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.
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.