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Opposition parties present clashing cooperation models

Two of the opposition political parties currently negotiating their way into the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) fold seem to be at pains in advancing the umbrella model as suggestions of alternative models gain momentum in cooperation talks, WeekendPost has established. UDC is negotiating with the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) for by-elections and 2024 general elections cooperation.

However, the current UDC constituent members, Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), are in favour of the current umbrella setup. In fact, the umbrella setup is a compromise, especially from BCP, which prefers a merger, sources say. On the other hand, the two parties, especially BPF, could be demanding customers at the negotiation table. AP, for some reason, is said to be mild and has proposed that there be a study by experts to see which model could best work for the opposition. Their only stiffness is demanding 14 constituencies a matter for another day as talks continue.

With AP mild and appearing to be amenable in the boardroom, BPF will not be a pushover, despite having only two years of existence. The newly formed BPF has been nursing a headache over the best model of cooperation to adopt with the UDC. Both parties want to avoid opposition vote-splitting to unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which the BPF Patron and former president, Lt Gen Ian Khama, is currently sweating blood unseat.

The agreement from their meeting and even their position paper submitted to the negotiations committee chaired by former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha, is the pact model. The BPF views entering Umbrella right away as a challenge, which equates to putting all eggs in the UDC basket. By far, the fastest-growing political party in the country currently the party also seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties buttered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.

Another reason why the BPF is against putting all its eggs in the UDC basket is voter security. “We are from the BDP, and if you can look at our recruitment drive, we are eating from that party. Their members identify easily with us, and they do not see the UDC as the ideal bridge to cross the river with. So we still have to work on that again before we might think of any drastic decisions,” said one high-ranking BPF member. The pact model will be so that the BPF will not compete against other opposition parties and support them where they are not fielding but will contest constituencies allocated to them using their symbol and colours.

“But once we have taken government and ruling, we will see how to work together smoothly,” added an impeccable source. BPF is said to be represented by Mephato Reatile, Reitumetse Aphiri and Caroline Lesang in the talks. When asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model as a panacea to the opposition currently struggling to secure unity.

But the UDC is highly likely to shoot down this model proposal from the BPF on the basis that: “it goes against the themes and terms of negotiation and it runs parallel to the spirit of unity. This is the question that the BPF cadres cannot succinctly respond to, saying they will cross the bridge when they get there.

The party spokesperson, Lawrence Ookeditse, said to this publication:” We are committed to making this work. We are not negotiating to look at ourselves as a party, and we are looking at the interest of a nation. We will do everything to make it happen. We will look at the interest of our people, and that will be an essential guide to our approach to the talks. We are committed to respecting our partners and committed to delivering a new government that will make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Last week, UDC spokesperson, who is also mandated to be the media liaison of the talks, Moeti Mohwasa, told this publication that various political parties in the cooperation talks have already submitted their position papers to the Negotiation Committee, and those will be dealt with once the negotiations commence. Opposition talks were expected this month, but he explained that they had to be postponed.

“We had to postpone because the Chairperson (of the talks) had a bereavement and Cde Butale (Phenyo) had to travel outside the country. A new date will be set, but we hope to conclude by the end of the year,” he said. The pact model of cooperation was once among the proposed models in the February 2006 negotiation talks between the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) in their unsuccessful efforts to enhance their chances of unseating the BDP in the 2009 general election.

The three proposed models of cooperation were: an umbrella body (BCP and BAM first preferences), the alliance model (BNF first preference) and an election pact (first preference for the BPP and second for the other three). The third option the negotiating partners considered was the election pact. This is the model used, for instance, in both the 2004 general election under the auspices of the Protocol of Election Pact and in the by-elections held since August 2005 under the dispensation of the Memorandum of Understanding.


People with Disabilities Face Barriers to Political Participation in Botswana

23rd February 2024

Individuals challenged by disabilities encounter formidable obstacles when endeavoring to partake in political processes within the context of Botswana. Political involvement, a cornerstone of democratic governance, empowers citizens to shape the legislative landscape that impacts their daily existence. Despite Botswana’s reputation for upholding democratic ideals, recent insights unveil a troubling reality – those with disabilities find themselves marginalized in the realm of politics, contending with substantial barriers obstructing the exercise of their democratic liberties.

A recent inquiry in Botswana unveiled a panorama where individuals with disabilities confront hurdles in navigating the political arena, their involvement often restricted to the basic act of voting. Voices emerged from the study, underscoring the critical necessity of fostering environments that are accessible and welcoming, affording individuals with disabilities the active engagement they rightfully deserve in political processes. Noteworthy was the account of a participant grappling with physical impairments, shedding light on the glaring absence of ramps at polling stations and the urgent call for enhanced support mechanisms to ensure an equitable electoral participation.

The echoes reverberating from these narratives serve as poignant reminders of the entrenched obstacles impeding the full integration of individuals with disabilities into the democratic tapestry. The inaccessibility of polling stations and the glaring absence of provisions tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities loom large as formidable barricades to their political engagement. Particularly pronounced is the plight of those grappling with severe impairments and intellectual challenges, who face even steeper hurdles in seizing political participation opportunities, often grappling with feelings of isolation and exclusion from the political discourse.

Calls for decisive action cascade forth, urging the establishment of more inclusive and accessible political ecosystems that embrace individuals with disabilities in Botswana. Government bodies and concerned stakeholders are urged to prioritize the enactment of laws and policies designed to safeguard the political rights of individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, initiatives geared towards enhancing awareness and education on political processes and rights for this segment of society must be spearheaded, alongside the adoption of inclusive measures within political institutions and party structures.

By dismantling these barriers and nurturing a political landscape that is truly inclusive, Botswana can earnestly uphold its democratic ethos and afford every citizen, including those with disabilities, a substantive opportunity to partake in the political fabric of the nation.



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Neo Kirchway- Defying the odds

23rd February 2024

In the heartwarming tale of Neo Kirchway, a beacon of inspiration emerges, shining brightly amid life’s adversities.

Defying the constraints of destiny, Neo Kirchway, a resilient Motswana soul now thriving in the United States, stands tall despite the absence of her lower limbs. With unwavering determination, she tends to her cherished family – a loving husband and four children – engaging in the daily symphony of household tasks with remarkable grace.

Neo’s indomitable spirit traces back to the fateful year of 1994, a time when medical intervention called for the amputation of her curled legs. Embracing this pivotal juncture with unwavering courage and the blessing of her mother, she ventured forth into a world adorned with prosthetic legs, eager to script a tale of triumph.

Venturing beyond borders, Neo’s journey led her to the embrace of the United States, where serendipity intertwined her fate with that of her soulmate, Garrett Kirchway. Together, this harmonious duo navigates the ebbs and flows of life, their bond fortified by unwavering love and unyielding support.

In a bid to illuminate paths and embolden hearts, Neo leverages the digital realm, crafting a sanctuary of empowerment on her YouTube channel. Brimming with authenticity and raw emotion, her videos chronicle the tapestry of her daily life, serving as a testament to resilience and the unwavering human spirit.

Amidst the digital cosmos, Neo, affectionately known as “KirchBaby,” reigns supreme, a luminary in the hearts of 658,000 enraptured subscribers. Through her captivating content, she not only navigates the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, and childcare but also dances with celestial grace, a testament to her boundless spirit and unyielding zest for life.

In the cathedral of Neo Kirchway’s narrative, resilience reigns supreme, echoing a universal truth – that amidst life’s gales, the human spirit, when kindled by hope and fortitude, emerges as a beacon of light, illuminating even the darkest of paths.


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Inequalities Faced by Individuals with Disabilities

22nd February 2024

The government’s efforts to integrate individuals with disabilities in Botswana society are being hampered by budgetary constraints. Those with disabilities face inequalities in budgetary allocations in the health and education sectors. For instance, it is reported that the government allocates higher budgetary funds to the general health sector, while marginal allocations are proposed for the development and implementation of the National Primary Health Care guidelines and Standards for those with Disabilities. This shows that in terms of budgetary solutions, the government’s proposed initiatives in improving the health and well-being of those with disabilities remain futile as there is not enough money going towards disability-specific health programs. On the other hand, limited budgetary allocations to the Special Education Unit also are a primary contributor to the inequalities faced by children with disabilities. The government only provides for the employment of 15 teachers with qualifications in special education despite the large numbers of children with intellectual disabilities that are in need of special education throughout Botswana. Such disproportional allocation of resources inhibits the capacity to provide affordable and accessible assisted technology and residential support services for those with disabilities. Given the fact that a different amount of resources have been availed to the education and health sectors, the general understanding is that the government is not doing enough to ensure that adequate resources are distributed to disability-specific programs and facilities such as barrier-free environments, residential homes, and special education schools for children with disabilities.


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