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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.