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MPs may lose seats

All the 57 publicly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) are presently running helter-skelter reconciling their election expenditure as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expect them to have submitted the reports not later than the 26th of this month.

The electoral act clearly states that, “within 90 days after the results of any election has been declared, every candidate at that election shall render to the returning officer a true return in such form as the Secretary may direct and verified by an affidavit,” reads section 87 of the act. The affidavit should show all the expenses which have been paid during the election campaign period and all the election expenses which are unpaid and undisputed.

The act further says, all money which, under the provisions of section 85, they are required to disclose in the return and the name of the person from whom he received such money. Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAPA) Kabo Morwaeng successfully moved as a matter of urgency for; “Honourable members to have submitted their returns on election expenses for the 2019 elections by the 26 January 2020.”

Failure by the members of the August house to submit will leave them with devastating consequences hence the MPs are racing against time to submit the reports. According to the act, in the case of a successful candidate at an election and the return has not been rendered within the period prescribed, candidate shall not thereafter sit or vote in the National Assembly until such return has been rendered.  “A candidate who fails to comply with the provisions shall be guilty of an illegal practice unless such failure has been excused by a condoning order,” the act read in section 87.4.

Already legislators are busy trying to balance their books before submitting to the returning officer.  Molepolole North MP Oarabile Regoeng has told this publication that they are busy at work not to miss the deadline but there are hiccups.  “Some of us are still new and we were not conversant with some of these law or acts. For now I am trying to look for receipts and reconcile the numbers for submission. It is unfortunate we were told after elections it will be difficult but we will try to oblige by the act,” he said in an interview on Wednesday this week.

The electoral act says the election expenses of any candidate shall not exceed P50 000 and the MPs following the move by Minister Morwaeng to increase the expense to P2 million are ecstatic.  “It has long been overdue for, it could have been long changed, nowadays no one can use that amount it is ridiculous and way too little to cover for the expense,” Regoeng added. Another legislator Ignatius Moswaane has also admitted that they will have to mind the clock as it is already late.

“We have been here for other parliamentary businesses that included swearing in of president and responding to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), so considering that we should have filed before the 26th, it is a tough order. You should listen to the MPs so that they don’t end up caught on the wrong side of the law for not submitting,” he pleaded. For now it is not yet clear as to whether all the legislators would have submitted their expense report then, but they are mindful of the repercussions awaiting them.

For the first time in the history of Botswana, the IEC will enforce the P50 000 campaign expenses ceiling on politicians, and those who exceed the threshold will be punished. Principal Elections Officer in Mogoditshane, Khumo Lebang last year cautioned the politicians that the statute has been in place but has never been implemented such that politicians were punished but this year the IEC will go that far.

“Candidates who win should know it in advance that the rule of law should be respected. Without submitted returns they will not debate in respective chambers – council and parliament,” he warned. Gaborone Bonnington South legislator Christian Greef has also lamented about the low money stipulated for the campaigns, but said he will surely submit before deadline.

“It is a law that has been in existent so I have been aware and I will ensure that I furnish the relevant authorities with the report at the right time. The only problem has been the P50, 000 threshold for the campaign but it has been increased which is a good thing because elections are now expensive.” Following the passing of the bill late last year, those who succeeded in the elections will now be expected to file expenditure return of P2million. Morwaeng when presenting the motion said election campaign is now a tedious and expensive process that needs a bigger budget.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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