Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) strategists are said to have hatched a grand-plan to frustrate any efforts to have the upcoming meeting of the 12th parliament live on Botswana Television and Radio Botswana, this publication has established.
The past two emergency meetings of parliament held at Ditshupo hall were beamed live by the public broadcaster (BTV and RB). The expectation is, the impending meeting billed for the 27th of July will also be broadcast for Batswana given the fact that the country is still in the State of Public Emergency.
BDP is said to be feeling the pressure and believes opposition members are exposing the ruling party legislators and wants this coming assembly away from the broadcasters. “So the agreement has been made that lack of finances will be used as an excuse not to stream parliament live. Chances are very high Batswana will not watch or listen the proceedings live,” an impeccable source told WeekendPost.
The party schemers according to this publication’s informants believe their members fared badly on those debates and the party should redeem and rebuild the image without cameras and microphones. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Barbara Dithapo said parliament was previously allocated P3.7 million for scoping and piloting of the project, over P24 million short of the required amount.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is also said to have come out of an emergency Parliamentary sessions a disappointed man after a poor display by some of his cabinet ministers who suffered humiliation at the hands of Members of Parliament.
After the debates a wide public criticism erupted with political pundits casting aspersions on some of minister’s ability including Vice President Slumber Tsogwane. As the Leader of the House, Tsogwane was at the fore-front in rejecting motions and suggestions by members of opposition.
Live broadcast of Botswana Parliament is a very old issue. Former Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Gilson Saleshando tabled a motion in parliament requesting government to do so in the 10th Parliament. A source from the National Assembly has told this publication on Thursday that they are not sure whether the meeting will be live on state broadcasters.
BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi has denied reports that they could be trying to block the live streaming of proceedings. “We are the ones who were leading the advocacy for the live broadcast in the past two meetings, so there is no how we can block that development. We would like Batswana to see and hear their representatives at the August house.”
Efforts to contact both Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng and his assistant Dumezweni Mthimkhulu who are responsible for the live broadcast were futile.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando recently told this publication that by the time he vacates the office of Leader of Opposition (LOO) he would have rumbled many times with the Speaker, Phandu Skelemani, over parliamentary reforms.
“My big assignment is parliamentary live broadcast. We will put pressure to the Speaker that parliamentary proceedings be seen by the public and if he refuses we will ask for an arrangement to have a private live broadcast be it Facebook or anything.”
‘‘All the reasons that parliament cannot be broadcast live are false as proven by the latest development where it was beamed live on BTV,’’ says Saleshando. “In the past we were told that there should be an arrangement on how broadcasting personnel should behave inside the house which is not true, there is nothing like that.
At one point it was an issue of budget, and it shows that they are reluctant to do so. This is a parliamentary reform not the Speaker conducting Kgotla meetings, and I will ensure that it happens.” Another UDC MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse has opined as thus; “If it’s indeed true that it is expensive to broadcast parliament live, what are the other cheaper available options and why are they not utilized.
This is the 21st century, the era of 4th Industrial Revolution; the epoch of social media, internet applications and online private radio station among others. Most media houses have Facebook pages and or online platforms through which Parliament can be covered live. In fact, some media houses have threatened court actions to force live broadcast of Parliament.”
According to the Selibe Phikwe West MP, the reasoning for the delay, besides that BTV is unable to do so or that the idea has far reaching cost implications, has been that Parliament hasn’t provided the guidelines or rules of coverage for its intended live broadcast.
“Whilst the guidelines or rules of coverage are important, they can’t be used as a valid excuse because they are simple to draft and can be expeditiously adopted and if need evolve or change over time. This is what happened in both developing and developed democracies. In the meantime, online publications and Private radios and TV can be allowed to cover Parliament. The guideline must be expedited to realize this,” he added.
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.”