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BOFEPUSU, BFTU team up to influence 2019 Elections

Two main union federations the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) and Botswana Federation of Public, Parastatal and Private Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) have over the weekend separately resolved to sway the impending hotly contested 2019 General Elections in line with their demands.

BFTU made their Council resolutions at Mahalapye while BOFEPUSU were lodged at Palapye. The purpose of the BOFEPUSU gathering was to deliberate on topical issues affecting the workers while BFTU gathered to give a full account of the activities of the Board and Committees to the General Council.

In terms of the resolutions that were aimed at having an impact on the 2019 elections outcome, BFTU noted that in a functioning multi-party democracy, every general election presents an opportunity to all stakeholders to ask those seeking their votes to enter public office, what it is that they have for them. According to BFTU, the General Council of the Federation, on the 26th October 2018, passed a resolution “for the development of the workers manifesto that would be used to inform, guide and ideally influence political parties’ manifestos in the coming 2019 general elections.”

The federation through the Secretary General, Thusang Butale, stated that it must be remembered that public office holders, that is, Members of Parliament and Local Government authorities, are at the center of the process of national governance and distribution of national resources and it is therefore important that trade unions take a deliberate effort to ensure that the interests of workers will be addressed and are safeguarded by those who require their votes.

Although the Federation has no intention to take any political party side, as a stakeholder and a custodian of the interests of its constituents’, the Federation strongly believes that it has a duty to educate and inform its members about pertinent social and economic issues that affect them in order to enable them to ask those running for public office, pertinent questions about the welfare of the workers and as well as desirable solutions.

“To this end a working group/ reference committee was set up to work on the development of the manifesto with a consultant. The working group comprises of General Council members, relevant Civil Society Organisations and representative(s) from the Global Labour University alumni,” it states. BFTU further observed that they intend to lay a road map on how political and socio-economic issues that affect workers and their families should be addressed by those who seek public office.

“The Federation’s General Council has viewed it as of paramount importance that workers aspirations and expectations be placed before all those who need their votes in order to take up national office. In other words, our members votes are not for free and all those who seek public office should know and fully appreciate that,” the federation pointed out in its resolutions.

According to BFTU, the Manifesto will be officially launched on the 1st May 2019, Workers/Labour Day, in Francistown and across the country and to make this well understood and appreciated by those who need their members votes, the workers manifesto will guide workers as they go to the polls in 2019. The BFTU document of resolutions indicate that the approved theme for the day reflects on the demand for a better Botswana, a strong economy that serves the people and stronger Unions for democratic values and democracy.

The BFTU noted that Botswana’s economy has been doing relatively well since the time of independence and has even withstood and survived the 2008 economic shocks. Botswana, according to BFTU has received accolades from the international community and financial institutions for its multi-party system, functioning democracy, good governance and its relative economic prosperity.

However, the Federation observes with disappointment, that this much talked about economic success story has not translated into prosperity for all. They point out that according to the most recent formal sector employment survey report, monthly average earnings for citizens were P6, 038, whilst monthly average monthly earnings for non-citizens stood at P18, 265.

The Botswana Multi-Topic Household Survey of 2015/16 revealed that Batswana continue to wallow in poverty, and social inequalities and unemployment, in spite of the country’s much talked about economic success story, they state. While at the time of independence Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, BFTU contends that after 50 years of independence, Botswana is one of the ten (10) most unequal societies in the world.

“It is the view of the Federation that Botswana is a rich country of poor citizens. The Federation is therefore worried about this state of poverty in the midst of plenty that is found in Botswana today. As if this is not enough, the Federation has been deeply alarmed by reports of corruption and poor governance that seem to have engulfed the country. Needless to say it is corruption and poor governance that are at the center of Botswana current political crisis,” BFTU lashed out in their resolution paper.

Their counterparts, BOFEPUSU in their separate resolutions that were signed by its President Johannes Tshukudu and Secretary General Tobokani Rari also resolved that the Federation should develop a worker’s charter/manifesto as a blue print or guiding document on policy issues to influence 2019 elections. The workers manifesto, BOFEPUSU says will enable Federation structures, leaders to articulate Federation position on such issues and “further to lobby relevant local political organisations on workers agenda and national matters.”

The Governing Council also resolved that the Federation should institute coordinated campaigns against corruption and money laundering that have resulted in Botswana being grey – listed by multinational financial institutions. Further they resolved that there be institution of private prosecution on unprosecuted matters by Government agencies regarding looting of Public servants Pensions Funds and other corruption scandals on public resources.

The Governing Council resolved that the Federation should forge cooperation to initiative with BFTU in an endeavor to form a Confederation of the two Federations in the long run. In addition, in view of the slave wages that workers at the bottom of the pay structures in various industries in Botswana are subjected to, the Governing Council resolved that the Federation should carry out a research on Minimum Living Wage and stage a campaign to have such implemented.

Having also noted that public servants who were dismissed during the 2011 industrial action remain unemployed and are subjected to harsh life conditions, the Council resolved that pressure should be mounted on government to have such workers reinstated and compensated accordingly.In view of the flagrant acts of labour rights violations in the Private and Parastatal sectors, the Council mandated the Central Executive Committee to lobby members of parliament and all stakeholders to speak against labour rights violations within these sectors, and also lobby for the amendment of the labour laws to protect employees and Trade Unions within these sectors.

BOFEPUSU has also noted that the feud between former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama and the current President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, should be condemned by the federation and all progressive forces in the country with the strongest possible terms, as it compromises the sanctity of the Presidency of the Republic and has the potential to divide the country on regional and tribal lines as per the toxic exchanges between the two leaders.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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