Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka was on Thursday this week forced to withdraw a request to have P1.1 billion appropriated from the Development Budget to fund shortfalls in Government’s re-current budget owing to unbudgeted increment of public service salaries.
The withdrawal followed a fierce resistance from opposition benches, with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) threatening to take the matter to court for interdiction. The UDC collectively believed that appropriating money from the development fund to augment shortfalls in the recurrent budget would be at variance with the Public Finance Management Act. The request was tabled on Wednesday before parliament, but consequent to UDC resistance, the matter was referred to the General Assembly [comprising all MPs] which met on Thursday morning for further discussion.
According to Dr Matsheka, at the General Assembly, it was concluded, through the guidance of Attorney General that the request to reallocate funds from the Development Fund to finance projected shortfall in the recurrent budget, as result of the salary adjustments approved after the 2019/2020 budget was concluded, was legal.
“The opinion from the Attorney General proffered this morning [Thursday] at the General Assembly was that, indeed, the request by my Ministry was legal in terms of the supreme law of this country, which is the Constitution,” Matsheka told parliament when withdrawing the request. Dr Matsheka eventually agreed to withdraw the request in favour of a more agreeable approach.
It has emerged that while Public Finance Management Act forbids what the Minister of Finance proposed before parliament, the ruling party tried to find their way through the constitution, as they believed it is the “supreme law”, enough to relegate the Public Finance Management Act to a mere provision. However, the UDC court action threats were alive, and BDP feared the matter could enter the public domain and cause a stir should the opposition MPs challenge it in court.
WeekendPost also established that, a number of BDP legislators also opposed the request. One MP who opposed the motion from the floor on Wednesday, in presence of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, was Reggie Reatile, the Jwaneng-Mabutsane representative. Prior to reaching parliament, the request was first put before the Finance and Estimates Committee, Chaired by Kanye North lawmaker, Thapelo Letsholo.
Despite the Committee raising concerns with the request, it gave the proposal thumbs up. The committee comprises of Letsholo, Tshekedi Khama (Serowe West), Ignatius Moswaane (Francistown West), Tumisang Healy (Gaborone Central), Wynter Mmolotsi (Francistown South), Dr Kesetegile Gobotswang (Sefhare-Ramokgonami), Liakat Kablay (Letlhakeng-Lephephe), and Oarabile Regoeng (Molepolole North).
The Committee indicated its concern “over diversion of funds allocated to the development projects to finance the recurrent budget.” During his proposal, Dr Matsheka contented that the shortfall in the recurrent budget was an emergence, while the opposition were of the view that the decision to increase salaries in the absence of funds was for political expediency.
“Presidential Directive CAB.1/99 stipulates that only Supplementary Budget requests that arose from emergencies or were not foreseen qualify under this dispensation. Government took a decision to award salary and allowances increases to public servants after the budget process for financial year 2019/2020 was concluded,” Matsheka argued.
INCREMENT OF PUBLIC SERVANT SALARIES WAS NOT BUDGETED FOR
During the past few months, Government made several commitments, including salary increment for two consecutive financial years as well as adjustment of salaries for public servants within security forces; namely Botswana Defence Force (BDF), Botswana Police Service (BPS) and Botswana Prisons Service (BPS).
A total of four ministries namely: Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration; Basic Education; Local Government and Rural Development; and Defence, Justice and Security, had submitted Supplementary Budget requests to be funded from the Consolidated Fund. The Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration requested an additional funds amounting to P12,447,940. The request was to cater for the shortfall arising from adjustment of salaries for public officers for financial year 2019/2020 under the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS).
The salary adjustments of 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent, for salary scales A and B; C and D; and E and above, respectively, were announced by Government in March 2019, after the budget for 2019/2020 financial year had been concluded. The salary adjustments were implemented with effect from 1st April, 2019.
The Ministry of Basic Education required a total supplementary funding of P71,234,580. Of this amount, a sum of P60,869,290 was needed to augment the shortfall under the Basic Salary and Allowances accounts at Headquarters, the Department of Out of School Education and Training and the Department of Teaching Service Management. The salaries and allowances accounts need additional funding following Government’s decision to award salary adjustments of 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent for various salary 8 grades effective from April 2019.
The remainder of P10,365,290 was intended to cover the shortfall in the Temporary Teachers account of the Department of Secondary Education. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development requested additional funding of P260,014,920 comprising P122,517,050 for Revenue Support Grant (RSG) to Councils and P137,497,870 for Social Protection Allowances. Under the RSG, the shortage is caused by increases to staff salaries, allowances and pension contributions, which were affected by the 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent salary adjustments.
Councillors’ salaries, termination allowances and other allowances have been increased by various amounts whilst the Ward/Village/Umbrella Development Committees’ allowances were increased by P50 per beneficiary per month. In regard to social protection allowances namely; Destitute Allowance, Disability Allowance and Old Age Pension Scheme, the increases were P50 per beneficiary per month for the first two (2) allowances and P100 per beneficiary per month for Old Age Pension Scheme.
The increases were also announced after the budget for 2019/2020 had been concluded. The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security requires a total sum of P757,402,760 for Basic Salary and Allowances for three of its departments. These are Botswana Defence Force at P248,353,120; Botswana Police Service at P430,508,030; and Prisons and Rehabilitation for P78,541,610. The additional provision was intended to cover the shortfall caused by the 10 percent, 6 percent and 4 percent salary adjustments, which took effect on 1 st April 2019.
SEVERAL PROJECTS FACED SACRIFICE
In order to mitigate against the crisis, cabinet tried to sacrifice certain projects, which were perceived to be not on time. “Given the increasingly constrained fiscal space, my Ministry has assessed and identified areas of possible savings from slow spending projects funded under the Development Fund to finance the Consolidated Fund Supplementary Estimates requests. “I am proposing reallocations from the 2019/2020 Development Budget of the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLWS).
“In this connection the sum of P1,101,100,200 comprising P800,000,000; P200,000,000 and P101,100,200 from the Water Supply Pipelines; Water Supply and Sanitation Networks; and the Land Development projects respectively, is proposed for reallocation. “These are slow spending projects that are still left with sizeable unspent balances. This proposed reallocation will not have any adverse effect on the annual 10 budgets of the projects concerned nor on the Total Estimated Cost,” Matsheka told parliament.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.