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Masisi accused of defiling the kgotla by talking politics



CENTRE OF THE STORM: President Mokgweetsi Masisi addressed the people of Ramotswa this week

President MokgweetsiMasisi’s consultative kgotla meeting in Ramotswa this week attracted a groundswell of disapproval and discontent from some opposition leaders who felt he unfairly used an official community meetings’ platform for political campaign.

As the country goes to the polls in two weeks, opposition political leaders in Ramotswa this past Tuesday dismissed Masisi’s meeting as a cunning ploy to canvass votes for his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary and council candidates, and in the process defiling the kgotla where the undocumented law states that politics cannot be discussed there.This is owing to what they term political undertones and jabs in his lengthy address to a large crowd of the Ramotswa residents who attended the meeting.

Opinion was however divided on the matter with other village elders who attended the meeting refuting the claims and adding that such sentiments were to be expected from opposition cadres.
Masisi had spent the chunkier part of his address advising Balete on rules of engagement on election day, encouraging them to honour and respect rules set by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as any violation could land them in jail. He warned the electorate against politicians who have the habit of promising payment for voters if they show them pictures of the ballot paper to prove that they indeed voted for them.

“I know they will be advising you to get in there with your camera phones to get them the proof. But note that taking a picture of the ballot paper is an offense. “Should you be caught doing it, you are the one who will spend time in jail while those you were taking pictures for remain in the comfort of their homes,” he warned, adding that no one should either come to cast their ballot wearing party colours or bring vehicles branded in party colours near polling stations.

It is where the president continued to advise his audience to vote wisely for people they can trust and who can deliver, that concerned opposition leaders read malice in his deliberation. In that instance, Masisi bragged of what a great leader he has been, and what a great leader he would be if brought back to power. “To get a president of your choice in power, you ought to vote for his party’s member of Parliament and team of councillors, not a mixture. “The president then needs to have at least 29 elected MPs for him to be president.

So exercise great caution in the way you make your choices,” Masisi said, receiving raucous fits of ululations and cheers in the process. The immediate past Member of Parliament for Ramotswa Samuel Rantuana, who is currently a candidate under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), lamented such statements by the president, saying they amounted to a campaign for his parliamentary candidate and councillors.

Rantuana’s sentiments were shared by Boniface Mabeo, the area’s parliamentary candidate for Alliance for Progressives (AP), who even complained that Masisi was now taking the limelight through the mention of his campaign mantra, the issue of turning Ramotswa into a pig production hub and the related value chain. “That has always been my campaign issue – my pet project. Even here in Ramotswa they call me Radikolobe because of my unapologetic call for pig production in the area. Now Masisi was shining as he advised on pig production and farming and the crowd was excited.”
Mabeo was also not amused when the president made subtle jabs at his predecessor. Masisi said should he lose election on October 23, he and his wife will pack and go.

“I will not look back to harass my successor and wanting to dictate to him how to run things. I will neither go around disturbing the peace of the country,” Masisi said, something Mabeo cited as an example of a president playing politics. Mabeo added: “He has not even been visiting our village, only coming now two weeks before elections. His visit was politically motivated.”
Rantuana said Masisi’s visit to Ramotswa was futile as no one heard how their lives will change. “He even blamed and indirectly attacked me in a kgotla meeting for voting against the funding of the Masama project in Parliament. His visit was all politically motivated,” Rantuana said.

However, BDP parliamentary candidate for the constituency, Lefoko Moagi, refuted claims that the president was talking politics. “You can always expect such sentiments from opposition activists and leaders. Their job is to always look for something they can oppose. “The president was only advising the electorate against flouting the rules on election day. He also explained our country’s electoral process and wanted the people to understand how succession will happen should he lose elections.

He was neutral in his advice. Maybe they could not stomach the fact that the people cheered as he spoke and they felt he was in the process of winning their trust.“And if they say the president was campaigning for me, what then do you call a situation where the UDC candidate Rre Rantuana was even made to sit at the top table near the president? “He is as ordinary as the rest of us parliamentary candidates, yet he was given the advantage of being seen at the top table next to the president. Should I also deem that as preferential treatment?
He is no longer an MP but he was given VIP treatment next to the president while the rest of us sat where everyone else was,”Moagi said.

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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



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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