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Khama supports Butale for BPF presidency

Former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has no choice but to side with Biggie Butale for the leadership of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). This comes after the more experienced Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi could not raise her hand and join the new party.

Butale, a recently suspended Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) member and Member of Parliament for Tati West has been at the forefront of the formation of the party. “He has been running the affairs of the party together with Roseline Panzirah-Matshome and from a distance Samson Moyo Guma. The influence of the trio has had other would-be members being sidelined,” said a source within the BPF.

“The choice of Butale over Venson-Moitoi is raising worries that a party in its early formation will lose credibility.  Not long before Khama was backing Venson-Motoi, and to now switch to Butale without explanation has gotten many to be disillusioned.” The belief within the majority of the BPF members is that Venson-Moitoi has been on a campaign since December vying for the BDP leadership; therefore it would make sense to continue with her and ride on her momentum. They want her lured to the party.

They also point to her experience as an administrator, Member of Parliament and Cabinet as qualities that can be used to sell her to voters.  “At her age she can be seen as unifier than a longtime office bearer thereby giving space for other future leaders to be groomed.
Some in the party believe Butale’s leadership style is already of concern.  He is thought to be combative, and doesn’t allow for consultation.  As it is, nobody knows basic information of the party, where the offices are, who is coordinating things, and even how delegates are going to get to Kanye,” said a concerned party member.

All this they blame on Butale who seems to have centered everything on himself, it is said. One former MP stated that: “Khama is making the same mistakes he made with Masisi.  Khama is a nice person, but he is naïve.  Taking an unpopular, leader and imposing him on people.  What he Khama often sees in these people, only him knows.” “Again, Butale is being used just like he got Mpho Balopi from obscurity and made him Secretary General of the party. 

The result – division within the party he Khama left in the BDP and a decline in popularity. As a matter of fact, we are grateful for some of his initiatives together with Roseline to get things going for BPF.  But let them be assigned appropriate responsibilities that match their skills set and capacity for now.  Biggie Butale will have time to lead the BPF at an opportune time, but now is not the right time.” The source went further to say that often Khama chooses people for his own interests rather than that of the collective or the organisation.  

Another cause of concern for the party is the insistence of Khama and Butale to hold inaugural elections at the upcoming congress in Kanye.  Many within the party say the party is not ready for elections, and that besides the elections outcome will divide the party.  They hold a view that what the party should be aiming for is an interim arrangement, one that allows for proper building of party infrastructure, procedures and processes. “Let’s learn to walk before we start running. As it we are beseeched with many elementary problems, an internal election is not and should not be a priority.”

“We however feel the momentum with BPF.  We are the talk of town. While we may not win all constituencies, we are certainly sure we are going to make a dent on the electoral space.  We are going to make sure BDP is not returning to power, and we are comfortable in having coalition pact run the next government of Botswana.  “We will win the combined Central and the North, and have UDC bring in the South to form a new government after the elections.  And we do not fear a Boko Presidency.”

Contacted for comment, Venson-Moitoi dismissed the allegations that she has interest in BPF presidency. “I have never said to anybody that I want to be president of the BPF. I never sought residency at BPF. I still have my BDP membership,” she said. For his part, Khama indicated that he is surprised at the allegations. “BPF is a democratic party which does not belong to an individual. Its office bearers are elected by the people at a constituted congress where delegates are at liberty to nominate anyone of their choice.”

Meanwhile Butale did not dispute the allegations of divisions within the party, but noted that, “In a party setup there will always be misunderstandings. And misunderstandings do not mean fights.” Party spokesperson Panzirah-Matshome only said, “The people shall choose their leadership on July 6 in Kanye, not Khama.”

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GCC expensive taste reaches courts

9th March 2021

There is uproar and confusion at Gaborone City Council (GCC) caused by the municipality’s decision to reject cheaper bids and instead award a contract of Asphalt overlay, resealing and road marking works of 10km in Gaborone to a more expensive contractor.

The tender was posted on December 8th last year with TRI VENTURES (PTY) LTD awarded the tender after being the best evaluated bidder. The company, to do the job, quoted P14 707 454.78 as the total bid price and P12 501 336.56 as the total contract price of the award.

The awarding of the job to this company has rubbed other bidders the wrong way and even suspecting the tender adjudicating body of having hidden interests. The arguments from the tenderpreneurs is that the common methodology for awarding the jobs is always hinged on the least expensive taking the job. This, they support further by saying the government has been decrying lack of funds but GCC continues to splash the funds without being logical and prudent.

From the tendering companies, a number of them were below TRI VENTURES’ quote. Trench Plant Hire quoted P12 million, with Costain Services praying for P13 million, Conconet PTY LTD asked for P12,9 million and Clanfield PTY LTD also quoted P12.9 million for the 10 km job in the capital city.

The latter, Clanfield PTY LTD which according to CIPA records is owned by Tlholego Ntebele, approached High Court this week Thursday seeking interdict which will pave way for the review of the tender. The company had initially filed an appeal and the Appeals Board dismissed it.

“In this regard you are hereby informed that, if you are aggrieved by the decision by the Appeals Board you may seek remedy from the high court in accordance with section 24(6) of the LAPAD act,” appeal dismissal letter read. The Appeals Board’s main contention was that the company quoted the money which is lower than the council minimum cut off point of P14 511 798 76.

In their heads of argument at the court, the company through their attorneys argued that by being inexpensive, it was enough to grant them the job. In fact they argued that the winning bid of TRI VENTURE owned by Lebogang Dikole reached the GCC budget ceiling and therefore Clanfield Pty Ltd were the best placed to be awarded.

The request for the interdict was nonetheless dismissed by Justice Radijeng but the company is still adamant that they will appeal. Delivering the speech on Legal year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane implored the courts to adjudicate on urgency basis matters of tenders as they stall progress on national developments.

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New infrastructure funding models for Africa

9th March 2021
New-infrastructure

The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which came into effect at the beginning of 2021 with a market of 1.2 billion and combined GDP of $3 trillion, could contribute $76 billion to the world economy, according to World Bank.

To harness this potential, African countries would have to address the infrastructural challenge — which means dishing out or augmenting existing infrastructure funding models in favour of new funding models. ACFTA — the biggest trade agreement since World Trade Organization — fundamentally seeks to scrap out tariffs in 90 percent of goods, subsequently improving trade by at least 15 percent by 2024.

However, trade between African countries will most likely to be hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure key in facilitating business. Africa, particularly the Sub-Saharan region has been grappling with the question of funding its infrastructure, and lags behind other regions in the world in meeting infrastructural needs.

As highlighted by African Development Bank in its 2018 economic outlook, one of the key factors retarding industrialization has been the insufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power, water, and transport services that would allow firms to thrive in industries with strong comparative advantages.

The continent’s infrastructure needs an amount of $130–170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range $68–$108 billion, according to African Development Bank.  Africa’s infrastructure deficiency is well-documented, and has been subject of interrogation by development partners for decades.

The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, produced by World Bank in 2010, collected comprehensive data on the infrastructure sectors in Africa—covering power, transport, irrigation, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology (ICT) as well as providing an integrated analysis of the challenges they face.

While the report noted that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s improving growth performance and has the potential to contribute even more in the future, it also discovered that Africa’s infrastructure networks increasingly lags behind those of other developing countries and are characterized by missing regional links and stagnant household access.

These deficiencies, cause African firms to suffer production costs, therefore making goods not only expensive but also lowering competition in the economy to the consumer’s disadvantage. African countries continues to fare badly in the annual Global Competitiveness Report — published by World Economic Forum — in the infrastructure pillar, with only South Africa being an exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, though still having power problems.

The infrastructure pillar looks at the quality and extension of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water and air) and utility infrastructure. This is so because better-connected geographic areas have generally been more prosperous and well-developed infrastructure lowers transportation and transaction costs, and facilitates the movement of goods and people and the transfer of information within a country and across borders.

It also ensures access to power and water—both necessary conditions for modern economic activity. Power is listed among Africa’s biggest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries facing regular power shortages and many paying high premiums for emergency power, according to World Bank which indicated that to address Africa’s infrastructure needs it will cost around $93 billion a year, but African Development Bank puts the figure at $130–170 billion a year, after its recent study.

The infrastructure challenge cut across all countries, from fragile economies to resource-rich countries such as Botswana mainly because a large share of Africa’s infrastructure is domestically financed, with the central government budget being the main driver of infrastructure investment.

In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the continent does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs.

Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.

“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance in Botswana. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated.

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Russian billionaire takes centre stage in Masisi, Geingob P3billion project

9th March 2021

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi could find himself ensnared in controversy, as contentious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov this week emerged as the likely investor in the water desalination worth approximately P3 billion.

News of a possible water desalination project resurfaced after President Mokgweetsi Masisi made his second State visit to Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob in a space of less than a month.  President Masisi and his entourage travelled to Namibia to explore the possibility of collaborating on a water project, according to government officials.

Reports in Namibia indicate that talks are already underway with Geingob and an investor who is offering desalination water from the Atlantic Ocean.  “Being a good neighbour and alive to Botswana’s water challenges, Geingob invited him to come and meet the investor to share thoughts on the project”, Masisi announced on his official social media pages.

“We are happy with the prospects because we need the water. However, our ministers and technocrats have to determine what is best for us bearing in mind our governance procedures,” Masisi wrote. Tautona Times, an Office of the President (OP) publication, reports that funds and other technical considerations permitting Botswana to partner with Namibia in a water desalination project which could address the current water shortages that the two countries are facing are being sourced.

Namibia has been working on a project to treat water from the Atlantic Ocean and use it for drinking purposes. Last Thursday, an investor willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Heads of State and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete.

Botswana however is still part of Botswana- Lesotho water transfer project. The L-BWT scheme will supply water to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a 700 km water conveyance pipeline from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana.

In August 2018, Botswana was tasked with an investment request of €3.42 million grant funding for outstanding feasibility studies related to the dam and conveyancing pipeline. “We are still part of the Lesotho- Botswana water transfer project where Botswana was tasked by the three countries to approach the African Development Bank to fund the feasibility study which they did and it’s been done. The technical team for the three countries even toured the pipeline site to determine what’s on the way which may require moving”, said impeccable sources.

After the trip, Tautona Times reported that an investor who was willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Presidents and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The said investor is Rashid Sardarov, according to the Namibian press.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) Panama Papers have linked Russian billionaire and Namibian land baron, Rashid Sardarov, to a number of unscrupulous offshore companies. Sardarov, who is believed to be a person of interest between the two Heads of State, owns large tracts of land in Namibia, and is a long-term client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers data leak, which was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

ICIJ reports that absentee landlord Sardarov is a 60-year-old flamboyant Russian oligarch with an interest in energy businesses, property, aviation, hospitality and wildlife hunting.  In 2013 he bought several farms in Namibia, measuring 28,000 hectares (the equivalent of about 34,000 football fields), through his Switzerland-based company, Comsar Properties SA. Sardarov also apparently intends to build a game ranch 70 km outside Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek.

One of the main purposes of creating an offshore company is to hide the names of the real owners. Even though creating these kind of companies is not illegal, the Panama Papers once again showed that some of these shell companies, masked in secrecy provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.

Rashid Sardarov is unapologetic about his riches, and was quoted by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo as saying: “I’ve been a billionaire for years, and I’m not ashamed to say so”. He received Bosnian citizenship in 2011 because he was a major investor there.

In addition to his 2013 land purchases in Namibia, at the end of 2014, Sardarov wanted to buy an additional 18,000 hectares of land for expansion. It is not yet clear whether Sardarov acquired the extra land he wanted. But he is building a state-of-the-art game ranch, Marula Game Lodge, in the region.

Botswana and Namibia recently signed a Bi- National Commission and the two Heads of State emphasized the unique responsibility they have to their nations. They agreed to constantly engage each other in communication and other ventures that will yield benefits to the people of the two countries. President Masisi and Geingob acknowledged the common challenges that Botswana and Namibia have adding that the time for working in silos is over.

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