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BNF on the verge of collapse?

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CC hasn’t met in months

It appears things are falling apart at the once mighty opposition party, Botswana National Front (BNF)

Members have reportedly lost respect for each other, leaving the Duma Boko-led party polarised.

To add to the disarray, the BNF’s Central Committee have allegedly not met in months.

Fed-up with the situation, disgruntled members took to The Voice to condemn the organisation’s leadership for their ‘chaotic’ running of the party.

“We cannot tell the last time our Central Committee met. Unlike at the Botswana Democratic Party where they meet every first Monday of the month, ours is different. We don’t meet at all! Botswana Congress Party too has better coordination than us,” claimed the highly placed member.

The insider further maintained that major decisions were taken without consultation.

“As leaders we can’t account to party members as we have no clue!” exclaimed the source, listing last weekend’s demonstration and the recent court cases as two high-profile incidents that the Central Committee did not deliberate over.

“We never discussed if it was the right path to take. We cannot discuss party finances because some funds are being dispensed by people who are not party members. We just see them giving out money, how do we account in such situations?” demanded the concerned member.

To support his claims of unrest within the party, the source leaked messages from a BNF members’ WhatsApp Group. The conversation dates from 30 October 2019 to 22 January this year.

“Comrades if we do not change our tact and mindset by 2024 there will be no BNF. We should copy from BCP. They discuss problems collectively even if they have disagreements. They ensure that BCP comes first before individuals. But with us, we want sporadic resolution to complex matters. Right now most BCP are calling for a merger of parties. They are going for leadership forum to get mandate on the merger which was adopted by their July 2019 conference at Ba Isago. But at BNF, no position on the matter and our members are in the dark because Central Committee wants to meet during working hours. Are we planning to fail?” reads one of the posts.

Another comment likens the Central Committee to a ‘Kitchen Committee’.

“The first constitutional obligation is running the party constitutionally, democratically with duly elected Central Committee not a kitchen committee, if you fail to pick that you are not existing. What is wrong with you comrade leadership, you are not talking like leaders, why?”

During the ill-tempered discussion, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Justin Hunyepa tried to cool matters but met a hot response.

“My assignment to intervene in the Bofepuso/Bopeu issues was amended by Exco to include President and Secretary General and died a natural death. There was a press statement that we don’t need Bofepuso to get workers votes that was done without my opinion. I can go on and on monna lopela sentle semata ke wena. You expect results under a myriad of arbitrary decisions akin to law and order during war. You lack a third eye or sixth sense, I don’t blame you,” blasted back one member.

When The Voice contacted Hunyepa on Wednesday to find out when the Central Committee last met, the BNF man admitted he could not remember.

“We had challenges and members kept on apologizing for not making it even when our President had shown his availability,” was the Publicity Secretary’s response.

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Kablay cracks the whip

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*COMPLAINS OF BDP BACK BENCH BEHAVIOUR

*WARNS MINISTERS HE DOESN’T REPORT TO THEM

Botswana Democratic Party’s Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay is calling for another induction to be held especially for his party’s unruly representatives in parliament.

In an exclusive interview with The Voice, Kablay complained of the back bench’s behaviour, which he described as ‘unacceptable’.

He warned that their antics threatened the party’s peace as some joined ranks with the opposition’s Members of Parliament during debates.

“There was one time they were conniving with the opposition to have a walk out. Never have we experienced that as BDP! Their behaviour shows that we need to induct them again.”

He explained that in the BDP members have to support whatever was agreed during party caucus and cannot change once in parliament.

“You could tell that some were looking for personal glory over the party reputation,” he blasted.

However, Kablay apportioned a large part of the blame to the Speaker of the House, Phandu Skelemani’s inexperience, accusing him of giving Ministers more time during deliberations than ordinary MPs.

“His decision forced the MPs to revolt and we warned him against that,” he said, adding it was unfortunate because Skelemani was ‘thrown in the deep end’ without anyone to take him through the ropes.

Meanwhile, Kablay complained of a certain Minister (names withheld) who he accused of making his job ‘difficult’ by consistently reporting him to the President for his media interviews.

He claimed the Minister wants him (Kablay) to report to him, which Kablay explained was against the rules as he is meant to report directly to the Vice President.

“This makes me less effective as Chief Whip just because of one man who thinks his Ministry is over me. I only report to the Vice President not Ministers,” he reiterated, adding he never had such a problem during the previous (11th) parliament.

Unfortunately, efforts to reach Skelemani hit a snag as his phones did not go through.

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Parties take a stand on corona

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On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic.

Despite this, the virus has since gone on to claim thousands of lives, with the majority of the casualties occurring in the western world.

In light of this, and with the virus rapidly spreading across South Africa, this week Cyril Ramaphosa and his government called an emergency 21-day lock-down, which comes into effect on Thursday (26th March).

Although no-one has tested positive for the virus in Botswana yet, the country remains on high alert.

The Voice’s DANIEL CHIDA engaged party leaders to find out what they believe needs to be done to prevent the virus from spreading to Botswana.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Head of Communications: Moeti Mohwasa

This situation requires total mobilisation, cooperation, selflessness and true leadership. We can make it as a nation if we are united and disciplined.

Aggressive measures need to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Fortunately, up to now, there has not been any reported cases of the virus in the country.

This, however, does not mean that there are no cases as the viruses could stay in the body for sometime before signs are exhibited.

Our actions today will determine what will happen tomorrow.

We can learn from the experience of those who did not take prompt action to deal with this scourge.

Due to limited Intensive Care Units (ICU)s and the already stretched health facilities and personnel, we need to be much more proactive in preparing ourselves for the virus.

These two are among the determining factors of the death rate.

We cannot stop the spread of the virus, but we can manage it if we keep the rate of infection within the capacity of our health facilities.

We should prepare an army of health professionals, including those who are unemployed for any eventuality.

As the UDC, we call upon the government to engage the political, business, workers, religious, sport and other leaders to come up with a common and harmonious strategy to deal with this situation.

There should be provision of free masks and gloves accompanied by sanitisation of public places.

We should embark on immediate and extensive testing of our people for early detection and determination of the extent of the scourge.

Staying at home helps deal with control of infections but what about those who stay in crowded conditions at all times?

Measures have to be put in place to protect our people, the majority of whom are poor, in the event we have a total lock-down.

They will be hard-hit as they go home to empty pantries every evening, prompting them to go out every morning in search of something to eat.

We call upon the government to come up with a coordinated and comprehensive economic stimulus to benefit SMMEs and workers, not leaving out the vulnerable groups like the disabled who have a history of being marginalised and excluded.

An independent structure, totally not biased in favour of the politically connected big business, should be put in place to oversee and monitor the stimulus package.

All these efforts and many others would require the presence and supervision of the Head of State, who unfortunately we are told is now quarantined and not fully available to deal with the challenge we are facing.

It is regrettable and very unfortunate that the President decided – at a time when he was needed most – to leave the country.

He not only deserted the nation that looked up to him to shepherd sheep, but broke the very rules he set for state officials, that there should be no international travel; thereby failing to lead by example. This has led the country to have a present but absent president.

Secretary General of Alliance for Progressives (AP): Phenyo Butale

South Africa took an absolutely correct decision, and there is no choice in the circumstances. Human life comes before everything.

Phenyo Butale

Our region is so integrated that even though we have no known case, we have to do what is necessary to enforce what we already have in place.

Some of our people are still entertaining gatherings of more than 100 people. AP is concerned about ensuing economic ramifications globally, which will adversely affect our economy, particularly the more vulnerable.

So, as per our policy address on Thursday, we call on government to engage and finalise preliminary fiscal response interventions to mitigate effects on the lives of so many of our people.

President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD): Sidney Pilane;

I have studied the statement by President Ramaphosa in which he exempted essential services – and goods – such as the production of food and other necessities, which will continue as before the lock-down.

Sidney Pilane

A few of our entry points with South Africa remain open to enable trade to continue and necessary travel by our respective citizens to continue.

So, the lock-down will affect us very little, and I can think that we may lose some South African tourists and the passing trade of travellers to Botswana.

I have also followed and carefully studied the response of the Botswana government to the crisis that we face.

They are reasonably satisfactory, with one glaring exception; there is no public education programme being implemented.

Written statements and occasional statements in the media by the President, the Office of the President and by the Ministry of Health are far from satisfactory.

We need an intense and sustained publicity blitz that reaches all Batswana, one similar to that of HIV AIDS, to enable all Batswana to become aware of the depth of the crisis that faces the country because coronavirus is coming to Botswana, however long it takes.

I saw a statement by the Police Service demanding compliance with restrictions and making threats.

That is the wrong tone. I suspect that the BDF may also be deployed. We do not want Botswana to become a police state.

We will be watching closely how law enforcement deals with this, and it is my hope that they will exercise appropriate restraint. We will not accept police state tactics.

Compliance with restrictions – something with which we all agree – is best achieved by a proper programme of extensive and sustained public education and not force. The more the education, the less will be the need for enforcement by law enforcement.

Government has decided to go it alone. This is a national crisis and should be owned by all of us and not just the government.

This is the only way the entire nation can take responsibility.

The role of the government is to provide leadership, but not to exclude the nation in that leadership.

This is not a partisan matter.A complete lock-down is the best guarantor of a minimum spread of this silent, invisible enemy which is waging guerrilla warfare on the world. A lock-down requires a lot of money.

Government has a budget for its employees to 31st March, 2021 and can afford to pay them.

Not so with workers in the private sector. Most businesses in Botswana are small scale.

A lock-down means they are not earning revenue and income, are not selling, are unable to pay rent, employees who are not at work, and are unable to meet their other costs. Their employees who will be at home cannot survive without income.

Shops will be affected as they may not have enough consumers to sell to.

The economy could collapse. A meltdown could occur such as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

Government must have plans in place to prevent this happening. We need to know what the Government plans to approach these possibilities.

*Unfortunately, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had not responded to our reporter’s questionnaire at the time of going to press.

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