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Former-BAMB CEO faults budgeting system for agriculture misery

Former Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Edison Wotho and Alliance for Progressives (AP) parliamentary candidate for Nkange, has indicated that the country’s ill-informed budgeting systems has made it nearly impossible for the agriculture sector to flourish.

Once the major driver of the country’s economy, agriculture’s significance to the economy has been reduced to 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Under the current budget planning system agriculture will never go anywhere. The budgeting principles insist on having a budget increment of not more than 10 percent every financially year. Economic dynamic are not taken into considerations,” said Wotho, the former Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The budget should look at economic prospects. We should not be a consumptive nation, but a productive one.”  Wotho, who spent 30 years of his career at Ministry of Agriculture, and served under Quett Masire, Festus Mogae and then under Lt Gen Ina Khama, said government’s attitude towards agriculture over the years has been disheartening. “Even in early years when Agriculture was contributing 40 percent to the country’s economy, it was mainly as a result of individual farmers. Farmers were investing their own resources. It was not government efforts,”Wotho told WeekendPost this week.

Wotho said in early years, during the presidency of Masire, they were concerted efforts to develop agriculture, but there was a backflip during Mogae and Khama’s presidency. He said contrary to the believe that the national budget is controlled by bureaucrats, it is the cabinet which set-out priorities and officials only draw-up a budget based on the wishes of the executive. “One major weakness of Mogae is that he did not recognise agriculture. Investment fell drastically during his era, and thereafter. The Ministry of Agriculture development budget is disheartening,” Wotho said.

Wotho blames failures to bring solutions to the country’s woes to lack of consultation, opining that government has adopted a policy where they make decisions only to engage people later. “That is not consultation. When you have already made a decision, it is of no use to engage people. Consultation means whatever you do is guided by the views of the people that have been engaged, not just the views of consultants and experts,” he said. According Wotho, government should starting meeting farmers halfway by providing the necessary infrastructure needed by farmers, as well as protecting them from elephants.

“People are working for elephants,” he said. “’Government needs to invest in agriculture because it will create direct jobs immediately, and 10 folds indirect jobs.” “Thriving agriculture is necessary for the manufacturing sector. You cannot talk about manufacturing without a thriving agriculture. Transportation of raw materials is expensive, which makes the manufacturing sector to fail in Botswana.” Wotho is of the view that agriculture has the potential to transform Botswana economy if significant investments are made in the sector such as provision roads, boreholes and electricity to farmers.

He said water should be considered a social good not economic good, therefore it should be provided for free and economy will take of itself if there is enough provision of water. Projecting his vision, Wotho said government should provide the necessary liquidity to commercialise agriculture and catapult it to a level where Botswana can supply Southern Africa and Europe. He said Botswana is endowed with natural resources, and has the potential to have a thriving agriculture sector.

As part of having food security and a thriving agriculture, Wotho suggested that government build silos for the purpose of importing produce such as rice during a time when they are cheap. He said the products could be packaged and exported when there is demand.  Wotho said, even Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), can be returned to profitability, if the pricing structure is good, and that a meat regulator is put in place. Government has embarked on liberalising the beef sector, with BMC going through privatisation phase.

Government has been resisting calls by farmers to liberalise the beef industry. Since independence, government through BMC have been the only entity authorised to run an abattoir that export the beef to other countries. The liberalisation of BMC came about in 2013, when Ghanzi Farmers Association garnered support at an Otse meeting of Farmers Associations, resulting in the Letsema Resolution, wanting government to bring to an end BMC monopoly.

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Botswana economic recovery depends on successful vaccine rollout – BoB

5th May 2021

Bank of Botswana (BoB) has indicated that the rebounding of domestic economy will depended on successful vaccine roll-out which could help business activity to return to its post pandemic days.

Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021.

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Inside the UB-BDF fighter Jet tragedy report

5th May 2021

Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.

Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”

Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”

The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.

“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.

Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.

Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.

Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.

Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”

In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”

Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.

“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.

Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.

Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.

He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”

Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.

“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.

One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.

A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.

Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.

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Uphill battle in Khama’s quest to charge Hubona

5th May 2021

A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.” 

Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.

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