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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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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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