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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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No deal was made with Disney World – Tsogwane

16th April 2021
disney-carlifonia-park

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has been touring the entire world since occupying Presidential office in 2018. Few months down the line, he flew to Florida in the United States of America where he landed at the Disney World.

This is the world’s largest entertainment complex opened in 1971, with four theme parks (consisting of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom).

Upon his return in the country from the fairytale land, Masisi said Botswana struck a partnership with Disney World. The partnership primarily focused on turning the country’s capital, Gaborone, into an international tourism and leisure destination.

“We have struck a partnership with Disney World as a company. They focus on making people happy and bringing tourists. I want tourists in this country. Visa restrictions are out. They will be issued on arrival. I have tasked Minister Makgato’s Ministry to categorize taxis so that there can be value in the taxi industry.

I am very committed to making Gaborone an international venue center and this will bring revenue to our country,” Masisi said at the time. Masisi, has now appointed Makgato as Botswana’s High Commissioner – designate to the Commonwealth of Australia.

However, two years later, there is no sign of Gaborone being turned into a tourism hub. In fact, the partnership Masisi struck with Disney World never emerged. It is now becoming more of a pipeline dream, and politicians are keen to know what really transpired.

In a dramatic turn of events, Masisi’s flanking Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng, slammed Vice President Slumber Tsogwane with questions on this said ghost partnership, demanding answers on Masisi’s long dead promise.

Vice President Tsogwane told Parliament on Thursday that Masisi was looking for investors to come and do business in Botswana, either in partnership with government or the private sector.

“The President and his delegation engaged in meetings with the management of Disney World to identify opportunities for the company to collaborate with in Botswana. There were a number of opportunities Mr. Speaker for collaboration that were identified to be followed up with by bilateral negotiations with various institutions.

The key area that was identified for collaboration was the implementation of an enhanced customer care training and development akin to that of Disney World.

The Botswana Public Service College was assigned to collaborate with Disney World, to roll out a training programme which will achieve excellent customer service for the public sector in Botswana, Tsogwane said via virtual Parliament.

He further said representatives of Disney World visited Botswana on a fact finding mission in May 2019.

“While in Botswana, the team toured selected sites such as Gaborone bus rank, Tlokweng Boarder post, and Department of Roads, Training and Safety offices amongst others. Following this, Disney World produced a scoping report which detailed training and engagement timelines for consideration by government,” said Tsogwane.

In fulfilment of their procurement requirement, Tsogwane said Disney Institute was requested to submit a proposal based on their scoping report indicating associated cost implications. He said, Disney declined to submit citing that it does not deal directly with government.

“After being advised by their Disney World Board, they therefore advised Botswana government to deal with another company in the United States of America, which according to them does the Disney World way. This never proceeded because our interest was on Disney World and not any other company that point in time.”

As a result, Tsogwane told Parliament that no deal or contract was signed with Disney World. “The issue of easing of restrictions which is part of the question, between any two countries is a matter that is negotiated through diplomatic channels and whenever agreements are reached, proper communication is made. With regard to Visa restrictions between Botswana and the US, Tsogwane says they will continue discussions on how to ease restrictions,” he said on Thursday.

Morwaeng wanted Tsogwane to update Parliament on: Government’s deal with Disney World, the terms of the deal propounded by the President in March 2019; Whether the deal was signed, when it was signed and clear specifics of the deal and its benefits to Botswana tourism; when visa restrictions between the two countries (Botswana and the United States of America) will be eased and visas issued on arrival as per the Disney World deal pronouncement; and If the deal struck with Disney World was not just mere electioneering talk that will never see the light of the day.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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