In the aftermath of the special parliament that was convened by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi during the course of this week, the union representing Botswana nurses has despised the gathering, after one of the nurses deployed to screen legislators was confirmed to have tested positive for COVID- 19.
This meant that all people who were present at the special general assembly at Boipuso Hall on Wednesday, 8th April 2020 could have had casual contact with the said nurse therefore exposing themselves in the process.
A week ago President Mokgweetsi announced a State of Emergency, and announced a lockdown a lockdown beginning 2nd April for 28 days. He also told the nation through the state broadcaster, Botswana Television (Btv) that he wanted the State of Emergency to last more than the 21 days stipulated in the constitution, therefore he would call parliament to extend it beyod the stipulated days.
A source who spoke to WeekendPost on anonymity said under the Emergency Powers Act, the president can make such regulations as appear to him to be necessary for amongst others securing the public’s safety and the defence of the Republic.
Owing to his promise to convene a special parliament in the next seven days, legislators met this week starting Monday in a bid to move or reject the motion which was pushed by leader of the house and Vice President Slumber Tsogwane.
However, a tragedy befell the house on Thursday morning when the house resumed business and they were notified by Minister of Health and Wellness Lemogang Kwape that a nurse stationed at Block 8 clinic who was deployed to screen them has tested positive for coronavirus.
Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) through a press statement expressed their outmost displeasure and disappointment regarding the special parliament proceedings and criticized Director of Health and Wellness Dr Malaki Tshiphiyagae’s stance on the alleged COVID-19 case.
In his daily update Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape, had just told the house that Botswana has recorded seven new cases of covid-19. “The case involve a nurse who was based at Block 8 clinic and yesterday was on duty at Parliament session assisting there. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, there is substantial debate around whether the Special parliament should continue to operate.
Botswana Nurses Union would like to make it categorically clear that it understand the symbolic importance of parliament, but under the current situation, the special parliament proceedings cannot go on.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness, through its Director and Minister, has been preaching on the importance of short meetings (2 hours), few people (less than 10), staying home, and 1m distance rule as well as touching faces. These measures apply to everyone including the leadership of this country. Shutting down is therefore a symbolic act especially at a time of national crisis.
BONU also advised Health Director (Tshipayagae) to take a bold decision by giving every single one of the cohort a mask and send them to quarantine as some of them may not all have acquired the infection. The Director should come out clear and stop the meeting immediately as the 2 hours has elapsed. BONU also want to encourage the Director of Health to be consistent with on applying measures of COVID-19 as the disease knows no boundaries.
“We encourage parliament to consider teleconferencing and video conferencing to minimise the risks. Moreover, BONU like to remind Botswana that WHO has advised against politicizing COVID-19.”
In conclusion, Botswana Nurses Union recommends that all members of the cohort to go on mandatory quarantine immediately. The Director of Health and Wellness, Dr Malaki Tshipayagae must step down as he is unfit to lead under trying times like this and failed to protect the parliament including the president of the nation.
BONU advises Batswana to ignore some unfortunate comments by our leadership in current special parliament sitting. Batswana should continue taking necessary precautions such as staying home, minimising non- essential travelling to COVID-19 affected countries, gathering, regular hand washing and maintaining social distancing.
Moreover, the government must provide Nurses and health care workers with proper PPE, transport and quarantine all exposed health care workers. Nevertheless, BONU is already investigating of what really transpired in relation to the case of the infected nurse”, reads the statement from BONU.
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.”