President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is a man on a mission to convince Batswana that he needs a fresh mandate, and indeed last weekend’s BDP all candidates retreat chronicles the ambush that the party is plotting in an effort to white-wash the opposition in the general elections expected in four months’ time.
Records compiled at the recent closed door meeting of the BDP in Gaborone suggest that the ruling party goes into this election with doubts and has a deep-seated fear of the opposition. It is apparent from the evidence before this publication that the BDP is wary of the uncertainties they face in the upcoming elections. According to the compilation, some of the party’s foot soldiers bluntly said it before President Masisi that this year’s vote will not be an easy one for the BDP as he may think.
This fear has forced the party leadership to come up with a robust electioneering four months grand-plan ahead of the highly contested polls. The grand-plan covers a wide spectrum of national issues with a sharp focus on ‘problematic areas’ like availability of water, decentralization of health services, corruption, review of the constitution and the public perception of Masisi’s government amongst many others.
According to the party communique, the retreat was a chance for the candidates to not only bond, engage, debate, but also to share knowledge, ideas and skills. The National Strategy, Communication & International Relations (NSCSIR) team facilitated the session and also made some presentations to train and equip the Candidates with key strategic skills. Apart from all the 57 candidates, the party also invited veterans including Daniel Kwelagobe and former ministers; Kavis Kario and Jacob Nkate.
MASISI WANTS VOTERS PRIORITISED
The BDP strategic meeting exposed in order of chronology, the BDP’s fears going into this election and at the fore front is the servicing of voters. Masisi has pleaded with party members that with four months before elections candidates should sweat to ensure that electorates are pleased so the party could retain state power in October. “I have taken a decision to allow ministers to work with Batswana, I want politicians to work with the electorates, and we should service our people.
Same thing with me, I will also work three days in office as times goes on will take two. Everywhere I go I will be having my office, we have a very mobile presidency.” He said with ululations and whistles following him. Masisi said he will also visit the constituencies so that he can see how the members relate with voters and other party structures. “I will also visit your constituencies un-announced, and invite myself to relevant structures meetings so that I could audit. I want to remind you that you should obey party orders, no one is immune there are times where you have a choice and sometimes you don’t because it is a political formation after all.”
Shortages of drugs and medications in public clinics and hospitals which have been going on will have to be corrected four months before polls. This according to the president will call for the decentralization of management. “We are also about to decentralize the health system. We want to decentralize management of the health services, so that decision could be taken at a local level and they are capacitated by a budget.
So when we prepare for budget in July we are going to ensure that with my competent cabinet and it looks like they will agree with me.” He said there should be no shortages of medication as that tarnishes the BDP and it will be a thing of the past in the coming months. “Re rogakwa ke batho mo dintshong mo, gotwe ga gona dipilisi tsa high-blood, this should stop.”
INVESTORS WANT OPPOSITION WHITE-WASHED
In a startling revelation, Masisi told the candidates that he has been approaching the business community for possible funding and is glad to tell them that he has received a lump sum of cash from investors. “We have received pulas for campaign and we are going to test you. All who are here you will get something those who are not present won’t get anything. You must be disciplined. I don’t want to see the attitude of the past five years which has worsened now to an extent that you tell our rivals how we operate.”
Masisi said he is happy that the likes of party treasure Satar Dada, Indians and Chinese investors assisted the party. “If they got all the money legally like we now our treasure is doing and whoever you know it could be Koreans or Africans if it is clean then there is nothing wrong.” He further told the democrats that the BDP was broke. “This party was P50 million on the red. The banks are not willing to lend us money, we have to rely on being transparent. Dada gave us 60 cars, we would have not managed this if it was not Dada and use these cars wisely they are not yours they are for constituencies and for the party.”
Masisi who was closing down the retreat continued; “I want to inform you what the party has done for you. We are expecting before Vice President’s launch another trench of t shirts. Every constituency will have 10,000 t-shirts don’t worry about our visibility. Every constituency will also have 3000 umbrellas, there will be more umbrellas in BDP than in the Umbrella, deliberately so. Bandana for the youth and caps will be 2500 as well as flags. There is a lot we are getting from the goodwill,” he revealed.
It is pointed out that some of the donors prescribed the condition that the money be used to fight opposition-held constituencies; while the other said his money be used on marginal constituencies while the other gave the money with no conditions. Masisi further revealed that he is expecting more money around September, “so everyone will be receiving something to give you a boost and a push. So share the money amongst yourselves. All who are here will get something those who are not ba jelwe,” he said.
NO WATER RATIONING FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS PLEASE
Candidates have since last year been appealing to the leadership to suspend the electricity and water cuts as it has become a hot potato attracting the public’s wrath on the BDP. They said it has been among the opposition’s favorite subjects. Members requested that water cut should be suspended and maybe be brought back after the elections. Masisi promised them that leading to the elections that would be water under the bridge. The BDP will, if push comes to the shove amend Water Utilities (WUC) act and also engage council to pump and avail water to Batswana.
“We want to do the same (decentralization) for water, lea bokolla ka metsi mo go lebaneng. But we will be very sensitive to the budget implications. Because in reality part of failures with water, is procurement. PPADB act needs to and it is reviewed. Information is leaked; and this is corruption! What do you want to achieve when you leak information about the multimillion tender? That must stop! Some of you who leak this I know you. This will also not grow our private sector. We might amend WUC act to allow council to pump water so that we can have water in our taps, but you should know that water is a scarce resource”.
CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN TOURISM
The lament that locals are pushed to the woods when it comes to the meaningful participation of the economy is another matter that will be pushed and implemented before the October elections. “The BDP government is also concerned by the way Batswana are participating in tourism and will in July implement Citizen Empowerment law and Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) law”.
President Masisi says this is for the locals to be included in the economy of this country. We will have citizen participating in tourism economy and we will also push for economic diversification law, we want them to buy and sell what is produced locally. We cheat our fiscals by supporting people who are not helping the locals, VP (Slumber Tsogwane) note them this will be implemented in July”.
The retreat also saw Masisi revealing to candidates that as a party, plans are underway to revise the constitution as some quarters of the society have demanded. He asked candidates to tell voters that the constitution will soon be revised. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue and all the stuff.
The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.” He cited example of Ntlo ya Dikgosi saying some feel they are not included arguing that everyone should be equal. “The intention is not to break anyone but rather unite us as Batswana,” he said this amid thunder of applause from fellow democrats.
CORRUPTION MUST STOP
Masisi who has branded himself a man who has zero tolerance for corruption and respects the rule of law, wants to be remembered as such. “The other thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption” he specially told this to his cabinet ministers. “If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it.
Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work for, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospitals whilst you know you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), lenna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP),” he warned with passion.
THE JOB CREATION QUESTION
Masisi, from the records, says he is aware that some candidates want him to commit as to how many jobs he would have created in his first five year term if he could win. “I hear from the report that I received that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such. What do we do when South Africa stops our container import, what do we do? Wage bill going up without any returns coming in.”
President Masisi also went on record that he and businessman Strive Masiyiwa will sweat until at least 3000 youth are employed. This he says will be anchored on the ICT as it has proven that it is the only tool that could emancipate the youth from trenches on joblessness. “Before the next five years elapse Rwanda will be behind us. But we need political commitment and it should be Batswana running these ICT projects not underhand deals of tenders. We will have to involve them (youth) in town hall meetings just like we did with Masiyiwa some years back. Will be carrying out another one where we are expecting 6000 youths,” he said further reiterating that, “Government does not create jobs but rather create enabling environment. We want to open this economy and this needs us working together”.
NO LIVING WAGE FOR NOW
Unlike the main opposition, UDC, BDP President and his party are for now not considering minimum wage but maybe in the future when the economy is sustainable. “If you think we have money under UDC or BNF it will diminish because they want to pay P3000 without any productivity in the economy. We want sustainability and to grow the economy so we can actually pay even P5000, or even P10, 000, we don’t have any upper limit, we want affordability and sustainability,” he said. Masisi indicated that he is glad UDC publicized its manifesto, “but add them up and tell me if it’s sustainable. Rapid increases in wages lead to inflation like you have never seen and become uncontrollable like in Zimbabwe”.
MASISI SAYS EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REVAMPED
The deteriorating performance of students at schools is another matter that Masisi says deserves attention. However, unlike others, this will not be rushed to achieve results in the next four months but will be in the pipe line. “Are we getting value out of investment we make,” he asked rhetorically. He says a standard one pupil needs more time from a teacher than a standard seven student.
“In our education we have not responded to the way we should have especially to junior school students. We have created prisons which are not good for human development, this is my professional view.” Masisi disclosed that he will engage the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) to do school mapping. He also revealed that plans are underway to resume double shift. “Concentration of kids is not four hours it is too much. We will engage MOBE to commit to double shifting.”
MASISI LECTURES CANDIDATES ON POLITICS
With four months before elections, Masisi taught candidates on the tactics to win their constituencies. He told the members that victory in all the constituencies is possible but can only be achieved through hard work, prioritizing voters and unity. “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 ga se 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”. Masisi who leads the party that performed dismally in the last elections amassing 47% of popular vote directed the members to brand BDP. “Some of you are averse with party colours, this thing must stop. It is not about putting on red merchandise, it’s about the brand. Even oppositions are better than us, it is embarrassing, and this should stop.”
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 the money? 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.”
BOGOSI, MEDIA WILL NOT BE HARRASED
Masisi blames part of the dismal performance of the party in the last election to the relation with other institutions especially Bogosi and the media. “This party was not created to harass our tradition and we should ensure that Bogosi remains a strong foundation for us. If Dikgosi harass you in politics then don’t hit back, roll on with the punches. BDP is committed to deliver a stable government. We are not hunting anyone. “O Bolele mogoloo,” Masisi told Tshekedi Khama.
The president went on to reveal that he will not rest until he brings back Kgosi Kgafela in Botswana. “A lot of tribal leaders were also unhappy with us. The other even went to the extent of dumping Botswana for South Africa-Kgafela of Bakgatla. And we know very well that our country is not complete without our tribal leaders. We must accept this reality. I will not rest until Kgafela is back home, I will not.” He says the media should also be allowed to do its job without fear as they are the fourth estate. He says as a party they have taken a decision for the media to regulate itself.
Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan by the World Bank today. The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.
This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” says World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.
“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy”. The operation provides both financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and to improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.
It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the program will help Botswana to build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase production of renewable energy by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.
DPLs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.
This has also led to a depletion of existing fiscal buffers and has constrained revenue collection, reduced Government’s capacity and resources needed to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and threatened to reverse progress in poverty reduction.
World Bank Group COVID-19 Response Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.
The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, has lost support of the university staff, with four unions joining forces to demand his removal from office.
When he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana in December 2017, by the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele, Professor Norris was hailed as an angel sent from heaven.
Professor Norris succeeded Professor Thabo Fako, after the latter led the University during turbulent times — with the university experiencing financial challenges and dwindling enrolment numbers.
Four years down the line, Professor Norris’ presence at the University nauseates many. Academic staff together with manual workers want Norris shown the door as soon as yesterday.
University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union, (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris. The unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration, and their welfare is entirely overlooked.
The unions petition Professor Norris on a number of issues: blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.
In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.
“They executed the assignment efficiently with intricate insider knowledge of the institution and a global academic outlook. The result of the process was later subjected to external review by consultants, even though the process was later abandoned at huge cost to the University. The Vice Chancellor is three years into this post, but he has done nothing to show, and always blames staff or his predecessors for the problems at UB,” the unions said in their petition.
The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.
“Even the so-called new strategy was imposed on the staff, since unions were never consulted. Staff in faculties were threatened and bullied into submission whenever they revealed flaws in the strategy. In short, this strategy lacks the critical ‘buy in’ from those charged with implementation, something which is crucial for any new strategy to succeed.”
Professor Norris, a renowned scholar, has been fingered in being reluctant to advance staff salaries, something which has been done four years ago. Unions claim that despite several shots to alter this status quo, efforts proved vain.
“The Vice Chancellor has dismally failed to bring about any meaningful action to ascertain that staff remunerations are adjusted to mitigate the effects of inflation, despite his attention being drawn to the erosion of the buying power of University staff. UB staff salaries have not been adjusted for a duration of four years, despite numerous attempts by the trade unions (UBASSSU, UBSU and Manual Workers Union) to appeal on behalf of the constituents for his intervention,” reads part of the petition.
University management are said to be relaxed when it comes to the security of the organization, petitioners claim. They stress that this has happened several times in recent years whereby management has allowed private security contracts, which augment the in-house UB security, to lapse before they can float a new tender.
The loan schemes that the University gets into on behalf of employees, is said to be another dare giving staff workers grief, perpetuated by Vice Chancellor Norris.
“It has happened several times that the contract between the financiers and the University lapses before anything is put in place for employees to continue getting financial assistance. Quite recently, it was communicated by a memo from Staff Welfare and Benefits Office that the loan scheme with FNB is coming to an end on the 30th April 2021 and this communication was made on the 29th, just a day before the end of such contract. This again shows lack of proactiveness on the part of management which is led by the VC,” said the petition.
The Vice Chancellor is said to be overreaching in UB administrative structures. Professor Norris, who chairs the Staff Appointment and Promotion Committee (SAPC), hosts illegal Pre-SAPC meetings, which are usually attended by Human Resources and Executive Management, and make decisions on who to appoint, promote or whose contract to renew before the substantive meeting of SAPC.
The Vice Chancellor, disgruntled petitioners say, uses SAPC to rubber stamp the executive decision – this amounts to corruption. “Three years in the institution he has virtually run the university alone. The core and critical Deputy Vice Chancellor posts of Academic Affairs; Finance and Administration; and Student Affairs, have not been filled. Instead he has appointed people on acting positions and he is shuffling them around as he pleases. Those he prefers have been acting for over two years, which is contrary to the Employment Act.”
Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.
Prior to joining UB, he was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), a position he held since 2016. He is the sixth Vice Chancellor of UB.
Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has announced the return of the Youth Development Fund (YDF), after it was put on suspension by Government last year.
The fund however, has been slashed from P120 million to P104 million with the total number of projects expected to shrink. The YDF programme was temporarily suspended last year due to shortage of funds.
The programme introduced in 2009 by government, was a way of improving the lives of the youth as well as helping to fight unemployment.
When addressing the media, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare said the ministry has resolved to start receiving applications for 2021/2022 Youth Development Fund from 09 June 2021 to 10 August 2021.
Rakgare said government was worried about the high numbers of unemployment hence the resolve to restart the YDF programme even in the midst of the pandemic.
He however revealed that due to budget challenges and the continued restrictive environment imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be some modifications to the implementation of YDF.
“Due to budget challenges the allocation for the fund in the current financial year has been reduced from P120 million to P104 million. Constituencies will thus be allocated less than the usual P2 million, which means that the number of funded projects will be significantly reduced,” he said.
He further said priority for funding shall be for businesses with the potential to create a higher number of jobs and those that address key government priorities.
The sectors to be prioritized include; Manufacturing, Agriculture, Tourism, Technology, Digitization and Innovation. Moreover, the threshold for YDF financing remains at P100 000.00 for individuals and P450 000.00 for youth industries or co-operatives.
In addition to funding youth projects, the Minister said P14, 393,066.77 will be reserved for completion and implementation of Special Projects such as development of Land-banks, mentorship partnerships and trainings.
All changes to the YDF programme are to apply only for this year while a comprehensive review is undertaken. The target is to have the revised programme implemented in the next financial year.