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Masisi slapped with piercing demands

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has governed this country since independence has retained power under the leadership of Mokgweetsi Masisi, following a bout of rigorous campaign.

However, this time stakes are high and a snooping civil society will watch to see if Masisi can deliver a new dawn as promised prior to the polls. Challenges besieging Botswana have continued to rise over the past ten years, but Masisi has assured the citizenry that he will clean the mess if given fresh mandate. The civil society prior to his inauguration yesterday, advanced a number of issues the President will have to prioritise if he is to take this country to the same level as the Asian Tigers.

There is a lot of optimism from various quarters which mostly emanates from the remarks made by the President in his 18 months in office. Political scientist Professor Teedzani Mpaphi, has told this publication that there will be nothing extra-ordinary, but the country will cut its coat looking at the available cloth.

“It will take time before we can see radical changes, but from Masisi what we expect is a major policy shift that should address a number of issues he was campaigning about prior to elections. There is also a need for the President to draw a road map that will show his priority areas in a chronological order.”

TRADE UNIONS

Workers representatives are also watching with keen interest as to what Masisi will dish for them. For the last ten years under Lt Gen Ian Khama’s presidency, the relationship between unions and government was acrimonious. There was a glimpse of hope when Masisi ascended to the top seat last year as he started engaging them, however, the unions are still not convinced and want to see a plan on how things will improve for the better.

“We are looking for an improved relations with government. It has been better yes, but we are saying we shouldn’t be at the mercy of the President, such that when he wants to see us it’s possible but it is not the same when we want to meet him. There are some ministries which are anti-labour movement and we expect a directive from President for them to engage us as and when [necessary],” BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu shared some of their expectations from Masisi in the coming five years. 

A recent savingram by the government to freeze any recruitment of vacant positions from October to March 31st next year, due to financial difficulties has left the unions with more questions than answers. “This is a non-starter,” an annoyed Tshukudu quipped and continued; “We should have been consulted. We had an agreement when we made increments and it did not include freezing of filling vacant positions. And like I said, there should be a good relations where we are consulted in most matters and that we believe will happen in the next five years.”   

The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC), which Masisi promised to resuscitate but never did, is another issue that irks the union and to a further extent portray Masisi as dishonest and want it to be running very soon. “But this can only happen when we have capacitated and made serious reforms within the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM),” advised Tshukudu.

LAWYERS ON CORRUPTION

Masisi, a man who portrayed himself as having zero tolerance for corruption, is also challenged to walk the talk and show seriousness in curbing corruption scourge. “It was his campaign catch phrase and it is there in their manifesto. But to accomplish this you need to have political will. Firstly, the agencies dealing with corruption should have teeth by being granted autonomy. It has long been talked but now Masisi should act,” a private attorney, Mabengano Makgetho posited.

The issue of corruption has become a hot potato of late, this following the P250 million scandal of NPF, with the latest being P4.2 billion found in a personal account of DIS agent, a matter which is currently under court consideration.  “These P4 billion issues are proceeds of crime and for Masisi administration to recover these he should be willing to spend to get the best lawyers across the world and investigate these matters thoroughly because it will take many years since the monies are syphoned to other countries,” Makgetho says.

It is believe that there is selective justice in the way corruption is being tackled, as lawyer Kgosi Ngakaagae bluntly put it; “The government is behaving like a typical mafia state where you hurt the other side by shooting its children. No right thinking citizen should allow the pattern of impunity and scapegoating to continue. Let all people mentioned in any case be in handcuffs,” he said referring to the ‘untouchables’ in these cases.  “The main thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption”, Masisi said this to his past cabinet ministers. 


“If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it. Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospital while you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), le nna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President,” Masisi warned passionately.

ON CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

The attorneys and political scientist agree that before the end of this year Masisi should have assembled a law reform commission that will be tasked with revision of the constitution. “It has been long overdue and this time around there is no need for peace-meal approach, but rather the whole of the constitution should be overhauled to cater for a number of developments including the direct election of the President,” Professor Mpaphi explained.

On the other hand, lawyer Makgetho is of the view that the revision of the constitution should be priority for Masisi but says it should be accorded time it deservers including conducting referendum. “There should be a plan on how it will be carried out but all stakeholders should be included and play a big role. There is no need to have some tribes claiming to be bigger and better than others. This is hazardous and it is highly likely to divide the nation.”

Masisi prior to the elections, has repeated the need to revise the constitution. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue at length and all the stuff. The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.”

DIKGOSI WANT BETTER PACKAGES

With Masisi now on a full mandate, there is an air of optimism within traditional leaders that at long last their lament to have better packages could be nearing the end. This, according to Kgosi Maruje III, should they have improved conditions of services there will be no time for Dikgosi to leave their traditional roles for greener pastures which include occupying political office.

“Our welfare should be improved,” he narrated. “There have been views that we should approach the Office of President on this matter so that we can have improved conditions of services and our powers be improved too. If we have addressed these you won’t see Dikgosi going to politics, because even the parliamentary privileges are better than that of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. We should equate Dikgosi to other three arms of government.”

Traditional leaders also demand security equivalent to those given to judges as they do the same toil of solving disputes. Private and personal secretaries must also be availed to the leaders to do their job diligently. “We also need diplomatic passports, if you can avail to athletes and MPs why don’t you give Dikgosi the same.” They also say Ministers should not supervise them but the government should establish the Royal council. Not only this but Dikgosi also want all tribes to be recognized and be included in Ntlo Ya Dikgosi to avoid marginalization of some tribes. However, this will only materialize if the constitution has been thoroughly reviewed.

EMPLOYMENT AND LAND

Youth and graduates unemployment is one challenge that Botswana is grappling with and Masisi has been urged and has agreed that he will give it the seriousness it deserves. “Government should be clear as to what sustainable ideas they have for these group to maintain themselves, not these manna from heaven programs, they need to be reviewed too. Remember unemployment is a threat to national stability and tranquillity and it should be prioritized,” Tshukudu believes. The latest statistics show that Botswana has 17.9 percent unemployment rate.

“I know that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such,” Masisi has told his party members. Allocation of land is another area that Masisi is lobbied to push, especially servicing of land and pushing waiting lists.

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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