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Nominated Cllrs: Molale wields power

The newly appointed Minister of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) Eric Molale is currently the most sought after Cabinet Minister. The reason is plain and simple; he is by law and purpose expected to announce the final list of nominated councilors, usually the last hope of redemption for election losers and political enthusiasts.

The Minister is expected to announce appointment of at least 133 specially nominated councillors. It is expected that an overwhelming majority of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members who lost in the recent General Elections will make the cut. This week, WeekendPost has established that the issue of the councillors’ nomination was discussed at length by the ruling party, in their weekly meeting. There were concerns from various members including Minister Molale. The Minister’s peers demanded to know why it has taken this long for the Minister to have released the final list for the nominations.

It is said Molale, who enjoys power, kept calm and even raised his own queries. According to informants the Minister decried the fact that the Permanent Secretary (PS) from the same Ministry invited the interested players to submit their names for special nomination consideration. It is said the Minister wanted this to have been done after he was appointed to head the Ministry and suspected it was done to undermine him.

“There was confusion as to who directed the PS to do that because it should have been a directive from the Minister. So he was just raising that concern. This was after fellow legislators asked him what could be delaying the list of nominations and the confusion caused thereof as some interested parties were told a new saving-gram will circulate replacing the initial one,” an informant told this publication.

Molale’s concerns converge with that of Leader of Opposition (LOO) Dumelang Saleshando, who has questioned the decision to have specially nominated councillors applying for the post before the relevant Minister was appointed. Subsequent to the confusion, Molale issued a directive suspending the orientation of all councillors across the country. The orientations of almost 500 councillors were scheduled for this past week and it was stopped mid-way on Monday.

“Molale feels undermined. All along elected councillors do their orientation first then the specially elected do theirs later. But after the directive, both elected and nominated councillors will do the orientation at the same time. He just wants to wield the power he has,” one Councillor shared with WeekendPost. Molale could not comment on the matter, saying: “Please talk to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry.”  The enquiries directed to the acting PS Col Duke Masilo, were also not efficiently responded to.

 “The deadline for submission to the Minister was on the 20th of this month. The Minister then has to submit to his Principal, whereupon a final decision will be taken on nominations.” On the directive which cancelled orientation, Col Masilo said: “I am not fully aware of the stopped orientations but I will enquire and revert.”

The councillors however are crying foul that the current development has stalled progress, as they prepare to take on their duties. The councils have the responsibility of electing Council chairpersons, Mayors as well as Constituting Committees, a task which councillors want to deal with without delay.


BDP to reward party loyalists and activists

Special nomination of councillors has been a debatable matter over the years, with opposition politicians questioning its purpose and fairness. In the General Elections of 2014, of the 133 councilors nominated by the then Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane, only seven belonged to the opposition while the rest were BDP members and predominately preceding election losers.

There are reports that the trio of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his Vice-Slumber Tsogwane and Molale want to short circuit the process and mostly reward the party veterans who were assisting in the campaigns of the just ended elections. Secret meetings are said to be held even at the State House, to decide who will make the cut. This is another factor that has irked the MPs, who as per norm, are given the opportunity to pitch a name or two for nominations.

“But it seems like this time around the decision will be taken by these three, leaving key stakeholders [MPs] out,” highlighted a source on Thursday morning. As per the practice, each party represented in a council has the right to suggest names for the positions of nominated councillors which are routed through the District Commissioners for consideration by the Minister. Each constituency is entitled to two nominations which the Minister could decline or accept.    

WeekendPost has it on good authority who those party activists are; those who worked hard during the campaigns and those who lost in the past General Elections. BDP is also said to be working on a plan that will ensure that nomination of councillors will be used to neutralize opposition in councils were BDP numbers fell short. Nominated Councillors have in the past helped the ruling party to balance power in Local Authorities. There are areas where the BDP was out-numbered by a small fraction and it used the dispensation to manipulate the scales.

After the October 23rd election, the ruling party has control of, Francistown City Council, Sowa Town, North East District Council, Chobe District Council, Southern District Council, and Lobatse Town Council, Jwaneng Town Council, South East, Kweneng, Kgatleng and Kgalagadi it however shares Ghanzi with UDC. The UDC is expected to control North West, Central District Council, and Selibe Phikwe.

Among the nominated names which raised eyebrows, was Alec Seametso who lost in the previous General Elections of 2014. Also nominated in 2014, was Oliphant Mfa, Andy Boatile and Shabir Kablay. This time around the names of Lotty Manyapedza and Mpho Kooreme are already hinted for nominations. The system has always been condemned by opposition MPs as they see it as a way of bringing back individuals who were rejected by voters, therefore going against the wishes of the electorates.

Even in the past BDP heavy weights like former Vice President, Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe have spoken against the practice. During the 9th Parliament, Kedikilwe tabled a motion in Parliament calling for the system to be scrapped, as it had diverted from its intended purpose and instead has been turned into a patronage exercise aimed at rewarding BDP activists.

The immediate past leader of opposition, Duma Boko has in the past revealed that his party planned to overhaul the legislation surrounding specially elected MPs and councilors. “I must record the indignant rage felt by us in the opposition and indeed the scornful resentment all reasonable citizens feel at this disgraceful conduct. There is nothing honorable about the conduct of the executive in this regard.”

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Botswana gets P2.750 billion loan from World Bank

14th June 2021
Peggy Serame

Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan by the World Bank today. The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.

This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” says World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.

“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy”. The operation provides both financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and to improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.

It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the program will help Botswana to build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase production of renewable energy by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.

DPLs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.

This has also led to a depletion of existing fiscal buffers and has constrained revenue collection, reduced Government’s capacity and resources needed to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and threatened to reverse progress in poverty reduction.

World Bank Group COVID-19 Response Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.

The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.

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UB employees protest against Vice Chancellor

11th June 2021
Professor Norris

University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, has lost support of the university staff, with four unions joining forces to demand his removal from office.  

When he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana in December 2017, by the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele, Professor Norris was hailed as an angel sent from heaven.

Professor Norris succeeded Professor Thabo Fako, after the latter led the University during turbulent times — with the university experiencing financial challenges and dwindling enrolment numbers.

Four years down the line, Professor Norris’ presence at the University nauseates many. Academic staff together with manual workers want Norris shown the door as soon as yesterday.

University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union, (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris. The unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration, and their welfare is entirely overlooked.

The unions petition Professor Norris on a number of issues: blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.

In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.

“They executed the assignment efficiently with intricate insider knowledge of the institution and a global academic outlook. The result of the process was later subjected to external review by consultants, even though the process was later abandoned at huge cost to the University. The Vice Chancellor is three years into this post, but he has done nothing to show, and always blames staff or his predecessors for the problems at UB,” the unions said in their petition.

The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.

“Even the so-called new strategy was imposed on the staff, since unions were never consulted. Staff in faculties were threatened and bullied into submission whenever they revealed flaws in the strategy. In short, this strategy lacks the critical ‘buy in’ from those charged with implementation, something which is crucial for any new strategy to succeed.”

Professor Norris, a renowned scholar, has been fingered in being reluctant to advance staff salaries, something which has been done four years ago. Unions claim that despite several shots to alter this status quo, efforts proved vain.

“The Vice Chancellor has dismally failed to bring about any meaningful action to ascertain that staff remunerations are adjusted to mitigate the effects of inflation, despite his attention being drawn to the erosion of the buying power of University staff. UB staff salaries have not been adjusted for a duration of four years, despite numerous attempts by the trade unions (UBASSSU, UBSU and Manual Workers Union) to appeal on behalf of the constituents for his intervention,” reads part of the petition.

University management are said to be relaxed when it comes to the security of the organization, petitioners claim. They stress that this has happened several times in recent years whereby management has allowed private security contracts, which augment the in-house UB security, to lapse before they can float a new tender.

The loan schemes that the University gets into on behalf of employees, is said to be another dare giving staff workers grief, perpetuated by Vice Chancellor Norris.

“It has happened several times that the contract between the financiers and the University lapses before anything is put in place for employees to continue getting financial assistance. Quite recently, it was communicated by a memo from Staff Welfare and Benefits Office that the loan scheme with FNB is coming to an end on the 30th April 2021 and this communication was made on the 29th, just a day before the end of such contract. This again shows lack of proactiveness on the part of management which is led by the VC,” said the petition.

The Vice Chancellor is said to be overreaching in UB administrative structures. Professor Norris, who chairs the Staff Appointment and Promotion Committee (SAPC), hosts illegal Pre-SAPC meetings, which are usually attended by Human Resources and Executive Management, and make decisions on who to appoint, promote or whose contract to renew before the substantive meeting of SAPC.

The Vice Chancellor, disgruntled petitioners say, uses SAPC to rubber stamp the executive decision – this amounts to corruption. “Three years in the institution he has virtually run the university alone. The core and critical Deputy Vice Chancellor posts of Academic Affairs; Finance and Administration; and Student Affairs, have not been filled. Instead he has appointed people on acting positions and he is shuffling them around as he pleases. Those he prefers have been acting for over two years, which is contrary to the Employment Act.”

Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.

Prior to joining UB, he was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), a position he held since 2016. He is the sixth Vice Chancellor of UB.

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Gov’t slashes P16 million from YDF budget

11th June 2021
YDF

Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has announced the return of the Youth Development Fund (YDF), after it was put on suspension by Government last year.

The fund however, has been slashed from P120 million to P104 million with the total number of projects expected to shrink. The YDF programme was temporarily suspended last year due to shortage of funds.

The programme introduced in 2009 by government, was a way of improving the lives of the youth as well as helping to fight unemployment.

When addressing the media, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare said the ministry has resolved to start receiving applications for 2021/2022 Youth Development Fund from 09 June 2021 to 10 August 2021.

Rakgare said government was worried about the high numbers of unemployment hence the resolve to restart the YDF programme even in the midst of the pandemic.

He however revealed that due to budget challenges and the continued restrictive environment imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be some modifications to the implementation of YDF.

“Due to budget challenges the allocation for the fund in the current financial year has been reduced from P120 million to P104 million. Constituencies will thus be allocated less than the usual P2 million, which means that the number of funded projects will be significantly reduced,” he said.

He further said priority for funding shall be for businesses with the potential to create a higher number of jobs and those that address key government priorities.

The sectors to be prioritized include; Manufacturing, Agriculture, Tourism, Technology, Digitization and Innovation. Moreover, the threshold for YDF financing remains at P100 000.00 for individuals and P450 000.00 for youth industries or co-operatives.

In addition to funding youth projects, the Minister said P14, 393,066.77 will be reserved for completion and implementation of Special Projects such as development of Land-banks, mentorship partnerships and trainings.

All changes to the YDF programme are to apply only for this year while a comprehensive review is undertaken. The target is to have the revised programme implemented in the next financial year.

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