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BDP, Gov’t to stop Khama

In an effort to silently deal with former President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama who is on a mission to fight back what he deems injustice against his person, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the Government on the one hand appear to have devised a modus operandi to stop the marauding Khama.

Key to this method of push back against the former President is a move to deny him access to facilities that are under government control; while on the other hand the ruling party will not amplify his sentiments by responding to them. Khama and the BDP are on the war path with the former accusing the latter of breaching the constitution of the party and subverting democracy. Meanwhile the former President has numerous cases lined up in the courts where seeks to claim compensation from Government after he was denied services which he feels are legally recognized by the law.

Since handing over power to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, there has not been peace between the former President and his successor. This past week he made known his intentions to quit the ruling party and to support the opposition and various independent candidates.
There is however a school of thought that the BDP will employ similar machinery with that used in the run up to Kang congress. “It is very important that the party’s veterans speak out against Khama. The current leadership does not need to fight back, but rather use respected veterans to put Khama in his place,” asserted a party senior official.

FORMER MPS BLAST KHAMA

BDP former Members of Parliament released a statement telling that Khama is not bigger than the party. “In its 57 years history, BDP has remained welded together by the selfless service of its members, and leaders alike. The desire to put the interest of the nation and party before those of individuals is the reason for its strong foundations. The recent events are foreign to our party and cannot be allowed to pass by without any counsel. We hereby offer this much needed counsel,” they wrote.
 

The 39 MPs stated that they hold the view that all are equal before the BDP constitution and that of the Country. We are convinced that our long and proud history is not the result of the labour of a select few, it is rather the product of the collective. “No person who holds, or who has held BDP membership nor who has had the privilege of office should lay sole claim to its illustrious governance and service delivery to the people. Successive generations have built their legacies on the foundations of past cadres. For this reason, we wish to caution those who may be made to believe the contrary.”

HOW THE BDP INTENDS TO DEAL WITH KHAMA

Ruling BDP top politburo has this week distanced themselves from commenting on the utterances that were made by both the party ex leader Ian Khama and some of his subjects at a Serowe meeting where he (Khama) was consulting them (tribe) on his intention to dump the party.  Khama is the paramount chief of Ga-Mmangwato region in the Central District, the most populated region in the country and therefore possesses command and influence to sway elections in the region – which is a BDP stronghold.

At the meeting, the Ga-Mmangwato chief also emphasised that the area is a BDP iron grip and the party should therefore be mindful of that especially in light of the rift that still exists between Khama and the incumbent president Mokgweetsi Masisi. The rift has led to the Serowe meeting where Masisi and his administration was dismissed and the tribe vowed to follow Khama wherever he goes in his political trajectory. Khama and Bangwato accused Masisi and his government of sabotage, diminishing his legacy and generally not treating him well.

“We need to ask ourselves on whether the BDP has authority of that gathering addressed by a paramount chief (Khama) to his subjects/tribe. It was not a meeting of the BDP. So as a BDP SG, I cannot discuss the utterances made therein. I won’t even unpack the decisions of that kgotla. It is uncalled for,” Balopi told Weekend Post in an interview this week.    

As BDP, Balopi stressed that they see the meeting of Serowe as more of a kgotla meeting, even though it was held at showgrounds, than a BDP political forum and hence their limitations in taking an official position on it. Balopi continued: “so, I cannot contest or protest what was said therein. As BDP re agela mahoko a kgosi mosako (which is translated to that the party respects the outcome of the kgotla meeting).  

On behalf of the BDP high command the SG also stated that he “also have no appetite or energy to respond to the gathering of a kgotla system. Decisions of the kgotla are not something of public debate. I respect the sanctity of the place. As the Setswana saying mahoko a mantle otlhe meaning freedom of expression is also respected at the kgotla. According to Balopi, however he said the party, in respect to Khama, also hold in high regard Setswana maxim that susu ilela suswana gore suswana le ene a go ilele (loosely translated that elders should also respect the young ones for them to also return the gesture).

“The remarks were very unfortunate. But, as BDP we believe in a contestation of ideas where everyone can express themselves freely. We also believe in freedom of association. We want everyone to be able to articulate their voices without hindrance but without necessarily ridiculing others,” Balopi said. He continued: “we cannot stop anyone to criticise our party, but, our freedom of expression ends where the other one starts. And so, as a member of the BDP we should adhere to the party constitution as well as rules and regulations.”

As the BDP we have processes and procedures, he said adding that ga re iphetlhele batho kana ope hela (we don’t poke people without reason or any basis). “As BDP we respect our elders especially leaders who came before us. And so we are mindful that we deal with them on different, and various levels. We dealing with different people, and so we also employ different approaches.” Balopi confirmed that therefore they will not take any disciplinary action on Khama especially because it was not a party event but a kgotla function.  

“For the fact that we say we respect him, even if he has said a lot of things against the party does not automatically equate to suggestions that are going around that we fear the man,” he told this publication. If it was the meeting of BDP, Balopi said they would have taken action because the party has processes and procedures in place. “So this was not the case.” On whether some BDP legislators Phillip Makgalemele, Ignatious Moswaane and Master Goya also faces an axe or disciplinary action he said: “I can safely say that is not true. It is news to me. We have never had anything of that sort.”

He continued to explain that the disciplinary procedure in the BDP is that, there have to be a complainant and a respondent but it has never been so with the law makers. “As a Secretary General and chief respondent, I have never received any report warranting any disciplinary action.” In terms of the BDP independents, he said they categorically state there is no independent candidates linked to BDP and that “it is either you are with us or against us.”  

Independents, with regard to the law the Gaborone North aspirant said, are allowed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Act and so there is nothing wrong with those who want to contest as independent candidates. But the independents, he added also have to field in the 57 constituencies and come with their own manifestos and tell Batswana what they stand for. “But if a card carrying member of the ruling BDP goes independent then we will treat that person as opposition,” Balopi insisted.  

The potential law maker stated that the opposition is allowed in Botswana and if one wants to join it they are free to do so. “It’s an open contest. We are ready for any form of opposition but we won’t allow opposition manifesting itself in the BDP. We don’t want to hurt ourselves from within,” Balopi concluded.  

HOW GOV’T MACHINERY COMES IN

Former President Khama is involved in a number of charity events and he needs public facilities such as public halls and kgotla to hold such. Already Government has made its intentions known that it will deny the former president these facilities because they believe he is using them for political reasons. He was denied access to the Lady Khama Hall in Serowe for his controversial meeting where he announced his intention to exit the BDP. Although Government officials are coming up with creative excuses for denying Khama access to this facilities, it is very clear that there is a method to the madness.

To further buttress Government modus operandi on how they are likely to deal with former President Khama going forward, he was blocked from using the Khawa Kgotla for his infamous soup kitchen and he opted to host the event at the football grounds. Khama’s events are neither not supported by public servants, another move to slow the former President down.

On Thursday Khama clashed with Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) after they sidelined him from the event. The former President pitched his own event. This followed his removal as tourism ambassador after Minister Kitso Mokaila wrote him a letter indicating that the position is not recognized by statutes.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

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.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

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.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

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.

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