The main opposition party Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC,) has upped elections tempo with only two weeks to go by pouring millions in their campaigns, in a spirited bid to wrestle the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) out of power.
This week the party officially launched the Sekhukhu Tour in which it seeks to cover all the 57constiuencies in 12 days. For that to happen smoothly, the UDC through its sponsors has availed two choppers, three open disco trucks and five luxurious coach buses. The fly machines will be used by the President Duma Boko and his Vice Dumelang Saleshando. It is said the three trucks have already been given destination with the other set to cover Kgalagadi region, the other will go to Maun while the last one will go to Kasane, enroute covering all the constituencies along.
The buses which when the tour was launched this week at the bus rank were still cleared at the border and branded, will be used to fetch electorates to the polling stations especially on Election Day. “The purpose of all these is to walk around and interact with the people to understand their worries and this will definitely happens as you have just witnessed with the walk around in Gaborone bus rank. I cannot tell you the estimation of these as one army commander once said; you don’t reveal your strategies to you opponents because they will use the same weapon against you,” Boko told this publication at the event where the Sekhukhu tour was officially launched.
This development comes after untidy skirmishes between the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over the ‘illegal’ flying of aircrafts over Botswana skies by the leader of the main opposition party Boko, in May this year. This time, after the former availed a checklist of temporary admission of aircraft into the Botswana skies to the party’s lawyers, it seems now the dust has settled and the expected fly-machines by the party will be free in Botswana atmosphere.
The not so clean games, which many interpreted as politically motivated by the ruling party saw two of the aircrafts Boko was using for electioneering grounded by the BURS and his pilots interrogated and later fined P50 000 by the tax collector, UDC President Boko took steps to distill the process. The aircrafts were landed to Boko by Waleed Helicopter Services (PTY) Ltd. Boko then instructed the UDC lawyers, Bayford and Associates to ask for a requisite BURS checklist for purposes of temporary importation into Botswana of aircraft intended for use in election campaigns.
Although Boko was once again interrogated by aviation and BURS officers in Maun recently, it appears the party has now ticked all the right boxes and their plan to use two choppers will see the light of the day. Informants close to the developments tell this publication that the script to put the campaigns on steroids the last days has long been drafted but the party was awaiting for President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reveal elections dates. In fact, the UDC targeted the last 45 days of the campaigns to be more intense. However, when Masisi revealed the 23rd of this month as D-day, it was already late for the party but they still vowed to pull a show stopper in the last remaining few weeks.
WeekendPost is reliably informed that the party funders, headlined by Zunaid Moti and others who have preferred to remain back-stage, have availed two choppers for the party. It is explained by impeccable sources that the choppers are specifically for party President Duma Boko and his Vice Dumelang Saleshando.
“The idea is for the two men (Boko and Saleshando) to traverse the breadth and width of this country pushing campaigns. The thing now is our leaders should swap destinations. If Boko was in Gumare launching our candidate there, then he will go to Bokspits to hold a star rally there. This is deliberately done to keep the fire burning,” explained one party member on Friday morning.
The expected fly machines are the same as the previous ones Boko has used in the past, a 2017 Augusta A109SP, which is valued at US$ 5 950 000 which translates to about P50 millions of which 12% translates to P6 million. But depending on their age, other models could come at a lower price of just under P20 million, which would require the UDC to fork out about P2 million as guarantee to the BURS and further ensure that there is no violation of the preset conditions for the temporary admission of the aircraft or face penalties including paying all tax payable.
For the two helicopters this now means the party will cough out P12 million to access them without ‘harassment’ from tax collector and or aviation authorities. The move by the UDC to lure investors to assist them is however being welcomed by most observers and pundits as it is believed this would close the gap between them and the BDP towards election time. For a long time political party, funding has been advocated by many but it has not seen the light of the day.
UDC has also acquired three open disco trucks that will be used for motorcades across 57 constituencies. The trucks are normally used to carry crowds with mounted musical instruments, with revelers enjoying. Just like in 2014 elections when the party acquired a bus from good Samaritans, this time around the party is also anticipating a number of luxury coaches that will be placed at various areas.
These buses are said to be Higer Touring, which their marker price is P2.7 million. But for UDC, the buses will be hired for the duration of the campaign period until election date, it is rumored that for the two weeks that the buses will be here, their rental is estimated at close to P5 million.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.