President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has amid budget constraints thrown out of the window Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators’ electioneering plan to increase Constituency Fund budget which they believed was going to earn the party more votes in the October general elections.
The plea was made early this year and was emphasized before the national budget approval at a number of party meetings with Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane asked to relay the message to his superior, President Masisi. The appeal, according to its proponents – majority of MPs, would work wonders for the BDP in the October elections later this year. BDP MPs proposed that the fund be increased from P10 million to P20 million per constituency.
This, they said, will ensure that their constituencies push a number of developmental agendas and backlog projects. Have members succeeded in their request; the government was going to be forced to be spend a whooping P1.1 billion on the initiative from the current budget of P570 million.
The P570 million constituency fund was introduced during former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s administration. Constituency Fund is modelled in such a way that it channels money from central government directly to electoral constituencies for local infrastructure projects. Initially, many, including BDP politicians were skeptical of the whole idea positing that it is a scheme vulnerable to corruption and abuse.
However, BDP members have somersaulted and now want it increased as it has proved popular among electorates. “We have discussed this issue and suggested to the leadership that funds permitting the government must look at this initiative and increase its budget,” said one party insider. “For now the suggestion was it should be increased from P10 to P20 million because since its inception a number of communal projects have been pushed. These are the developments that are not in the National Development Plans or that will take time to be included in the NDP in the near future.” These recommendations were among a litany of those were given to parliamentary representatives by electorates.
However at last week’s all BDP candidates retreat at the party’s Treasurer Satar Dada’s plush home in Mmokolodi, Masisi did not buy the idea saying they should use the available funds like money sourced from investors to advance their campaigns. He went on to advise candidates that with few months before the polls they should use P10 million for constituency fund to lure votes. “You have P570 million of constituency funds including opposition constituencies and what are you doing with that monies. You should use it strategically so that you can show tangible results to voters. You should have charm so that people are happy. Campaign is like menstrual cycle,” he said when responding to the calls of increasing the fund.
He continued; “Let’s make people happy, the BDP should make Batswana happy. There are many attributes to it. Let’s not shout, hate and critique people. You are not representing the party. If you do that Le jelwe, he said. “Polotiki gase maikgantsho, don’t come with your fancy car at rallies because it might depict you as motho yoo maikgantsho. Fancy cars belong somewhere. We are about people feeling good, not yourself. Many of you should become politicians.”
It is said ever since the idea was sold to him Masisi never entertained it as there are number of priorities the government should invest in. “He is very weary of the budget implications on this issue. In fact, he believes the government could rather invest or increase budget of the relevant authorities depending on the needs of the area so that they could curb the shortcomings because needs vary per constituency rather than increasing by 100% monies across all the constituencies. Because constituency fund will directly and diligently push those works especially water deficiency and or erection of fences separating wildlife and humans; but Water Utilities or Wildlife department could use the money much better,” revealed a source.
The other factor that Masisi’s advisors gave him according to those in the know was that, “after making a number of adjustments to the budget like increasing public servants salaries, de-linking members of the disciplined forces as well as increasing members of the National Assembly wages he could be seen as reckless when it comes to spending public money.” All these plus increasing constituency fund, sources and observers alike say it was going to attract publish backlash and negativity on Masisi’s presidency.
Legislators on the other hand were of the view that this initiative could make it easy for BDP even in constituencies that are considered opposition stronghold, “because this is the idea of BDP and not the opposition, the voters should be made aware of that fact to show them that as a party we care about them.” When appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Boipolelo Khumomatlhare revealed that they are in the process of reviewing the initiative.
“It has been said in the past that programs like Ipelegeng and lately constituency fund should be reviewed. It is difficult to say, but, yes, they should be reviewed. But they can be coordinated in a manner that could help in the National Development Plan or District Development Plan,” he said.
The Constituency Fund focuses on seven areas: Environment (planting of trees, cleaning the environment and establishment of parks in open spaces); Public Health (public health seminars, mobile clinics and improvement of health infrastructure); Education (extra-lessons for struggling students and additional facilities for schools, students and teachers); Sports and the Arts (sports and arts training clinics for the youth, aiding access to sporting, arts and music facilities, coordination of events and development of sport fields); Community Safety and Security (coordination of neighborhood-watch initiatives, procurement of security cameras and others); Infrastructure (financing of backlogs in infrastructure projects, including sewerage, dilapidated schools, clinics, and roads); and Small, Medium Enterprise and Business Development (training of hawkers and business-people on management and facilitating business development by supporting initiatives for access to funding and markets).
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.
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.