President Mokgweetsi Masisi has this week reportedly rejected a deal by Members of Parliament (MPs) to have their benefits reviewed to conform to contemporary demands. Weekend Post has established that the committee met with President Masisi on Friday at the Office of the President to seal the deal which became a no deal.
This notwithstanding that Masisi has all along been in contact with the MPs and agreed with them “in principle” although he reneged at the last minute. Part of the deal was to increase the MPs ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) backbenchers and opposition legislators’ Housing Allowances by a whopping 100 percent from the current P11 000 to P22 000 monthly. It is understood that their line of argument is that they carried out research before and it indicates that the MPs housing allowance was too low for the calibre of the office they occupy and therefore needed to be increased to somewhere between P22 000 and P27 000.
In addition, as part of the agreement with Masisi, the MPs had in the deal settled for a 50 percent subsidy for cars instead of getting new constituency cars because they believe an MP job is 24 hours. The deal would have meant that they will buy private cars of their choice at any price, as a cost cutting measure instead of buying new ones, and that the government foots 50 percent of the total cost while the other part is taken care of by the legislators.
It is understood that when Masisi met the MP benefits and welfare committee led by Chairperson and Mmadinare legislator, Molebatsi Molebatsi last week in a meeting which did not last long – he received more than he bargained for. Although Masisi had previously agreed with them in principle, he turned down their demands on grounds that government has insufficient money to take care of the MPs conditions of service and their needs due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic.
Masisi announced last week in a televised presser upon hearing that the government has spent P22 million so far in combating COVID-19 since the news of the deadly Virus broke out. Interestingly, the money has been spent although there is no known confirmed cases of Corona Virus in Botswana in which logic dictates that thereafter more money would be spent (if a case or more is confirmed).
Masisi stated that: “P22 million has already been spent thus far. Do we have money to fight this? No, we have no money lying around but this money we will find. At this moment we have not declared this a national disaster, however we still treat this as a state of emergency, even if we have no confirmed cases.” He continued: “The initial budget allocated to deal with this virus was P31 million, of which P50 million had been requested.”
When speaking to Weekend Post following the meeting, one MP who preferred anonymity said: “Our committee met with Masisi this morning but unfortunately he says there is no money because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.” The ruling party MP who said Masisi’s response left him with an egg on the face, added that the matter was agreed in principle by both parties but later Masisi, after consulting with Accountant General reneged, citing COVID-19.
On his part government and ruling BDP Chief Whip in Parliament Liakat Kablay told this publication that it is disastrous that Masisi turned down their offer. “”It’s quite unfortunate,” he said. The Letlhakeng-Lephephe legislator continued to point out that MPs have been calling for their conditions of service to be improved especially with regard to constituency cars and housing allowances.
“We do not have cars to utilise when addressing official kgotla meetings and as such we want constituency cars. As MPs we should be recognised, we should have cars at constituencies so that even when we host the President, Vice President at kgotla meetings, we use them,” he told Weekend Post.
“Ministers drive fancy cars,” he lashed out while adding that, “Ministers’ cars should therefore be downsized to one. They should only have one official car. It is an utter waste of money. They use those cars to take their kids to school, what is that? Right now they have a Prado estimated at P1 million and a Mercedes Benz costing 1.2 million. As MPs we want those cars.” He said it was unfortunate that they were turned down on the basis of corona, but it is a matter which is topical, serious and unavoidable.
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.
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
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.
“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).