Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 13 March 2019 - Botswana Guardian

Kgosi Ezekiel Joel Masilo, the Senior Sub Tribal Authority for Bobirwa waxed eloquent last week at the University of Botswana with his narrative of the impact that climate change has wrought in his sub-district.

The ocassion was the presentation of the findings of the five-year Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project – a large-scale research consortium that involved six countries in Africa (Botswana included) and three states in India. Kgosi Masilo got involved in the project in 2017 and admits to learning the importance of planning and that Bobirwa communities can adapt to the impact of climate change only if they “work together”.

He said Bobirwa is experincing high temperatures as a result of changes in climate. Before then he said they used to hear about climate change and global warming and thought nothing about it. “It was just stories happeneinig to other people and other communities.These days it is real it has even affected our rain patterns”, he said. “We knew that in certain months it would rain but it is no longer happening. Even our elders (mathogo tshweu) are confiused because what they knew is no longer happenening”, he said of how climate change is distorting indigenous knowledge of reading peculiar changes in our natural habitat and observing the galaxy.

He implored Babirwa to adapt and to do so fast lest they be left hbehind. They can manage this if they practise climate smart agriculture and abandon the old ways of ploughing. He called on farmers associations to take up government interventions and programmes suggested by the agricultural demongtsrors and extension officers. “We see people practsiing conservation agriculture whereby we are advised to conserve moisture and to practice new ways of farming”he said. Climate change has also affacted wildlifein Bobirwa. Kgosi Masilo said they are next to wildlife game reserves like Mashatu and also experience movement of animals from across the border (Zimbabwe).

He saisd climate change has causde animals to move from their traditional areas and are now encroachiing into human areas thereby leading to conflict. Elelphants particularly, are increasingly moving inland and into cattleposts, farm lands and even villages.
The elephants destroy watering points at cattle posts and fences. Even then, “we are told we should co-exist with thise animals, but they are not animals that can be tamed or put in a kraal”. They also affect vegetation because they compete with their livestock for pasture. He said the elephants have incfreased in numbers as a result of the hunting ban of 2014.

“Our livelilihoods as a community have largely been affcted. People along the border no longer plough because elephants and predators harass them.They fear for their lives”. Kgosi Masilo said they are also experiencing reduction in other sectors such as basketry. People that relied on palm tree leaves to make artefacts such as baskets and other items as a way of living can no longer do so on a large scale because they fear to go into the bush.

Yet another stressor is foot and mouth disease. Gpsi Masilo said they are still “in the red” despite the suite of government programmes to respond to this scourge.“It’s a nightmare to fight FMD because animals from Zimbabwe have cut the border fence which has leed to free movement of anmals across the border. This has also led to cross-border crime. Zimbabweans are stealing our cattle as a result”he said about the double trouble.

Bobirwa is also prone to droughts. In fact minister for presidential affairs, governance and public administration Nonofo Molefhi revealed that the sub district was the first to receive drought relief in Botswana. Kgosi Masilo said as a result of the competition between cattle, animals and people for the limited land resource, the young and able bodied are migrating to cities leaving behind dependents – the young and old. Kgosi Masilo said interventions like climate smart agricilture and early warning systems for farmers that are still engaged in arable farming are needed.

He said the community also recommended culling to reduce the high number of elephants. As a parting shot he suggested that electrified farms be set up along Shashe River between Zimbabwe and Botswana to serve as a barrier for elephants and to also reduce cross border crime and the scourge of FMD. Present at the presentation of the research findings were UB Vice Chancellor Prof. David Norris; Assistant district commissioner Lerato Sebola, Principal Investigator Prof. Hilary Masundire and other members of UB faculty staff.

Published in News
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 16:19

Botswana rich, citizens poor

Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) council has resolved to stage a protest in solidarity with all Batswana affected by closure of BCL. The general council that was held in Mahalapye took this resolution following a presentation from Botswana Mine Workers Union. The Federation is concerned at the treatment the BCL employees and their families have suffered as a result of the decision to close the mine. BFTU Secretary General, Thusang Butale said they would be in solidarity with BCL employees.

He said logistics for the protest would be communicated in due course. “The Federation has noted that Botswana’s economy has been doing relatively well since independence and has even withstood and survived the 2008 economic shocks. Botswana has received accolades from the international community and financial institutions for its multi-party system, functioning democracy, good governance and its relative economic prosperity. However, the Federation notes with disappointment, that this much talked economic success story has not translated into prosperity for all,” he said.

Butale revealed that according to the most recent formal sector employment survey report, monthly average earnings for citizens were P6 038, whilst monthly average earnings for non-citizens stood at P18 265. He stated that the Botswana Multi-Topic Household Survey of 2015/16 reveals that Batswana continue to wallow in poverty, and social inequalities and unemployment, in spite of the country’s much talked about economic success story.

It is the view of the Federation that Botswana is a rich country of poor citizens, adding that “the Federation is therefore concerned about the state of poverty in the midst of plenty that is found in Botswana today.” Butale said they are also deeply alarmed by reports of corruption and poor governance that seem to have engulfed the country. “It is corruption and poor governance that are at the centre of Botswana current political crisis.

The Federation notes that in a functioning multi-party democracy, every general election presents an opportunity to all stakeholders to ask those seeking their votes to enter public office, what it is that they have for them. It must be remembered that public office holders being Members of Parliament and Local Government authorities are at the centre of the process of national governance and distribution of national resources.

“It is therefore important that trade unions take deliberate effort to ensure that the interests of workers will be addressed and are safeguarded by those who require their votes,” he explained. According to Butale in October 2018 the General Council of the Federation passed a resolution for the development of the workers manifesto that would be used to inform, guide and ideally influence political parties’ manifestos in the coming 2019 general election.

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Vincent Phologo has been reinstated as kgosi of Makopong village. The reinstatement which was done this week Tuesday follows a case in which Phologo, who was removed from the chieftainship through a court order, sought rescission of Judge Michael Leburu’s judgment which stripped him of bogosi which he argued in court papers that it rightly belongs to him.

Judge Jennifer Dube of the Lobatse High Court in a ruling which she also castigated the Attorney General for lack of professionalism ruled in favour of Phologo. In the matter, Phologo argued that he is entitled to rescission of the judgment so that the real issues in dispute between the parties can be “fully ventilated”. Phologo was in April last year relieved of his duties as Sub-chief for Makopong village following a court order by Justice Leburu that his appointment to the position back in 2016 was unprocedural and should be set aside.

The judgment followed a successful bid by some members of the Makopong community who challenged in court his appointment without elections being held. However, in her ruling Justice Dube rescinded and set aside Leburu’s judgment saying for the sake of fairness and justice, the rescission should be granted and real issues between the warring parties be ventilated in an open court. She noted in her ruling that Justice Leburu decided the review application without the benefit of an answering affidavit from the applicant, hence his conclusion that the matter was unopposed.

“However a court may, upon a rescission application, rescind its own judgment upon the discovery of vital documents or information,” she said. Justice Dube argued that based on the evidence before her, Makopong chieftaincy issues are sensitive and important in that they cannot be resolved on paper or on technicalities. The judge said on the initial matter before Judge Leburu, Phologo was hard done by the Attorney General, which was representing him at the time. According to the judge Phologo trusted that the attorney handling his case at the Attorney General as instructed by the Ministry of Lands could handle his case in a professional and satisfactory manner.

“After the Attorney General was instructed he did not personally receive court notices, therefore he did not know that his case would be heard,” argued Judge Dube, further saying, in her view, it was incumbent upon the attorney at the Attorney General’s Chambers to inform him of court sessions as court notices were received by the said attorney on behalf of the client. “The attorney representing the applicant failed to demonstrate professionalism and sensitivity towards the applicant’s case,” she said. Following the ruling the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development moved swiftly to reinstate Phologo as Kgosi for Makopong.

In a letter signed by Minister Frans Solomon Van Der Westhuizen, the ministry stated in part that the consequence of Justice Dube’s “judgment is that by operation of law your earlier removal has been set aside and I herewith reinstate you…This is with immediate effect and retrospective.” On Tuesday assistant minister Kgotla Autlwetse was in Makopong to reinstate Phologo. However, respondents on the rescission case led by Dixon Dijeng are intending to appeal Justice Dube’s ruling, as they believe the judge has made an error when she ruled in favour of Phologo.

The main contention in the Makopong chieftaincy dispute is whether the bogosi in the village is hereditary or is determined through a vote.  Phologo argues bogosi in Makopong is hereditary while some community members who launched the court case following Phologo’s appointment argue that the Kgosi in that village is selected through a vote.

Meanwhile community members are also questioning why Phologo has been reinstated because according to them Phologo should have made an application before court for reinstatement following Judge Dube’s ruling. They also say there was no court order that compelled the minister to reinstate Phologo.

Published in News
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 15:55

VP Tsogwane unamused

Vice President Slumber Tsogwane says Members of Parliament would live to regret tabling and passing a motion calling for direct election of the president. The motion was tabled by MP for Nata-Gweta Polson Majaga and passed by Parliament last week. Tsogwane told Parliament that it was wrong to have the motion during election year.

According to the vice president political reform is a very critical subject. He pointed out that it is not an easy topic that one can just subject to one while ignoring others.“We have to go and consult the people who have voted us to this Parliament. We cannot leave them behind, come and pass this motion without engaging them, because it is a very critical motion, as I have said, it will bring a lot of changes. We are in an election year, it will create a lot of perceptions,” said Tsogwane who is also MP for Boteti West.

The vice president indicated that when a subject is discussed during such a time, it has the potential of misdirecting some people or changing their focus to something else. “And this is where you experience voter apathy.” He explained that government has just engaged Batswana on another subject related to an election, being the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

“We just dropped it, and now we are coming with another subject in an election year. A person who does not have the same understanding or same level of understanding as you MPs, you have to go and explain this to that person, and tell him or her why you are bringing such a subject during such a time, and what is the intention. “It is not a question of when it is going to be implemented, it is the historical context that we will be creating, and that is what people are going to refer to and start engaging their minds in, and some people are asking themselves a lot of questions,” said Tsogwane when debating the motion.

Tsogwane said it is not a bad motion, but the timing is also very critical, as well as culture and what underpins the country’s democracy. He revealed that he had tried, to engage Majaga regarding the motion, “but conveniently he has avoided me.”
He does not have any qualms with that as it is Majaga’s choice. “I do not have any problem, he should not think that I will think otherwise about him. I am very liberal, so there was no need for him to avoid me because I was going to engage him and consult with him further.”

Tsogwane said the country has just withstood the EVM storm and cannt afford to be distracted by another potentially divisive electoral reform in an elelction year. “We have a system which is serving us well and we want to change it in the election year. What is the urgency of trying to bring this motion now?”

Published in News
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 15:51

Verma in hostile bid to reclaim Pula Steel

Former Pula Steel Casting and Manufacturers director, Depaak Verma came short of accusing government officials, CEDA and judicial management officers of being corrupt during a no-holds-barred tirade this week. Verma called a press conference at Hilton Hotel titled, ‘Where is Pula Steel’ ostensibly to share the family’s side of the story.

The family are the initial shareholders of Pula Steel. He blasted the liquidation and the ongoing tendering process, which seeks to sell the Plant. “So many questions have been asked on the company with much focus lately on why the company went for tendering in the first place,” he said. Verma lost control of his company in 2016. He used the conference to attack officers he met in line of duty accusing them of bringing him down and wanting him out of business. Under the Verma family arrangement, huge sums allegedly went missing as per affidavits filed in court during the liquidation process.

Pula Steel troubles started in 2016 when BCL mine who were the majority shareholders got into liquidation.   In 2017 CEDA approved capital funding amounting to P28, 621, 308, 50 following an application by the Verma family on October 2016. CEDA conditions were that shareholders of Pula Steel indemnify CEDA from any claims laid against the company prior to investment period, as well as resignation of all directors and re-appointment of new ones.

The new shareholding structure left BCL with 22.70 percent shares, Verma (23.25), Wealth Generation (5.5) and CEDA with 49 percent shares. CEDA never deposited the money because they were not satisfied that their conditions were met. This appears to have caused friction between Verma and CEDA’s Thabo Thamane and his leadership team.

Bid claim
Verma said he failed to win his company back despite having put an impressive bid that no one could match. He cast doubt on the criteria used to award the tender. He suspected that CEDA must have financed someone to win the bid, asking rhetoically; “what criteria was used to award the bid? Did I not have the capacity? Did I not have the knowledge? Did I not add value to the plant? I do not know that.

“I do not know if they had given the name of the potential owner, but the name of the potential owner was not yet announced until March 2nd. I am still a creditor I deserve the right to know who bought the plant. “What I can say is in February information came out that my bid is successful. It was agreed that within seven days the potential winner had to deposit 30 percent of the money for whatever bid he put in. I have suspicion of the two companies who won, but I can not name them because it can be defamation”.
 He said he is left with no choice except to take the matter to court as they cannot understand why the bid has not been given to his family.

Amongst those Verma attacked were Chief Executive Officer of CEDA, Thabo Thamane, Judicial manager Vijay Kalyanaraman questioning why he was appointed while he was doing jobs for CEDA at the same time. He also asked why CEDA put conditions before they could invest the agreed amount. He claimed that if he was allowed to continue his company model had the potential to grow even much bigger than Debswana.

Speaking to Botswana Guardian Kalyanaraman said he was appointed in his professional capacity and was not new as he previously did an assessment on Pula Steel, before CEDA came aboard. Kalyanaraman said he stepped out as judicial manager because he realised that there was misalignment between Pula Steel shareholders as they did not have a common vision. “The shareholders under Verma family management had different interest which was not in the best interest of the company”. For his part Thamane said it is his responsibility as accounting officer of CEDA to look after the funds of government. 

“I will do that and I will continue looking after these funds within the set parameters, rules and regulations as determined by the CEDA Board. “I will not want to comment on Verma’s character assassination on my side because we are reviewing his press conference and statements and will be accordingly advised by our advisors”.

Published in News
Wednesday, 13 March 2019 11:00

Kgathi denies joining New Jerusalem faction

Minister of Justice, Defence and Security and Member of Parliament for Bobirwa, Shaw Kgathi has vehemently refuted allegations of shifting allegiance to New Jerusalem camp.

New Jerusalem is associated with Member of Parliament for Serowe West, Dr. Pelonomi Venson – Moitoi who is challenging Dr. Masisi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidency. Kgathi is the current Deputy Secretary General of the BDP and has been a Member of Parliament for Bobirwa constituency for many years, but his term is coming to an end in October, as he lost the Bulela Ditswe primary elections to political rookie Francisco Kgoboko.

Kgathi’s loss was partially attributed to being de-campaigned by former president Dr. Ian Khama at the launch of Kgoboko’s Trust few days before the Bulela Ditswe election. He successfully appealed but lost with an even bigger margin during the re-run. Now, new allegations have surfaced that his allegiance has shifted from Masisi to New Jerusalem. He did not take kindly to the allegations. “I have noted with regret a social media posting merely meant to fuel division within the BDP and promote propaganda. I am a man of integrity and value”.

He said the allegations demonstrated the frustration and desperation of some characters who wish to promote division within the BDP. “I am not in the habit of double dipping so to speak in my pledge for political support to leadership. That shows political immaturity.

“I have accepted the Bobirwa BDP primary election results notwithstanding the obvious challenges and irregularities therein. Life has to go on,” he said.
According to him the BDP is bigger than any individual and that the outcome of any political contest should not define the character of any individual.

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