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My bond with Masisi is no more – Khama

Former President Lt. General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama says the only relationship he previously had with the current President, Mokgweetsi Masisi was that of a president and his vice, “and that relationship is no more”.

Khama’s remarks come at the height of talks that his successor, Masisi has failed him, since many believe he was appointed to the power seat through an arrangement that Khama would continue to run the show from behind the scenes. Many are of the belief that there was a secret agreement that once appointed, President Masisi, who once confessed publicly that he was Lt. Khama’s bootlicker would continue to appease Khama by fulfilling his wishes.

Lately, Masisi has been seen to be reversing a lot of Khama’s initiatives. His current changes are seen as a total reverse of the ‘Khama administration.’ While many have praised Masisi’s changing of some of the initiatives for the benefit of the nation, they posit that Khama has been caught off guard.

“I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t want the current president to change this and that. Of course there are things I wouldn’t want him to change, but I will not go public about it,” Former President Lt. Khama told WeekendPost in an exclusive interview on Thursday. Among the changes is the axing of former DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi who is an ally of Khama’s. The Masisi administration is also reviewing the alcohol levy, with a view of scraping it altogether or lowering the levy.

When asked if he had expected Kgosi’s removal from the security agency, Lt. Khama’s response was that, “Whether one expects it or not is not really an issue. What I expect is that he will make changes the way he wants to make changes. So when he makes changes, we must all expect that changes will be made.” When pressed further to comment specifically on Kgosi’s case, he said, “Kana I’m dodging your question.”

In the interview, which was his first since leaving office, Lt. Khama kept on stressing that he would not want to comment on the current administration, saying in his view it is not appropriate to do so. He noted that in the United States there is some kind of an agreement between the incumbent president and his predecessor that they don’t criticize one another’s administration. “But I’m not here talking about criticism. I’m talking about commenting on an administration. And I think that has worked well for them until Donald Trump came.

And of course being the chaotic president that he is, he has spent all his time criticizing President Barak Obama.” I don’t undermine Masisi’s administration
Recently, there have been allegations that Khama was undermining Masisi’s administration. This notwithstanding, the former president this week refuted the allegations. There have been at least three incidents that have been pointed out as a way of undermining the current president.

This publication is alive to the fact that during the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) day in April, the former president did not stand up with everyone else as is norm during the passing of the flag at the end of the parade. However, in his own defence Khama says, “The procedure is that when the parade ends, only the president stands up with the commander, the rest of the crowd remained seated. After the flags have passed the president, everybody should sit down and the president and the commander remain standing until the rest of the parade has passed.”

He stated, “I do not recall that whatsoever. When the flags passed on every occasion I stood up. Why wouldn’t I stand for the flags? He questioned. “That’s the procedure which I introduced. So I know when to stand up and when not to stand up. And even if I had not stood up, which I say I did, it would have nothing to do with the president, it would be me not recognizing or honouring our national symbols, the flags. It would have nothing to do with him but more to do with the flags.” He is also said to have left the stadium before the current president.

On the issue of leaving before the current president, he admitted that he left before Masisi as he had explained to the commander that he had two engagements in Palapye at the time, and he “would want to sit at the back so I could sneak out before the final display”. “How can I undermine somebody when I’m not in a position to undermine him? I’m not in government or any formal party structure. I’m just a member of the party,” said the former president. 

THE KHAWA INCIDENT

Another incident that Khama is said to have shown disrespect towards Masisi was at Khawa where he arrived after the current president. “If he arrived first, I remember that the evening before they were discussing the time when the race will start. There was a discussion around the fact that the race should start at 9am. So, I arrived for the race to begin at 9am, akere I was racing. So as a racer I knew that I would be starting at 9am. I think what happened on that occasion, is that they had not told him that there was a change in the time that the race was going to start. So, he probably got there before us. “

KHAMA AND POLITICS

Lt. Khama says he is very active in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) campaign for 2019. He noted that he has already offered to the BDP that he is prepared to engage in campaigning for them. “And that would really come about dependent on the central committee if it wants to engage me in any formal campaign structure or it could be as I would expect and as I already have requested that candidates for each constituency would come and ask me to engage with them in their campaigns in those constituencies,” he said.

He said some have already been coming forward. ”As you are probably aware, BDP held some primary elections in some of the constituencies already. And the rest are going to happen later this year.  So, those who have already emerged as candidates have already asked me to assist them. So that’s what I have done.”

He also stated that recently he also took part in a pledging exercise where they were asked to raise money for the party campaign, where he pledged that he would raise by the end of the year around P1m. “But I just want to say that some have chosen to misunderstand the pledge thinking that I’m going to be giving the million pula myself.

But it’s not the case that one would have P1m to donate. I said I would raise the P1m from donors,” he emphasized, adding that before he left office, there were some donors who had indicated that they were prepared to donate towards the party’s campaign towards 2019 as they had done in 2014.

RETIREMENT ROAD MAP

Lt. Khama noted that he was a very busy man, saying he has been tasked with a number of things to do. “I have not retired. I have just stepped down as the constitution provides,” he said. He noted quite a number of things like being given the tittle of the Champion of 2036 vision where he has already started attending meetings with the council as they put together their plans.

He is also tourism Ambassador for the country; the patron of Arts and Culture where he will continue to promote the Arts and Culture and major sporting codes. Further, he is board member of an international conservation organisation called Conservation International based in Washington. He continues his involvement with charitable organisations like the housing appeal.

He has since stepping down two months ago, been invited to countries like South Africa, and Mozambique where the president had invited him as a keynote speaker during an international event: And he will be visiting Gabon soon. Asked whether he has received any formal invitation from President Masisi, Lt. Khama said, “President Masisi said he would, so it really depends on him- what the issue is, whether he wants to do that or that. The thing is he was a vice for a long time. So, things are not new to me. So I don’t really expect him to be calling on me, but if he does, we will wait for that day to happen.”

ON ALCOHOL

“That is one issue I will never relax on. Facts are out there, it’s not me inventing stories of how alcohol destroys people’s lives.  At the rate that Batswana drink, we are heading for a train smash.”

ADVICE TO BATSWANA

Khama stressed that he has always appealed to Batswana to be patriotic, which is their dedication to the nation. And not to do anything or say anything which undermines nation building. “For me that is very important. We only have one country.” The former president said he was not happy about some of the things that people say on social Media.  He said it was highly disappointing that people engage themselves in some cases in a negative way like they do. He pointed out that social media should be used in a positive manner.

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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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