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.
Slumber Tsogwane, the chairman of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), has effectively ursurped Mpho Balopi’s functions of secretary general. He has also taken over the preparations for the party’s national congress, which is scheduled to be held in August.
The role of the secretary general is to oversee the activities of the party, and according to its constitution, he or she is the accounting officer. Throughout his career, Balopi has been the link between the various structures of the party, including the central committee and sub committees. However, since he has been replaced by Tsogwane, Balopi has become an onlooker.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katholo has revealed why he took a decision to engage private lawyers against the State. The DCEC boss engaged Monthe and Marumo Attorneys in his application to interdict the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing files and dockets in the custody of the corruption busting agency.
In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has gone through transformation over the years, with new faces coming and going, but some figures have become part and parcel of the furniture at Tsholetsa House. From founding in 1962, BDP has seen five leaders changing the baton during the party’s 60 years of existence. The party has successfully contested 12 general elections, albeit the outcome of the last polls were disputed in court.
While party splits were not synonymous with the BDP for the better part of its existence, the party suffered two splits in the last 12 years; the first in 2010 when a Barataphathi faction broke ranks to found the now defunct Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The Barataphathi faction was in the main protesting the ill-treatment of then recently elected party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who had been suspended ostensibly for challenging the authority of then president, Ian Khama.