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UDC calls for sombre intervention against COVID-19 by Government

Moeti Mohwasa

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has articulated that Government needs to stand on its toes in order to fully combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released by the party’s communications unit, UDC has said that it is common knowledge that the capacity of the health system in Botswana is quite limited, emphasising that this therefore means it will not be adequate in the face of a full COVID-19 attack similar to that experienced by other countries.

UDC urged that it is crucial that the COVID-19 strategy team ensures that the capacity that resides in the private health sector and Batswana in the diaspora are mobilised and used maximally in the fight against COVID-19.

“Private health practitioners and their clinics should be put on alert. They should be made part of the equation. Health Professionals and others in the diaspora should be mobilised and engaged to the extent possible,” said the party.

In accentuating this, the UDC emphasised that the health workers who are prepared to come home and join the fight on the ground should be fully assisted by the government. “Modern communication technology should be used to make use of the knowledge, expertise and experience of those who cannot be physically here but can avail their time to help with planning, execution and analysis from where they are,” they party contended.

UDC stressed that it is evident that the entire COVID-19 health and economic response requires better planning than what has been thus far, so that stakeholders know their role in the response to the pandemic.

On the 17th April Ministry of Health and Wellness had issued that in an effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic they will effect Monday 20th April they will begin community testing for COVID-19 in five districts being the Greater Gaborone, Greater Francistown, Gantsi, Ngami and Chobe.

However, this was later on narrowed to targeted community testing in the form of making a follow up on contacts that have already tested positive for COVID-19.In response to this, the UDC said: “we are concerned that the targeted community based Covid-19 testing that was scheduled to commence this week based on a random sample of 20, 000 has been postponed, ostensibly to focus on contact tracing.”

The UDC labelled this as yet another failure to plan by government, arguing that, “the Nation cannot afford this.” “Community testing and contact tracing are both absolutely crucial for informing the COVID-19 containment strategy and should run concurrently rather that sequentially. The delay in community testing means that locating the geographical footprint of the pandemic will be delayed, at a high cost to the nation in terms of both the spread of the disease and the economic costs.”

They further recommended that priority to testing must go to all health workers and social workers, national and local leaders dealing with the permits, including the police and the army, those going back to work and teachers.

Moreover, the UDC stressed that in the planning for the COVID-19 responses the government must recognise that it is still necessary to make sure that other diseases and health conditions continue to be attended to.

Diseases like cancer, acute trauma, tuberculosis, malaria and health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes should not be under-resourced as this could make COVID-19 more lethal, the opposition party contended. The UDC also urged the government to make damning effort in ensuring that the frontline workers are provided with Personal Protective Clothing (PPE’s) including facial masks.

“The experience of other countries shows that the mandatory wearing of facial barriers/masks in public reduces the spread of Covid-19. In fact it even controls the spread of ordinary flu,” they said.
UDC said they highly recommend the use of face masks as a containment effort as the virus is new and is still unknown therefore it is prudent to prioritise prevention.

“The pursuit of a strategy of developing herd immunity, whilst well founded in science, has produced tragic results in the UK. Head immunity is a well-known epidemiological phenomenon. It has been used to manage diseases like measles. However not enough is known about Covid-19. Botswana cannot risk a bold pursuit of herd immunity.”

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

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.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

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.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

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.”

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