President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recommendation of former Attorney General Phandu Skelemani as the Speaker of the National Assembly was an effort to neutralise the North-South narrative and ensure that at least one of three arms of government is led by someone from a minority, WeekendPost has learnt.
This publication is reliably informed that when the parliament curtain closed in August, the party had agreed that the former Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi will fill the post that was to be vacated by Speaker Gladys Kokorwe. The script, it is said, had long been drafted that Molatlhegi will not contest the BDP primaries last year, and instead will take over the Speakership role.
However, after election, dynamics turned out different. Masisi had changed the tone and suggested the name of Skelemani before the party caucus for endorsement. Another name that was suggested was that of Mochudi East MP Mabuse Pule, for the Deputy Speaker role. This was contrary to what the party had agreed and hoped for. In the initial plan, Buti Billy, the Francistown East legislator was to understudy Molathegi. Billy has since been appointed Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development.
“It is clear Masisi was trying to balance the tribal landscape. He did not want to appear like he is swinging the pendulum of leadership one side, so the idea was to recognize the deep northerners hence he came up with Skelemani’s name,” an informant close to the actions told WeekendPost. Skelemani was born in Mapoka (North East) and worked in the civil service for 30 years starting out as State Counsel. He went on to become a Senior State Counsel and progressing through the ranks to become a Deputy Attorney General. Skelemani was appointed Attorney General in 1992, where he advised the cabinet and attended cabinet meetings.
“His institutional memory of the government machinery and the process were key factors in him getting the position, but most importantly where he comes from,” added a source. Just like Masisi, head of Executive is from Moshupa, with Terrence Rranowane who is leading the judiciary and is from Thamaga. The two villages are 14 kilometres apart and already nepotism and favouritism accusations have been flying around. Now the head of legislature had to be someone from the northern, so as to extinguish the claims that all the key arms of government are led by the southerners, informant says.
Another gesture was to retain Tsogwane, a northerner as the country’s Vice President. Molatlhegi is from Mahalapye in the central region and it is believed advisors close to Masisi suggested that he go for Skelemani so that other northerners also feel included. When asked about intentions to come back to parliament Molatlhegi said; “I took a decision to focus on me and my family, but if the legislators do need my services I will definitely come, my fate lies in them to be honest,” he said in August.
Molatlhegi rose to the Deputy Speakership role after 2014 elections, assisting Kokorwe. Kokorwe revealed that he will not be vying for another term post 2019-election, a factor which made her Deputy (Molatlhegi) a front-runner for the role. The Botswana Parliament is created by Section 57 of the Constitution and it is composed of the President and the National Assembly.
The role of parliament is to make laws as stipulated in Section 86 of the Constitution, which states that: ‘Parliament shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Botswana.’ In this way it means Parliament exercises legislative powers as one of its core mandates. In addition, Parliament performs functions such as representation, scrutiny and oversight.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.