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UDC founder warns against merger

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.


BDF Welfare Fund reformed

28th June 2022
BDF Commander: Lt General Placid Segokgo

The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has closed its 15 year old Welfare Fund to comply with the new standards set by the Financial Intelligence and Regulatory Authority (FIA) and the Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIRA).

The BDF has now transitioned its operations to a Dikwata SACCOS, which is licensed by the FIA. The main objective of the Trust Fund was to provide its members with financial assistance and to improve the welfare of its members. It was also established to allow its members to save money. The organization also wanted to utilize the funds to improve the welfare of its members.

In 2018, Parliament enacted the Trust Property Control Act, which made it mandatory for all existing trusts to re-register with the High Court. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was one of the first organizations to submit its application for re-registration. Following the assessment of its application, the High Court agreed that the Trust Fund should be transitioned to comply with the Act.

According to Colonel Ramhitshana, in line with the Notarial Deed of Trust, the Trust Fund is set up for the benefit of the beneficiaries and imposes obligations on the beneficiaries to contribute to the Trust. According to the Act, beneficiaries are not obliged to contribute to the Trust.

This now suggested a major shift from the fundamental objectives of the collective and any deviation would have meant that the Trust Fund should immediately be dissolved. “In his reading of the Notarial Deed the Master was of the opinion that the Trustees are obliged to provide a Bond of Security,” says Ramhitshana.

The Master’s interpretation of the Notarial Deed meant that the members would have to provide a bond of security in order to retain their elected trustees. This would have meant that no one would be willing to take on the role of trustees without having to put up a bond.

“Because of the aforementioned, the Trust Fund could not continue to exist under that model. Without the much needed contributions, the Trust Fund would cease to operate. It therefore called for the Board of Trustees to embark on a countrywide consultation with members to share with them the challenges faced and seek advice on the way forward.

During these engagements, it was clear that members strongly believed in the continuation of the spirit of togetherness that has been exhibited by the collective that has served them so well over the years. During these interactions, members were very amenable to the idea of forming a Co-Operative Society in order to be compliant with the law.

On this note, the process to register Dikwata SACCOS was conceived as it was deemed to be the right type of model that would continue representing the interests of members.” Following the formation of Dikwata SACCOS, it is expected that the members’ assets will be transferred to the Co-Operative Society, in order to continue representing the interests of its members.

These include the members’ savings, loans, and collective education. Colonel Ramhitshana also noted that the members would continue to be engaged with the Co-Operative Society to learn more about its operations. The Trust Fund has already outsourced its administrative services to a company known as Minet Botswana, which is a professional fund administrator.

The Trust Fund is also regularly audited by Grant Thornton, as required by its Notarial Deed. The annual general meetings of the members are also held as per the Notarial Deed. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was registered in the Deeds Office of Botswana in 2007 by members of the Botswana Defence Force.

The founding members consisted of members in Active Service, Non-Uniformed members and Retired personnel in their personal/private capacity. Since its inception, the Trust Fund has been operating under a Board of Trustees elected by its members in accordance with the Notarial Deed of Trust, which has been the governing document for the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund was registered with the Non-Bank Financial Regulatory authority.

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Secure land title a milestone – Masisi

28th June 2022

This week saw President Mokgweetsi Masisi and First Lady Neo Masisi receiving their first Secure Land Title (SLT) certificate from Ngwaketse Land Board. A huge milestone in Botswana’s Land Sector.

The new certificate replaces the old Customary Land Grand certificate which has been issued by Land Boards since 1970 following their establishment. When officiating at the launch of the SLT in Moshupa, Masisi highlighted; “My Government recognizes robust and transparent Land Administration as a tool for advancing economic development.

We are confident that these land reforms we are implementing will unlock the true potential and economic value of Tribal Land.”  He went on to state that “the reforms include: The review and implementation of the National Land Policy of 2015 as amended in 2019; Tribal Land Act of 2018; and, Deeds Registry (Amendment) Act of 2017.”

The event marked the completion of a journey that started in 2009 with a partner driven cooperation with the Kingdom of Sweden, called improvement of the Land Administration Procedures, Capacity and System (LAPCAS) Programme. The programme objectives center around ensuring successful social and economic development of the nation of Botswana based on efficient, effective and transparent Land Administration.

Masisi proudly mentioned that the new certificate was a realization of the 2019 BDP manifesto. He said; “Consistent with the Botswana Democratic Party 2019 election manifesto, we remain undeterred to fulfil our pledge to change the current land tenure system under the tribal land grant that limits and affords the majority of Batswana only use rights.

We will neither slumber nor sleep, until comprehensive legislative and policy review confers rightful ownership over pieces of land that Batswana own, according them owners’ rights to such land, which they may use as security to unlock opportunities”.

Land Boards are now obliged to register grants at Deeds Registry when they allocate land for both residential and business uses. This means that Land Boards will bear the cost of surveying and submitting to Deeds Registry, drastically reducing costs incurred by the citizen.

Masisi emphasized that Batswana will now directly use the Secure Land Title as security or collateral to access financial assistance from financial institutions. Thus, unlocking the economic potential of the Tribal Land.

In line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the reforms mentioned, are anchored into a multi-platform computer system called the Land information System (LIS). It is in this system where all land delivery processes take place until the final printing of the SLT at Deeds Registry. Masisi also challenged those that will be administering the associated IT support services and infrastructure to make “System e Down” a thing of the past.

When giving a historical background on the Land Management Sector. Masisi highlighted that it went through a number of stages. He said “in the pre-colonial era, we had a single land tenure managed by Dikgosi and we kept no land records. During Protectorate years, three tenure system was introduced. However, Tribal Land remained unregistrable while Freehold and State Land then known as Crown Land were registered in the Deeds Office located in Mafikeng by then.”

He jogged the memory of attendees stating that at independence, Botswana maintained the three-tenure system and in 1970, Land Boards were established through the Tribal Land Act of 1968 and Land Boards took over the management of Tribal Land.

Customary Land Grants still remained unregistrable and one had to convert their Customary Grant to Common Law Lease if they want to register at Deeds. The keeping of records remained a challenge due to lack of robust records management tools and systems.

These challenges are said to have been compounded by the fact that Land boards continued to allocate un-surveyed land and the Deeds Registry did not recognize Customary Land Grants as registrable rights. The manner in which Tribal Land was managed gave the impression that Tribal Land Grants, in particular Customary Land Grants were inferior to Freehold and State Land tenures.

Kgosi Donald Kgabosetso II Mosielele, raised a concern that the Tribal land boards takes delay in allocating land thus leading to mushrooming of squatters. In response the Minister of Lands and Water Affairs Dr. Kefentse Mzwinila said to accelerate the process of land allocations, the Ministry is still combing through waiting lists after the realization that most people who are on the list already have land which goes against their policy of allocating 1 person with at least 1 plot in tribal land and 1 plot in state land.

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Ministry of Health disapproves sending nurses to UK

28th June 2022

With hundreds of nurses having registered and close to 200 already packing their bags to London, Health Ministry says it has never received any official communication from Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) regarding the recruitment.

UK is said to be currently facing a severe shortage of nurses. This saw BONU and NEU Professionals Ltd, an international healthcare professional recruitment agency headquartered in London, announced a partnership for the recruitment of Botswana nurses into the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom. However, the Ministry of Health has told this publication that they have not received any official communication regarding the procedure but seen media reports on the matter.

“The Ministry has not received any official communication regarding recruitment of nurses under it’s deploy or any other professionals for that matter. Indeed the ministry has seen media reports on the matter,” Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Christopher Nyanga said.

On annual basis it is said, nursing schools in Botswana produce around 350 graduates yearly although graduates are roaming the streets. The government has only managed to absorb around 50% of graduates since the past two years. Not only that, nurses who were working at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital during the peak of Covid 19 have not had their contracts renewed.

Regardless of the statistics, the Ministry’s Public Relations Officer, Dr Nyanga articulated that, “The Ministry has no desire to see any of its professionals leaving since we need all of them to advance the mandate of the Ministry and save the lives of all Batswana and residents of this country”.

However, the union with the soaring unemployment and unsatisfactory conditions of service believe they are right to stand for the rights of their members. On the other hand, Kerry Wykes Director NEU Professionals, disclosed that they had previously been unable to recruit from Botswana.

“We do not actively recruit healthcare professionals from developing countries,” she said. Reason being that WHO had listed Botswana among the 152 developing nations to not recruit from. Botswana has since been removed from the said list.

“NEU Professionals is committed to ensuring that ethical recruitment practices within the organisation operate through adherence to the UK Code of Practice for international recruitment. We align with World Health Organization’s advice on ethical recruitment to promote effective, fair and sustainable international recruitment practices,” she highlighted.

It was said that the nurses will not to be charged a single Pula for the entire relocation process. The agreement between BONU and NEU Professionals is that Batswana will be exempted from writing IELTS which is a pre requisite English examination needed when one is to relocate to the UK, the examinations attract charges and NEU Professionals will be footing the bill.

Wykes had already went on to explain that; the nurses will receive an all expense paid relocation package that will include VISA, flights, medical insurance, accommodation, IELTS exams and free schooling for dependants. NEU Professionals over the next coming week will be conducting interviews in Gaborone, Lobatse and Francistown with over 700 interviewees lined up for the opportunity. Fresh graduates are eligible as well, however 6 months to a years’ experience is highly recommended.”

BONU spokesperson, Aobakwe Lesolame has added that, “Up to 700 Botswana nurses have signed up to work in the UK which more than 60 nurses are off to the country”. Despite the Ministry’s declination of receiving any conventional dispatch, the executive nurse from Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), Professor Natalie Hammond, enunciated that, “The nurses joining us from Botswana will reduce the number of nursing vacancies at our Trust resulting in better patient experience, and more support for our current staff”.

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