Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) nominated Councillors in the Sowa Township have vowed to hold their own following the announcement by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi that she will dissolve the Council after it failed to execute its duties without just cause.
Three of the eight nominated councillors have taken the Sowa Township Council to court over unpaid mileage claims following the council’s failure to provide them with accommodation in Sowa. Some of the councillors indicated in court papers that they drive from areas such as Serowe, Francistown, and Tonota to attend Council meetings in Sowa.
However Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi told Sowa residents this week that her decision was in accordance with the Local Government Act Section 89 (1) Clause C, which gave the minister powers to dissolve the council. The Act states that where the council fails without good cause to perform any of its functions, the minister shall exercise the powers conferred under the section.
The decision by the Minister is unprecedented and interesting at the same time because all the nominated councillors are from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Vice President Slumber Tsogwane was at the helm of the ministry at the time they were appointed.
Venson-Moitoi she took the decision following councillors’ refusal to do work, which they pledged to carry out after taking an oath of office – A charge that some of the suspended councilors who spoke to this publication vehemently deny. Botho Ntirang, a nominated councilor in Sowa told Weekend Post, “the night is still young on this matter”. He said he suspects that the minister is acting on hearsay and does not have the benefit of records. Ntirang is one of the three councillors ventilating his grievances in court.
According to Dr Venson-Moitoi some of the councillors after refusing to do work which they were mandated to do, and further they took council to court regarding their grievances on allowances. Dr Venson-Moitoi stated that while the said councillors had found themselves a representative on their case against the council, they have refused to pass a resolution that would give the Sowa council management power of attorney so that it could also have a representative on the case and any other issues on which the council might need to have a legal representative.
Asked on the matter, Ntirang said, “We will not do anything that contravenes the Local Government Act. We took an oath of office and we were basically pointing out to the Town Clerk that we cannot pass a resolution on a matter that we feel conflicted.” According to Ntirang no councillor has ever refused to give the council power of attorney, “what happened was that when the town clerk brought the issue before council, those who names were at court recused themselves because they were conflicted and the quorum collapsed.” He said they did so because they took an oath which they would have contravened had they chosen to stay and deliberate on a matter in which they are conflicted.
â€¨While the minister has noted that numerous efforts have been made by the town clerk to engage with the councillors to reach a resolution on the matter to the extent that even on mediation with an authorised personnel, she sent, the councilors still failed to adhere to the laws that governed them as representatives of the people, Ntirang disputes that “in fact the council has been very dishonest and they even misled court by filing a false power of attorney.” According to Ntirang the people who should be facing the Minister’s wrath at the moment is the Sowa Town Council management, “not the councillors”.
â€¨Dr Venson-Moitoi has indicated that when the nominated councillors were sworn into office, they took an oath of allegiance that they would be faithful, protect the constitution of Botswana and work fully for the people they were representing. She is of the view that the councillors had refused to do what they had taken oath for hence acting according to the constitution.
â€¨Explaining the process of dissolving the council, Dr Venson Moitoi said she would publicise the decision on the government gazette and in the meantime find people who would ensure the council business continues. â€¨The Minister said she would give Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) three months to have given new names for people who would continue work at the council.â€¨Earlier this year, the councillors passed a motion that had requested council to pay them mileages every time they attend council meetings and other engagements for the council since they could not be provided with accommodation in Sowa.
The Councillors were appointed after the 2014 general elections and they include former cabinet Minister Olifant Mfa. Government has made it clear that it has no money to pay mileage claims to councillors and that it could be costly exercise. However there are nominated councillors who claim mileages in areas where the distance is within certain limits. Indications are that should nominated councillors claim mileage the bill could spring to billions of Pula.
The three councillors are represented in court by David Olatotse of Olatotse attorneys and should they succeed in their suit, they could pocket hundreds of thousands of Pula. “We are still councillors of Sowa Township until the process initiated by the minister is completed. We hope she does everything in a manner that agrees with the Act that empowers her to do that. We cannot stop the minister from dissolving the council,” declared Ntirang.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.