ntuane was untainted hence his reign saw very little upheaval and muted factions.
As for his inexperience, Letsholo is expected to make up for it with his intelligence and market place experience he got in the corporate world – he has worked for Kgalagadi Breweries and Debswana among other companies. Letsholo is also a self made entrepreneur. There is competition for the Kanye legislator, former MP for the same constituency, KENTSE RAMMIDI is also mentioned along as a possible candidate. Rammidi is an experienced politician. He has been a cabinet minister and is known to command the ground very well. Interestingly he has served (briefly) as party secretary general before quitting unceremoniously at the height of Khama’s intolerance to dissent within the party.
Rammidi main blemish could be his sojourn to opposition politics after being frustrated by former President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama back in 2011. Rammidi resigned his cabinet post and quit the ruling party in protestation after Government shoved teachers in to the essential; service category. To some, Rammidi does not fit the renewal template, he has a baggage of dumping the party and speaking ill of it. However, some understand the circumstances around his opposition sojourn, they have welcomed him back to the BDP.
Rammidi campaigned for the BDP in the 2019 general elections. Those who are antagonizing Rammidi’s candidacy throw around a theory that he is acting on the ricochet because he is unhappy with his failed mission to be posted to Ethiopia on Ambassadorial assignment. “We learn that he was blocked by some senior party officials who felt that he is still new because he recently returned from opposition politics,” theorized a fervent supporter of the former Kanye North legislator.
BOYCE SEBETLELA, who traversed the Central District during the 2019 election campaign trail to help the BDP neutralize former President Khama’s vitriolic propaganda against the BDP and President Masisi, is also a man on a mission. He seeks to return to mainstream politics as the secretary general of the ruling party. Sebetlela is also a former legislator and those close to developments believe that his ambitious are bigger that the secretary general position.
Their diagnosis is that the former Palapye MP wants to stage a political comeback right from Tsholetsa House, he wants to stand for Palapye constituency in the 2024 elections. They speculate that his horizon could as well be beyond Tsholetsa House and Cabinet. But as Democrats toss innumerable names, the fact of the matter is that there is no vacancy yet.
The office of the secretary general is currently occupied by MPHO BALOPI, the Member of Parliament for Gaborone North who is also the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity & Skills Development. Following his resounding general election victory, there is no doubt that Balopi commands sizeable political currency compared to some of those who want to subtract him from the BDP governing structure.
At a recent press conference the secretary general made statements to the effect that he is yet to decide on whether he should defend the position or not. He also threw in a word of caution to aspirants, that party members should not breach party rules and regulations by campaigning before season. He holds the office that implements and advises the President.
From this statement, by way of deductive reasoning, one could decipher that Balopi, who is credited with the BDP’s powerful branding during the 2019 campaign, still needs time to decide his next move and would not be in favour of any party member who would bend the rules to get a head start. The position of secretary general is very powerful and it is right at the BDP verdict making pot, decisions are made and breached at the very same office. Taking into account his experience, Balopi’s incumbency should come in handy should he decides to run.
There is a long queue at Tsholetsa House, of late, LESANG MAGANG is reported to be interested in the position. This is a second cameo for Magang who is likely to paint himself as a victim of the intolerance of the past BDP regime. He may argue fresh and new ideas to warp his agenda around President Masisi’s renewal message.
Lesang Magang has a history pf being linked to positions only for the report on intention to die down prematurely. The influence that his father, David Magang wields in today’s administration may just be what the doctor ordered to finally give Lesang Magang the impetus to push for the long haul, it remains to be seen.
Meanwhile KAGELELO BANKS KENTSE may not run for the position of secretary general. He is currently the Head of Communications subcommittee. By the admission of those close to him, Kentse acknowledges his shortcomings at the moment, “he is still inexperienced and new in the party because he was recruited from Botswana Movement for Democracy. But he could take a shot at the position of deputy secretary general,” notes an insider who also posits that SHAW KGATHI will not be available to defend this position because he may take up an offer of Ambassador in Asia.
ALFRED MADIGELE has been named by some BDP members as another name that could represent renewal which punctuates most of the President’s political speeches. Grapevine suggestion is that there is a team that is coercing the medical doctor who has stuck his foot at the practice to consider a political assignment.
From all the potential candidates, “it is evident that party members are thinking of the future, they want deal with the question of uncertainty – what does tomorrow hold for the party.” Two people, President Masisi and his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane are guaranteed a return to the party’s governing structure later this year.
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.