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Masitara reveals presidential ambitions

Following Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s courageous presidential bid, Robert Masitara who is contesting as an independent candidate for Gaborone Bonnington North has also expressed his intention to contest for the leadership of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in future.

Masitara hinted that he wants to be president in the next cycle of General Elections following 2019 or after President Mokgweetsi Masisi steps down. “Yes I am looking at 2024 sir or beyond that. And the issue is not about President Masisi but about what I believe in. It needs to be done,” he told Weekend Post in one-on-one interview this week. He emphasised that “to be honest, I foresee myself in the future standing for presidency. That’s is my ultimate vision.”

He justified that as a president he will fight corruption to the core with his expertise that he has on corruption. “I want to direct these things as sometimes you are headed by somebody who doesn’t understand issues of corruption the way you do, and they tend to suppress you,” he highlighted. Masitara also added that “and you can’t fight it effectively than you would if you were the one in charge while knowing corruption with its manifestations.” 

Corruption in Botswana has been institutionalised

He said he has been for a long time the lonely voice speaking the institutionalised corruption at parliament. “I have long cried about the state of corruption in the country. From 2009, I was the lonely voice on corruption. But look at Masisi – he is talking about the corruption situation now, for example I did speak about the Botswana meat Commission (BMC) long time back. Look what is happening now. You should revert to my reports while I was Chairman of a parliamentary oversight committee of parliament,” he said. 

Masitara reminisced that he has long spoken of BMC misuse of money through feedlots, board members paying themselves pensions without any paper trail, people paying themselves overtime without any documentation. “You can see that everything here, that corruption has been institutionalised. To extend that now, it has become a faculty on its own,” he highlighted. According to Masitara, President Masisi can’t fight this thing as what the government is doing in relation to corruption is simply firefighting.

“The causal effects we are not attending to them. We are concerned only about the resultant effect right now. When we are sitting on them and they don’t come out, we will never know about them. So I will only focus on the causal effects,” he said.
The Gaborone Bonnington North aspirant said is disappointed that he has always talked about corruption and people didn’t take heed of him. “When you are the only voice in parliament denouncing corruption then you look like a sell-out.”

He asserts that the awaited declaration of assets law is useless

The ex-Gaborone West North, the incoming law on declaration of assets is simply useless. “I have long spoken about it, the law is a useless tool. When DCEC had a conference two years back I told them that this thing has been overtaken by time,” he said. The maverick ex BDP MP recommended that let the Masisi administration bring him in government and he will convince them to do away with this thing.

There is another tool that they can use, he observed while adding that they should introduce the lifestyle audit at a different angle which supersedes the declaration law. “People right now are not owning assets in their names. They have written their properties by the name of their maids, garden boys and so forth. Certain transactions are also not done through their names. So that declaration law is a waste of time,” he reasoned.

Commercial banks are being used in corruption practices

According to the corruption busting politician, perpetrators of corruption have taken a step ahead, and they are so educated and innovative.He said “Banks are being used now for capital flight. Banks are being owned by Directors somewhere outside the country but they operate in Botswana. They are experienced in issues of corruption more than us.”

The influx of Chinese in the country, he said, is contributing to corruption, as they know corruption more than locals and their institutions; and more than the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), the Botswana Police Service and the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

The forensic specialist decried that billions of pula are continually taken out of this country thorough financial systems. On China’s soft loan to Botswana, Masitara explained that the country don’t even need to borrow money from outside the country.
“Why should we be debting Botswana in these billions of pula of loans from China? There is money that is held by Batswana people who took money to buy houses in Dubai, Cape Town, Durban and other areas.

That capital flight must come back to Botswana, through repatriation, to service all these loans to develop our country,” he pointed out. The one of a kind politicians also observed that the Asset Forfeiture department under the Attorney General is not doing its job. “In other countries the department is recovering billions of money that is used to develop infrastructure,” he said.

PPADB Act and all parastatals laws are flawed

Masitara highlighted that he thanks God to have taken him out of the system for a while when he lost the elections the other time (in 2014). “So that I must and interact with other people, open business; Masitara Forensics and tender through physical tendering to be involved with the system just like an ordinary person and so I realised where corruption emanates from.”Instead of being told as an MP like he was Chairman of a parliamentary oversight committee “I seen it with my eyes.”

He justified: “now for me to be involved in the actual tendering processes; registering of companies, then PPADB and all the other requirements, I have seen the bottlenecks on the real cause of corruption. None of the members of parliament understands corruption to the extent that I do. They have been absorbed through the system. They have never been outside to interact with the system itself from the grassroots.” According to entrepreneur, he saw how and why people lose tenders.

“Even the laws of PPADB framework I still have questions. Even the formula used by PPADB to evaluate the tenders I still have problems with it. I have long said it. PPADB Act is flawed. In fact all parastatals Acts are flawed.” In this instance he said PPADB Act is so loose that corruption is embedded with that Act and that there are clauses within the laws that actually facilitate corruption to be executed with impunity – while they are following the law. So all the parastatal Acts they must be recalled to parliament, he emphasised.

Still supports MP’s serving two terms; and political party funding

The well-known politician still believes in the motion that MP’s should serve two terms like the presidents. “Two terms is enough. It’s mainly because of good governance. Let’s give others chance. Why are we still circulating same people, board of Directors same people as well? I have spoken about this issue strongly in my reports,” he said. 

Masitara further asked “do you want to tell me now that there are no youths who are even educated enough on such issues to be trained or groomed into Board Directorship? We circulate the same old faces because we want to protect us wherever in these Ministries and Parastatals, which is not fair. So parliamentarians serving two terms is enough.”

On political party funding he pointed out that he still supports it.“I still support political party funding and scrutiny of the use of such funds. The current arrangement that every aspiring candidates should source their funding is a breeding ground for current and future corruption and state capture. Sponsors even shady ones want something in return.”

Masitara says opposition parties’ top members also corrupt

When asked why he didn’t join any of the opposition parties he said he thinks none of them is ready to govern. “I still feel that our opposition parties are not strong. I am not convinced about their direction. And I know some of them will join the BDP eventually. If I join them, I am even not yet clear if they will really allow me to fight corruption as a political expediency item. If they can will elections can they allow me to fight corruption?

Some of them are involved in corruption, they are implicated, Masitara implied while adding that the people will see as the controversial National Petroleum Fund (NPF), Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF), Asset management cases unfold that opposition parties are also implicated.

“Some names will crop up. Others even their fathers were implicated in corruption then. Even questioned at some of the assets they have acquired/inherited right now. And if you can trace that to issues of money laundering those assets should be confiscated,” he pointed out.  According to the philanthropist, “So that’s why the best option for me is to be independent.”

On Boko, the UDC leader that he wants to dispose

Masitara said he does not entertain politics that attack other contenders. “Let me not de-campaign him. My style of leadership is not to de-campaign anyone. I can’t cast aspersions on their abilities. Let the people choose. Boko is a nice guy and very educated. I am also educated and exposed as well on the issue of corruption than all the candidates am standing against. I am well above them, he highlighted.

The former legislator said his campaign is at a different level and that Boko’s is also at a different level. “We are poles apart. It’s a divergent. They are not a tangent. Totally different parameters and angles.”  Masitara further said MP”s who have experience on oversight, where government fails to prosecute, and government must source external funding to prosecute some of these cases. “And we must bring back some cases in which shabby work was done because of our inability to investigate. Other countries are doing.”

Botswana’s lack of infrastructure is heart breaking

Despite being a diamond country which is most valued in the world, Botswana’s lack of infrastructure concerns Masitara. He said “I have always asked other MP’s what do we learn from other countries? Don’t we envy those countries like Japan? Look at their infrastructures. If you land in their airports you feel that sorrow.”

No attainment of vision 2036, knowledge based economy with corruption

Masitara said the country cannot attain Vision 2036 which aspires for a knowledge based economy and upper middle class – with corruption. He stressed to this publication “we cannot attain knowledge based economy if there is still corruption. People who are going to be servicing or issuing these tenders already have corruption underneath them.” 


Also fancies appointment to head corruption bodies

Even though he aspires to be an independent MP, Masitara fancies chances of appointment in government if he loses the elections. “You know if the president can appoint me now and ask me to oversee or head Governance and Investigations, with my qualifications I can stand in court of law as my evidence is admissible in a court of law. There is no one in parliament who can do this task. They don’t even know how to interrogate these issues. But I don’t blame them, this takes exposure and experience. If I were to go in government I know where to start, “he said.

He added that if he is appointed, No one will be spared or protected in the corruption drive. He continued “If Masisi is serious and sincere about fighting corruption he cannot leave me out of the equation. Masisi administration must use my services wherever they want me to. Even if they can say to me stop contesting as an independent candidate I can. My most effective way of contributing is when am within the system. That’s where my passion lies.”

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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