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Wednesday, 06 December 2023

UDC Deadlocked: Boko’s headache


The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) finds itself in a state of deadlock as its constituent parties fail to reach a consensus on the allocation of constituencies. The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) insists on having 12 constituencies, while the Botswana People’s Party (BPP) argues for 7 or more. On the other hand, the Alliance for Progressives (AP) demands a staggering 16 constituencies. This leaves the Botswana National Front (BNF) with 25 seats, most of which are outside what could be termed winnable regions. This impasse has brought the UDC to a standstill, hindering progress and undermining the coalition’s readiness for the 2024 general election.

However, two separate meetings that UDC President Duma Boko held with Alliance for Progressives (AP) leader Ndaba Gaolathe and Botswana Patriotic Party (BPF) Patron, Ian Khama, in an attempt to lure them to join the umbrella, are said to be the reason behind the deadlock in the negotiations between the three parties, according to UDC members.

While no one has officially stated the specific date as to when the negotiations will be concluded, a senior figure from one of the parties had previously informed WeekendPost that they had expected to have wrapped up everything by the end of August.

In May this year, during a media briefing, Boko informed political journalists that UDC has appointed two members of its NEC to represent it in the talks with AP and BPF. The two individuals are Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa.

However, it has come to the attention of this publication that after months of negotiations, the parties are failing to reach an agreement. According to insiders, this is causing frustration among prospective candidates, as the only way they can prepare themselves is after the allocation of constituencies, which is proving to be a headache.

The difference of opinion on allocation of constituencies among constituent party negotiators has prompted the idea of handing the matter to the presidents of the constituents’ member parties for resolution. However, some find the proposal to be an affront on their ability to conduct duty, hence they want the process to be concluded by the assigned negotiators.

The allocation of constituencies is a critical aspect of any democratic system, as it determines the distribution of political power and representation. All the UDC members argue that it is essential to strike a balance that ensures fair and equitable representation for all citizens. However, the inability of the UDC constituent parties to agree on this matter is a clear indication of their failure to prioritize the interests of the people over their own political ambitions, a political analyst has observed.

Some members of the UDC highlight that the individual meetings Boko had with the leaders of other parties who want to join the UDC are the primary reason for the deadlock. It is reported that when recruiting Ndaba and AP, Boko promised them that they will receive 14 constituencies that were previously managed by Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2014. AP is an offshoot of BMD, established in 2018 after internal wrangles.

Not only did Boko promise them those constituencies, but AP, led by former BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe, is understood to be proposing to be given the constituencies they once held under the auspices of BMD before the party split.

According to insiders, AP believes this would be fair to them, as they believe their party still has a base in the said constituencies.

AP has also made it clear that the 2019 general elections will not be used as a criterion for allocating seats because there is consensus in the opposition that the elections were rigged.

“It would be contradictory to use the outcome of the 2019 general elections because we believe the elections were rigged. That is a non-starter,” said an AP NEC member previously.

“It would then be fair to re-evaluate how constituencies were allocated before the BMD troubles that led to the formation of AP and the expulsion of BMD.”

Some say the AP’s demand for 16 constituencies reflects a lack of willingness to compromise and work towards a mutually beneficial solution. While it is essential for parties to advocate for their interests, it is equally important to recognize the need for consensus and cooperation within a coalition, a BNF stalwart told this publication. The AP’s insistence on an excessive number of constituencies disregards the delicate balance required for effective governance and representation, he said.

Meanwhile, the BPF’s insistence on having 12 constituencies seems to be driven by a desire to consolidate its power within the coalition. By securing a larger number of constituencies, the BPF hopes to gain a stronger foothold and exert more influence over the UDC’s decision-making processes. This self-serving approach undermines the principles of fairness and inclusivity that the UDC should uphold.

Connectedly, BPF is yet to become a UDC member in good standing, but it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the umbrella and has been cooperating on by-elections. Just like AP, Boko met with BPF godfather, Khama, to sell him the idea of joining the UDC, which he readily accepted.

Boko also proposed that they should receive the majority of the constituencies in the Central District, which was not a problem because the idea was for them to join or cooperate with UDC urgently. The constituencies BPF wants to manage in the next year’s elections include three Serowe constituencies, two Tswapong areas, Bobonong, Mmadinare, Palapye, two Boteti constituencies, Shoshong, Francistown East, and Nata-Gweta.

However, with those proposals discussed away from the recognized platforms, negotiators are facing challenges. AP representatives came to the table with full knowledge of what to expect — 14 constituencies from 2014. The same applies to BPF, as they know what they will get from the talks, but everything has come to a standstill because those agreements were informal, and the three men are not part of the negotiating team. AP and BPF representatives are demanding these constituencies, while the UDC bloc is also looking out for the interests of their parties.

On the other hand, the BPP’s demand for the 7 constituencies appears to be an attempt to limit the influence of other parties within the coalition. By advocating for an increased number of constituencies, the BPP aims to maintain a more significant share of power for itself. This approach is equally detrimental to the UDC’s objective of fostering collaboration and unity among its member parties.

“To break this deadlock, it is imperative for the UDC to refer the matter to its party leaders. The leaders must engage in constructive dialogue and find a middle ground that accommodates the interests of all parties involved. This approach would demonstrate a commitment to the principles of democracy and the collective well-being of the citizens,” said a BPF negotiator who preferred anonymity.

Crucially, the BNF which leads the UDC has an unhappy lot who were eyeing some constituencies which are now at the bargaining table. Some within the BNF are now uneasy because the constituencies they had laid their eyes on before the arrival of AP are now off limits.

UDC spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa has stated that they will not share anything with the media until they conclude the negotiations. He has said they have not set any specific deadline for the talks. However, this poses a two-sided burden for the candidates; it’s either a short time for campaigning or the constituency that candidates have been tirelessly working for is given to another party.




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BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

4th December 2023

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.

The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.

Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.

The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.

Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.

Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.

In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.

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UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet  

4th December 2023

It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.

The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.

The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.

One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.

The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.

Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.

The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.

In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.

The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.





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Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper

4th December 2023

In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.

Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.

Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.

An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.

The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.

On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.

During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.

Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.

In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.



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