WeekendPost can confidently reveal that on Thursday at least 120 people from neighbouring South Africa entered the country without going through the 14 day mandatory quarantine process after the authorities failed to make necessary arrangements.
Several sources confirmed that the 120 people who entered the country through the Ramatlabama border post this week (Thursday), were let loose after spending at least 12 hours at the border, being sent from pillar to post. A highly placed source at Goodhope sub- district who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was against the idea of releasing the travellers but an instruction from COVID- 19 district coordinator based in Lobatse who is in touch with the Head Office in Gaborone prevailed.
“I can confirm that, it is true they were released at around 2000hrs after spending close to 12 hours here. Throughout the day we made sure we adhere to the standard practice of social distancing and others,” said the source, The impeccable source said the travellers crossed in the morning but as stipulated by the government they were supposed to go through the 14 day mandatory quarantine.
However, as they were awaiting logistics, a phone call from Coordinator- District Health Management in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Boipelo Lecoge in Lobatse told them that there was not enough accommodation and travellers can be released to go on self-isolation. This is because they are working in collaboration with the District Health Management Team (DHMT). The team at the border who were very sceptical about the decision kept the travellers as there was no formal write up and they wanted to confirm with the parent Ministry in Gaborone.
Around 1500hrs, another call from a certain Dr Jonas based at Goodhope hospital confirmed that indeed the decision to release the travellers was reversed. At the time, transport issues had been sorted and two buses, a BX bearing registration numbers and Botswana Defence Force (BDF) bus were boarding and ready to depart the border. A last call from Dr Lecoge few minutes later ensued, directing that travellers be released with immediate effect and left to go home, a decision which was again reversed a few minutes later but everyone had left.
“At the moment, we are still awaiting a report from the DHMT on recalling the victims because we have all their names and contacts. Some of them have been called already to report back to the quarantine centre in Lobatse. It was disheartening, there was nothing we could do,” said the source. A victim who was part of the travellers and spoke to WeekendPost on anonymity said he is based in South Africa and a few days ago, his boss in South Africa tested positive for the pandemic COVID-19.
“At the moment I am home here in Ramotswa and I have not received a call to report to the quarantine yet. Ever since I arrived yesterday, I have tried self-isolation but it is difficult since I have had contact with some few family members already,” said the source. At the moment South Africa has announced its first two deaths from Coronavirus infection, with the cases having now passed the 1,000 mark. "This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19," the health ministry said on Friday.
Both deaths took place in hospitals in the southern province of Western Cape. Reached for comment, Officer Commanding at Ramatlabama Police, Molapisi said he cannot confirm nor deny the incident but said he cannot comment on the matter since the coordinators are with the District Commissioner’s office. However, the District Commissioner at Kanye, Mmoloki Raletobana’s phones rang answered the whole afternoon. Dr Jonas who is based at Goodhope Primary Hospital said he is not at liberty to discuss anything with members of the media or any third party.
“I report to my bosses in the Ministry of Health if there is anything, this is the standard procedure. So I am sorry I cannot assist”, he said. Dr Jonas also took time to dismiss the matter, saying everything is news to him before hanging up. Reached for comment, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape on Friday afternoon said he is not aware of the incident. “I was not briefed, I promise to investigate the matter and revert back to you,” he said.
On the 24th March 2020 the government of Botswana announced that there will be mandatory quarantine for travellers. To further strengthen the COVID- 19 prevention measures, all people coming from the Republic of South Africa through the Martins Drift, Ramatlabama, Pioneer Gate, Tlokweng borders and Sir Seretse Khama International Airport will be placed under mandatory quarantine for 14 days at facilities that have been identified. This decision was taken in the view that Botswana is affected by COVID- 19 and has sustained local transmission.
The objective of this mandatory quarantine according to health authorities is to minimize the introduction, transmission and the spread of COVID- 19 in Botswana. Currently only Batswana and Botswana residents will be allowed into the country. Anyone refusing mandatory quarantine will be liable a fine not exceeding P5 000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or, to both.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”