The recent decision by President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Cabinet to overrule the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretariat on the primary election deadline appears to have found favour among party members. The decision by Cabinet to lobby the central committee to extend the deadline was justified due to the short notice given, the absence of some cabinet members, and the potential consequences of a rushed primary election process.
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President Masisi together with his Ministers decided to overrule BDP Secretary General Kavis Kario’s five days ultimatum for members to declare their interest by extending until the 2nd of November at a cabinet meeting held in Ramatlabama recently.
“The CC invites all members of the BDP in good standing who may be interested in contesting primary elections to express their interest by filling the BDP Expression of Interest form attached to this letter and submitting to the SG by delivery to Party Head of Office on or before 1600hrs on Tuesday 17th October 2023,” a letter from Kario released last week Thursday had stated.
The BDP Secretariat’s initial primary election deadline of October 17th was deemed to be short notice for potential candidates. The party’s democratic principles should ensure that all members have a fair opportunity to express their interest in contesting the Bulela Ditswe. By lobbying the Central Committee to extend the deadline, President Masisi and his Cabinet acknowledged the need to provide sufficient time for interested individuals to prepare and submit their expressions of interest. Some members, it is said, only learnt about the form via social media and they did not have enough time to fill it and also resign from any committee that they could be serving.
Ministers were also affected by this because at least four of them were on official trips outside the country within the period they were supposed to have submitted the names. It is important to note that some members of the Cabinet were outside the country during the initial deadline period. This absence would have hindered their ability to participate in the decision-making process. By extending the deadline, the Cabinet ensured that all members had the opportunity to contribute to the decision, promoting inclusivity and fairness within the party. Peggy Serame, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, Mmusi Kgafela and Lefoko Moagi were not in Botswana according to an impeccable sources which forced extension.
“The CC has reflected upon the initial dates for submission of interest to contest primary elections and decided to extend the date for submission of the BDP Expression of Interest form to 1600hrs on Thursday 2nd November 2023 by delivery to party head office,” a letter that was crafted by Kario again stated.
Party members have also been reminded further that those who would have indicated their interest to contest will be bound to resign from positions in the subcommittees of the CC, Women’s Wing, NYEC, regional, branch, ward and cell committees where applicable and may not be eligible for re-election to the same until after primary elections.
BIG NAMES ENTER BULELA DITSWE RACE
Within the current group of BDP lawmakers Dr. Thapelo Matsheka of Lobatse has revealed that he will not contest a political office, though he will remain being a member. For now, his buddy, Mpho Balopi of Gaborone North constituency is yet to express interest but his competitors are careful not to count chickens before eggs hatch. He is non-committal about his intentions and play the cards close to the chest. This has left some of the possible candidates there, guessing his next move and will only say he is not contesting after the closure.
However, a number of big names as a closure of business day on Tuesday had already declared interests especially those that lost 2018 primaries and 2019 general elections. So far Nonofo Molefi is rumored to have submitted the name in Gaborone Central. Dorcas Makgato has raised her hand for Sefhare-Ramokgonami with Sadique Kebonang also targeting Lobatse. Interestingly fresh from five year suspension, Tshepang Mabaila is interested in Mogoditshane East and he has submitted his name.
Key voices within the party are still convinced that a number of old figures are likely to submit their names before the deadline. The names of Pelonomi Venson Moitoi is hinted on numerous occasion around one of Gaborone Constituencies, the same can be said by Tebelelo Seretse who some believe she may just put on the name.
By the time the decision to extend the deadline was made, approximately 4000 individuals had already shown interest in contesting the Bulela Ditswe. The BDP says this overwhelming response indicates a high level of enthusiasm and engagement within the party. “Rushing the primary elections without allowing sufficient time for vetting and candidate selection could have resulted in a flawed process, potentially undermining the credibility of the party’s internal democracy,” opined one BDP member.
LOGIC SAYS BULELA DITSWE NEXT YEA
If the primary elections were to be held shortly after the initial deadline, discontent among party members would likely arise due to the perceived lack of transparency and fairness. This discontent could lead to a surge in independent candidates, as disillusioned party members seek alternative avenues to participate in the political process. The proliferation of independent candidates could fragment the party’s support base and weaken its chances of success in the upcoming elections.
With the party having extended declaration interest, antagonists of this development postulate that primaries elections will only be held next year. Their reasons are multi-faceted. Next month the party will be busy with registering members for general elections which will require more energy. Again it will also be a busy session as it will be the first meeting of the fifth session of the current parliament.
It is warned that even the next meeting will be jeopardized as a number of legislators are likely to be busy with the campaigns which could affect parliament quorum from time to time. This is likely to force the party to postpone primary elections to either March or April next year after the second meeting of the Budget Speech. However it is also argued that it will be a tight schedule which will force candidates to double their campaign efforts as they will focus on both primary and general elections- it will come at a cost.
VETTING PROCESS EXPECTED TO BE BRUTAL
With the party racing against time to hold primaries and ultimately prepare for possibly one of the most combative and competitive general elections, the vetting process is anticipated to be ruthless. By far a number of candidates are being eye balled because they have contravened the primary election regulations. Others are targeted because they are not members in good standing or might have switched constituencies or branches. In a bid to save time prospective candidates integrity, personality, commitment to the party, ability to represent the party and the public if elected and all other qualifications and disqualifications under the electoral laws of Botswana will be fully implemented.
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
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.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
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.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
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.