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NO PUSHOVER: Dorcas Makgatho says in a political dog fight, she will nurse no one.

Dorcas Makgato, Member of Parliament for Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency, will take no prisoners in future when defending Botswana Democratic Party and her constituency.

Makgato, who is also Minister of Transport and Communications, challenged former president Ian Khama during the weekend political rally at Sefhare to tell the nation why he hates President Mokgweetsi Masisi so much. According to her, it is the hatred for Masisi by Khama which has driven the former president out of the BDP. “The time has come for us to tell each other nothing else but the truth. The time has come for cowards to stand back and allow the brave to be at the coalface,” she said before telling her listeners that she has a crocodile skin.

“If he is a Kgosikgolo, he should leave politics and go to the kgotla because in politics, if you kick me I kick you back. “We are in the boxing ring and Khama expects me to nurse him. If he cannot stand the heat, he must leave the kitchen,” said Makgato whose view is that, Khama thinks he has the right to insult her because he introduced her to politics. Her rally comes on the heels of Khama’s rally in the constituency where the former President de-campaigned her in favour of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) candidate, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang. By decampaigning Makgato, Khama was making good on his threat to decampaign President Masisi and his supporters especially those in the party leadership following his much documented fallout with his successor, President Masisi.Khama has since founded the Botswana Patriotic Party (BPF) after leaving the BDP.

Matters came to a head when, in one of his forays into the Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency recently, Khama reportedly said, “Dorcus o a ntlwaela,” which remark Makgato found too condescending to be allowed to go unchallenged. In retaliation, she allegedly insinuated that the late Sir Seretse Khama’s death in 1980 was the result of alcoholism. Annoyed by this, Dr Khama’s younger brother, Tshekedi, joined the fray casting Makgato as a frustrated woman who is inevitably going to lose the elections. Tshekedi reportedly threatened to “confront” her. Makgato used the Sefhare rally to deny the accusation that she insulted the founding President. “I am accused of having insulted somebody at the Chadibe rally which some of you here attended. Did you hear me insult anyone,” she asked the group of party activists from Chadibe who had also attended the Sefhare rally. In unison, they answered, “No.”

Makgato claimed that BPF leaders call her names such as drunkard and thief. “Those are not my names and as such I will not answer to them. “My names are Dorcus Makgato and those are the only names I will answer to,” said Makgato who promised to retaliate for any insult thrown at her. According to her, Khama has got neither discipline nor patriotism. “He is not showing discipline when he, without provocation, attacks an ordinary woman like me. “Nor is he being patriotic when he attacks the country from foreign land,” charged the Minister. Addressing the rally earlier, Lenkokame Sesoa, a councillor, had congratulated Makgato for her bravery.

“I was confronted by a man who wondered whether there were men in this part of the Bamangwato District considering the way Khama has been doing as he pleases and saying what he wants. “That man is grateful to Makgato who is the first person to call Khama to order despite the fact that she is a woman,” said Sesoa. Another BDP activist Moilwa Moilwa, warned the people against voting the UDC. “Khama must not deceive you into voting Gobotswang of the UDC.

“Has he ever voted Gobotswang himself? Only one party, the one represented by Makgato here deserves your vote. Makgato is not only an impactful MP. She is a competent Minister. “You cannot dump a Minister in favour of somebody who is not a Minister.” Obakeng Siamisang appealed to the people to take into consideration Makgato’s good track record when voting at the general elections this year. Another speaker Baakile Gobotswang said Khama has got a controversial track record. “Khama’s dictatorship as BDP leader led to the party split and the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

“For 10 years when he was Head of State, the public servants were given a meagre 3 percent. It was during Khama’s rule that our education declined with the pass rate plummeting to an all-time low,” said Gobotswang who noted that, political problems are not solved by the formation of a new party. He challenged the BPF to produce a manifesto so that people may know what the party has other than anger. Tekolo Gosego, yet another activist, lamented the intolerance on the part of BFP. “We have never fought with the other opposition parties over a freedom square,” said Gosego whose party, the BDP has apparently had quarrels with the BPF over freedom squares in the constituency.

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BACK ON TRACK

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BR train 0501/BD 540 would not have derailed on 10 December 2019 had necessary precautions been taken, Botswana Railways (BR) staff members told the ongoing commission of inquiry in Mahalapye.

They blame the fatal accident in which two BR employees were killed on a raft of lapses, indecisions and negligence on the part of BR management. BR Senior Traffic Controller Simon Matenje revealed that there is a WhatsApp group that discusses everything concerning the running of BR trains. He said meteorological services had posted a memo warning that there would be floods on 4th December and shared it on the WhatsApp group. “The contents of the memo and their implications were discussed,” said Matenje who revealed that the group comprises most of the senior personnel in the BR hierarchy.

He lamented that although read and discussed the contents of the memo were “not given due attention.” Above that, on 9th and 10th December many BR staff members using the south bound and north bound trains warned relevant authorities about the possibility of floods, said Matenje. He believes there was negligence of duty on the part of management because everybody was aware of the floods at Moreomabele and Palla Road. “The relevant office should have directed stoppage of the trains or the adoption of an appropriate speed limit. “The best that management did was to give warnings about the floods but fell short of prescribing a solution,” he said. Matenje, who was on leave, said that he communicated his concerns about the reports of flooding and possible solutions to no avail.

When asked who exactly had the authority to do that, Matenje explained that it was the Operation’s Manager. Matenje also decried the lapses in the organisation’s system. He said motor trollies are helpful when inspecting the railway line. “However, they have not featured for a long time,” said Matenje who feels that regular inspection of the rail is a very critical part of safety. He said BR has not held any safety workshops in a long time. Mompoloki Rutherford, a train driver also appearing before the commission conceded that trollies had not been used on the BR lines for a long time. He said some senior managers use the train to inspect the line instead of trollies. “There are only two seats in the cabin but, contrary to safety rules, sometimes they just join us in the cabin which is a breach of the safety rules,” said Rutherford. Dikabelo Nawa, a retired train driver noted that BR workers were a sad lot because of pressure always exerted on them by management.

“Drivers work under pressure. The line between Mafikeng and Plumtree is old and very bad but we were always pushed by management to arrive on time. “There is just too much pressure. I once lost time and that put me into a big problem.” He said. He is also unhappy with the undergrowth and hanging branches next to the line because they obstruct the view of the crew. He appealed to the panel to recommend the introduction of a training centre for BR staff.

Peter Mokokwe, a recently retired train driver also complained that the rail road is never inspected. In addition to that, he told the commission that, he witnessed water around Palla Road on 9th December at the same place where the derailment later took place. Mokokwe, who himself did not alert control room about the water because he had heard through radio communication that his colleagues had reported the situation to control room, is also of the view that the disaster could have been averted had the 501 crew been alerted of the water situation.

On the other hand, a train controller named Moses Sethomo says he never got the communique warning the drivers about the impending floods. “There was a clear breakdown of communication,” said Sethomo who revealed that very often, even BR assets are wrongly used. “For example, sometimes freight locomotives instead of passenger train locomotives are used to haul the passenger train and this is a safety concern,” he noted. The hearings are continuing this week. The rail services that were suspended have since been resumed.

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Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments

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Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.

Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.

He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.

“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.

“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.

“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.

Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”

She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.

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