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Batswana students win Japanese scholarships

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Three Batswana youths – Mpuang Admore Phindani; Chidzani Mbinda and Segofalang Annah Modisenyane – apparently all hailing from the northern part of the country – are this year’s recipients of Japanese government’s scholarship. Phindani and Modisenyane will leave earlier in April this year whilst Mbinda will depart for Japan in September. They are all going to study for Master’s Degree in their various fields of discipline. Phindani, 24, from Nkange has just completed his four-year Bachelor Degree in Applied Geophysics at the University of Botswana. He will now study Disaster Prevention in the heart of Japan at Kyoto University, in a city with over a millennium of history, but lately renowned for bequeathing the world the Kyoto Protocol on 11 December 1997, an international treaty and precursor to what is today known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Being an earthquake-prone country, it is hoped Phindani will acquire useful and beneficial knowledge in Japan to help Botswana build resilience to national disasters when he returns from his sojourn. Our disaster preparedness and management functions are at best non-existent and hopefully, with more students enrolling in this discipline, we shall eventually build a critical mass of expertise commensurate with challenges at hand. Mbinda, a native of Marobela, will study MBA at International University of Japan, which is situated in Nigata, a place famous for rice wine. He joins other former students from that part of the world, whose experience is contributing in efforts to enhance economic relations between Botswana and Japan.

At present, Japanese investors and businesses in Botswana are negligible owing largely to our ignorance of Japanese business culture. External trade missions mounted by Botswana Investment and Trade Centre notwithstanding, it is self-evident that the country requires pathfinders who can act as pilots to guide potential Japanese companies that are interested in investing in Botswana. This is the message that Japanese Ambassador to Botswana His Excellency Kozo Takeda drilled in these recipients. The only woman in the group, Segofalang Annah Modisenyane, 26, from Matsiloje, will study Architecture and building science specialising in Urban Design at Tohoku University, which is located in Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture.

A stickler for preserving history and tradition, Japan is replete with places of historical significance and has infused in its educational curricular, this character, which it is hoped Modisenyane will help her country to also incorporate in its educational curricular once she returns from her study. The recipients were unveiled last week Friday during the Friends of Japan reception hosted by the Embassy of Japan at the Ambassador’s official residence in Gaborone’s Extension 11 suburb. Among dignitaries present were representatives of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, JOGMEG and JICA. All the three recipients promised to work hard and not to disappoint Batswana and the Japanese Government for the benevolence it has shown them.

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Mma V’s retreat is strategic

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Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Presidential aspirant Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is playing her cards close to her chest to ease tension between President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and herself ahead of the BDP’s elective congress that has the presidential election as part of its agenda.

This was evident at the BDP National Retreat in Palapye this past weekend when Dr Venson-Moitoi, who is a former cabinet member, made a U-turn on her earlier statement that Dr Masisi had promised her the position of Vice President.

Dr Venson-Moitoi had a week before the retreat told Mmegi in an interview that she had a legitimate expectation as Dr Masisi had promised her the vice presidency. According to sources close to the former longest serving minister, Dr Venson-Moitoi made the U-turn at the Palapye International Convention Centre (PICC) so as to ease tension between the president and herself to avoid a further deterioration in their relationship.

The sources pointed out that as the president seems to be going all out to punish and frustrate those who are against him, Dr Venson-Moitoi would not want to have her campaign for the high position compromised.

Dr Venson-Moitoi revealed at the retreat that she did have a conversation with the president on what she would want to do or to be under Masisi. She however told the delegates that she never said Dr Masisi promised her the VP position. “I told him that now that I would be retiring, I would like to be his vice president. He said he would look into it but never promised me the position,” she said acknowledging Dr Masisi’s choice – Slumber Tsogwane.

Dr Venson-Moitoi’s statement came after a backlash from Dr Masisi who told the democrats that he never promised anyone the position of Vice President. The president said he never did that and would never do that even in future.

He revealed that he appointed Tsogwane his deputy ten (10) minutes before the BDP Parliamentary Caucus. “Of course some people came to me requesting that I make them my vice president. I listened because I am a good listener. So, when adults do talk to me, I listen and will continue to listen but I never promised anyone anything.

“If there is someone here who knows for a fact that I did make that promise, I challenge them to come here and say when, where and how such a promise was made. Even beyond 2019 I have not promised anyone anything. When you choose your deputy, you must choose a good reliable deputy,” the president stated.

For the first time in its history, the BDP will go for presidential elections this year a few months before the national polls. Traditionally, the party would converge at an extraordinary congress where the president would be endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate for General Elections.

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Death does not scare me – Masisi

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ALWAYS NEARBY: DIS boss Peter Magosi was always within touching distance of the president amid heightened security threats

At the height of the well-pronounced disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), fears abound that the life of President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is under threat.

However, such reports come a long way, from as early as when he was Vice President during which time he survived food poisoning and a plane crash that killed two army officers just before he was to be transported in the aircraft.

The intelligence and related reports suggesting that the president could be assassinated grow everyday, and those close to the presidential security personnel say there are several factors on the ground pointing to the tension that engulfs the first citizen. The president himself on Saturday alluded to the reported security threats around his life, but was quick to say he was not afraid to die. He said there are people who have been telling him that they fear for his life and that he should be careful.

“I met some business people from whom we have been seeking donations and they said they were afraid for my safety. I told them I don’t waste my time thinking that I am going to die. It is certain I am going to die. All of us are going to die,” he told the BDP delegates at the party’s retreat in Palapye on Saturday.

Despite the utterances by the president, the situation on the ground told a different story. Security that manned the entire Majestic Five Hotel was super intense, lending credence to earlier reports that suggested the presidential security arm was also worried by the death threats reported by the party’s warring factions. Even as he publicly said he was not afraid to die, the president would not allow any slight mistake even among people that could be said to be his trusted fellows within the party.

This was the second time BDP converged at Majestic Five Hotel since Dr Masisi became president last year April. The first was on the 11 of August 2018 when the party held a meeting following the postponement of its primary elections. Even though security presence was very visible then, it could not match the one deployed this past Saturday.So intense was the security this weekend that even the head of intelligence, Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) Director Peter Magosi was present at the retreat – an unusual thing as junior officers at DIS are often deployed wherever the president is.

Brigadier Magosi was never out of sight of the president, ensuring he did not delegate this assignment to any of his officers. Magosi has been criticised for this arrangement but the spy chief has made it clear that the safety of the head of state is one of his key responsibilities. “Masisi seems to trust only Magosi and with some members within the DIS still seen to be loyal to the previous DIS boss and former president, Magosi is forced to lead Masisi’s security from the head as he is deemed the best person to quickly detect anything from his knowledge of the officers,” a BDP source shared.

Some sources even suggest that through their alleged ownership of some spy equipment, former DIS boss Isaac Kgosi and former president Ian Khama still have visual and audio access to the State House, a situation that has resulted in Masisi refusing to use the place until he is sure it is cleared of all spy equipment. It is no secret that both Kgosi and Khama are at loggerheads with Masisi whom they feel is out to harass them.

But it is unclear who could be targeting the president, a matter seen to be a covert operation yet to be unmasked. The weekend’s retreat venue in Palapye had three search points – at the main gate where all motor vehicles were searched by police and Botswana Defence Force officers; and two other points manned by BDP officials and Security Systems’ officers where democrats had to show proof that they were delegates for the retreat.

It was during this search that some South African nationals were reportedly arrested by Serowe Police after being found in possession of a firearm. The party also ensured that only party members with accreditation entered the premises and the hall and the accreditation was done at Lotsane Secondary School instead of the hall where the retreat was held.

An altercation even ensued in one of the checkpoints when veteran politician and member of the BDP Labour Committee Kgang Kgang got in a heated argument with Mbakisano Tjiyapo, a member of the Communications and International Relations Committee, for failing to produce his accreditation. Kgang also contested BDP primaries for Mogoditshane constituency in January last year and lost to Tshepang Mabaila who has since been suspended from the party for five years.

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