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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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No deal was made with Disney World – Tsogwane

16th April 2021
disney-carlifonia-park

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been touring the entire world since occupying Presidential office in 2018. Few months down the line, he flew to Florida in the United States of America where he landed at the Disney World.

This is the world’s largest entertainment complex opened in 1971, with four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Upon his return in the country from the fairytale land, Masisi said Botswana struck a partnership with Disney World. The partnership primarily focused on turning the country’s capital, Gaborone, into an international tourism and leisure destination.

“We have struck a partnership with Disney World as a company. They focus on making people happy and bringing tourists. I want tourists in this country. Visa restrictions are out. They will be issued on arrival. I have tasked Minister Makgato’s Ministry to categorize taxis so that there can be value in the taxi industry.

I am very committed to making Gaborone an international venue center and this will bring revenue to our country,” Masisi said at the time. Masisi, has now appointed Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner – designate to the Commonwealth of Australia.

However, two years later, there is no sign of Gaborone being turned into a tourism hub. In fact, the partnership Masisi struck with Disney World never emerged. It is now becoming more of a pipeline dream, and politicians are keen to know what really transpired.

In a dramatic turn of events, Masisi’s flanking Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, slammed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane with questions on this said ghost partnership, demanding answers on Masisi’s long dead promise.

Vice President Tsogwane told Parliament on Thursday that Masisi was looking for investors to come and do business in Botswana, either in partnership with government or the private sector.

“The President and his delegation engaged in meetings with the management of Disney World to identify opportunities for the company to collaborate with in Botswana. There were a number of opportunities Mr. Speaker for collaboration that were identified to be followed up with by bilateral negotiations with various institutions.

The key area that was identified for collaboration was the implementation of an enhanced customer care training and development akin to that of Disney World.

The Botswana Public Service College was assigned to collaborate with Disney World, to roll out a training programme which will achieve excellent customer service for the public sector in Botswana, Tsogwane said via virtual Parliament.

He further said representatives of Disney World visited Botswana on a fact finding mission in May 2019.

“While in Botswana, the team toured selected sites such as Gaborone bus rank, Tlokweng Boarder post, and Department of Roads, Training and Safety offices amongst others. Following this, Disney World produced a scoping report which detailed training and engagement timelines for consideration by government,” said Tsogwane.

In fulfilment of their procurement requirement, Tsogwane said Disney Institute was requested to submit a proposal based on their scoping report indicating associated cost implications. He said, Disney declined to submit citing that it does not deal directly with government.

“After being advised by their Disney World Board, they therefore advised Botswana government to deal with another company in the United States of America, which according to them does the Disney World way. This never proceeded because our interest was on Disney World and not any other company that point in time.”

As a result, Tsogwane told Parliament that no deal or contract was signed with Disney World. “The issue of easing of restrictions which is part of the question, between any two countries is a matter that is negotiated through diplomatic channels and whenever agreements are reached, proper communication is made. With regard to Visa restrictions between Botswana and the US, Tsogwane says they will continue discussions on how to ease restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

Morwaeng wanted Tsogwane to update Parliament on: Government’s deal with Disney World, the terms of the deal propounded by the President in March 2019; Whether the deal was signed, when it was signed and clear specifics of the deal and its benefits to Botswana tourism; when visa restrictions between the two countries (Botswana and the United States of America) will be eased and visas issued on arrival as per the Disney World deal pronouncement; and If the deal struck with Disney World was not just mere electioneering talk that will never see the light of the day.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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