BDP poised to win 2019 polls – report
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is poised to win the upcoming general elections despite a fading public support. If the current rift in the party fails to shake the foundations the party will capitalise on a disjointed opposition to retain power.
The party, according to African Monitor Report, published by United Kingdom based, Business Monitor International, will capitalise from stronger economic growth and fragmented opposition. The report which was released this week focusing on the political and socio-economic atmosphere of African Nations, says the BDP win will be due to a series of interlocking factors which will play out ahead of the elections.
“The appointment of Masisi in April 2018 seems likely to help restore public confidence in the BDP,” states the report. Former president Ian Khama suffered from weak approval ratings toward the end of his term, which it is believed was a key factor weighing on the popular perception of the BDP.
“The former president's tendency to avoid the national press and his seeming unwillingness to address the concerns of labour unions after major public sector strikes in 2011 and 2015 fuelled the image of a disengaged leader, especially among the country's large youth population.” By contrast, the report explains that Masisi has already distanced himself from his predecessor, acknowledging the crucial role media plays as a vehicle for politicians' messages.
Moreover, it is said Masisi’s nomination of the youngest minister in Botswana's history – 30-year old Bogolo Joy Kenewendo – at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, is enough evidence of his commitment to engaging the large youth population. In addition, broad-based economic recovery will bolster public sentiment in the coming months, helping to curb some of the longstanding public discontent over continued economic inequality. “We expect Botswana to maintain its investor-friendly policy trajectory after the upcoming presidential elections in October 2019,” it says.
REPORT DISMISSES UDC
African Monitor report believes that the UDC coalition, BDP's main political rival, will struggle to maintain cohesion. The opposition parties including the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana People's Party (BPP) – traditional members of the UDC – and the BCP, which recently joined managed to agree on presenting Duma Boko, the leader of the BNF party, as their presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.
However, it is by no means guaranteed that the parties will maintain a united front going into the 2019 polls, says the report. “At its first major congress in February last year, the different parties of the UDC were unable to agree on candidates to run in local constituencies, an issue which is yet to be resolved. This is largely owing to the BCP demanding to run as the coalition's candidate in a larger number of constituencies relative to the other members of the coalition and the nomination of Dumelang Saleshando, the BCP's leader, as Boko's presidential running mate,” a hypothesis looking at a number of African nations suggests.
The report strongly believes chances of the UDC winning power sits at dispiriting 15 percent. In the event of a victory for the main opposition coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), it is said centrist policy positions will prevail; “the majority of the coalition is seemingly in favour of the centrist policies proposed by leader Duma Boko”.
BCP COULD SCARE AWAY INVESTORS
Should the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) party obtain greater-than-expected influence in the UDC coalition in the run-up to the 2019 election and the opposition coalition wins, the newly elected government could implement reforms focused on protecting national industries and empowering national citizens, which would threaten foreign investment in the diamond sector, says the report paper. “The rapid implementation of such policies would threaten to undercut foreign investment in Botswana,” cautions the paper.
The economy's diamond industry already faces serious competition from China, the leading producer of synthetic diamonds, as well as India, which has positioned itself as the largest diamond beneficiation Centre through a large and low-cost workforce. “It is key for Botswana's long-term development to continue attracting investment in diamond polishing and cutting, which will be linked to the government engaging with labour unions to tie wages to productivity and cut down on red tape,” it recommends. This does not seem likely to happen if the BCP manages to secure a stronger role in the forthcoming government, as its reforms will be mainly focused on increasing wages and employment while reducing competition from foreign firms in the country.
LIFE AFTER ELECTIONS
Post the elections the report maintains that political stability will remain unscathed in Botswana, with a victory by Masisi likely to see the incumbent continue to push ahead with the Doing Business Reforms Roadmap introduced in 2015. “We believe President Masisi will also focus on the re-negotiation of a long-term agreement with De Beers – Botswana's biggest miner – for the use of the country's resources,” predicts the report. The current agreement is due to expire in 2020. Negotiations will be primarily centered on increasing the country's polishing and cutting operations in order to boost employment in high value added segments of the economy, generating employment opportunities and more sustainable economic growth.
Moreover, the governments will likely increase investment in infrastructure development projects under its 11th National Development Plan (NDP11) in order to address the shortcomings in Botswana's transportation network. The lack of extensive road and rail connections, particularly in the western regions, notably increases trade costs and inhibits investment in the landlocked country. The construction of numerous dry ports and ongoing investment in road and rail capabilities will reduce these costs.
While this will ensure the country continues to run moderate fiscal deficits, this is not seen as suggestive of any significant threat to the county's debt sustainability, given the relatively modest size of the country's overall debt burden. “We expect public debt to reach just 14.9% of GDP by the end of 2018 – a relatively low level by regional standards – which will leave plenty of scope for further borrowing, both domestically and from foreign creditors, to finance the execution of the NDP11 until its end in 2023,” it is said.
A business-friendly reform agenda will continue to support growth in manufacturing and retail trade in Botswana, which will ensure stronger long-term economic growth and keep the country as one of the most attractive investment destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”