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Tshekedi unhappy with Masisi decision

Following President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi’s decisions to transfer some of his ministers to new portfolios in a cabinet reshuffle this week, the, Tshekedi Khama has stated that he was happier at the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism than where the president wants him.

Masisi transferred Khama to Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development in a move seen as a demotion on the younger brother to the former president Lt. Gen Ian Khama. The animosity between Masisi and Khama has played itself out in the open with both of them admitting to it in their separate pronouncements starting with Masisi confirming in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) which Khama also did in his loaded response to the insinuations.  

The removal of Tshekedi Khama from the Ministry of Tourism which is seen as one of the most powerful ministries in the country as it contributes to the country’s revenue as the second biggest income earner after the diamonds. When speaking to Weekend Post after the reshuffle on Friday, the younger Khama maintained that: “I believe my passion was at the tourism ministry and it was unmatched. Surely we were growing something there. Our reputation under tourism as a country has never been where it is. So the reshuffle surely affected me.”

According to Tshekedi, he still believes, “if I was allowed to stay a bit longer at the ministry, until the next 2019 General Elections I would be happy. We were going to finish our roadmap which we have started six years back.” He said while he respects the decision by President Masisi, it was unexpected as he thought he was doing a good job at the ministry. He acknowledged that the President can move ministers as and when he wants.

“I thought what we have done in the tourism ministry in the last six years or so has never been achieved by anyone before in the country,” he said. According to Tshekedi, under his tutelage they have accomplished 38 awards as “I gave it my all” and “I loved the ministry and people were also happy.”

TSHEKEDI REMOVED BECAUSE OF KHAMAS VESTED INTERESTS IN TOURISM?

When asked by this publication whether he is unhappy with the transfer because of his vested interests in the tourism sector he easily rubbed it off. “I have no shares in any tourism entity. There are some cabinet ministers who have interests there. Nna I don’t. That they have is their choices. As long as you declare when you are conflicted,” the Serowe West legislator fumed. Tshekedi declined to comment when quizzed if he does not see this as demotion from a powerful ministry to a lesser authoritative one and whether that signals his relationship with Masisi may be on a downward spiral.

He only said: “I don’t know Masisi’s reasons for this cabinet transfers. But it doesn’t matter. For me, that’s not demotion as some people want to suggest.” When pressed further on Masisi he emphasised: “I won’t comment on the issue of Masisi targeting me in the reshuffle. Tota nna and Masisi, we never had any dispute or argument on anything. So, I think people who are peddling these are doing so purely based on politics.”The main challenge for Tshekedi as pointed out is that of time factor as they only have nine months to the next elections and that is not a lot of time.

He added that he also takes over the ministry with the budget that is not his. On his new assignment at the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi observed that he takes the challenge. “I take the challenge to the new ministry. Botswana is relatively a youth country as the population of youth under 25 years is approximately 60 percent and that’s where power is. It’s a challenge that the population which makes the majority remain unemployed. Youth want to be independent and they don’t want to live with handouts,” he lashed out. He also asserted that his position on youth has always been that youth should be involved in development as they are the future of a country.

OLOPENG TO PULL THE BULL BY THE HORNS AT THE NEW MINISTRY OF TERTIARY

On his part, the outgoing Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng told Weekend Post separately that as the new Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology he will be merely a leader and not a lecturer at those institutions he will be heading as naysayers want to purport.

He dismissed his critics saying they should take a seat: “we need to understand what leadership is. I won’t be a lecturer at any university but a minister, we have permanent Secretaries and their deputies, Directors and lecturers who are well qualified to do the hands on.”
Olopeng emphasised that his Permanent Secretaries are the crucial technocrats that will make sure that they deliver on their mandate.

He said: “I understand the challenges. I know both the two Education ministries are challenging but I know I will make it. I will work hard to make a difference at the ministry. The first thing is to understand the challenges. And how to mitigate them. I will consult. The technocrats will do the technical work and I will facilitate.” The new Tertiary minister further took a swipe at those that doubt his capabilities at the ministry saying he is unqualified when asked by this reporter saying they will eat a humble pie.

Let them judge me, he says adding that if they are honest with themselves they should give him three months to show them the results of the direction he wants to give to the ministry. “People say all these things on social media like facebook because it’s where everything goes. Let them judge me. They should give me three months and surely they will eat a humble pie. Ga ke batle go ipoka. I believe in tangible results. I will humble those naysayers with the amount of exposure I have in leadership.”

Apart from Tshekedi and Olopeng, Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi also announced that other cabinet transfers made by President Masisi includes the Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila who has been transferred to head the Minister of Environment , Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism filling the shoes of Tshekedi Khama.

Minister of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs, Dorcas Makgato takes over the Minister of Transport and Communications from Mokaila. Masisi also redeployed the former Minister of Tertiary Education Research Science and Technology Honourable Ngaka Ngaka to become the new Minister of Nationality Immigration and Gender Affairs which was previously under Makgato. Masisi has made the redeployments to take effect immediately.

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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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