Councillors in Selebi Phikwe have opposed the eviction of churches both operating illegally and occupying land illegally in the former mining town.
Presenting a church squatters report at the recently ended full council meeting, Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC) Chief Physical Planner, Samuel Aaron told councillors that a total of 60 churches were operating illegally in places not designated for worship and therefore should be evicted.
Councillors moved swiftly to block the recommendation to evict opting instead for consultation and liaising with the Department of Lands for expedition of allocation of plots for churches, notwithstanding the fact that out the 60 churches, only 19 of them are legally registered. Aaron noted in his presentation that the Local Authority undertook a study to profile places of worship and the field survey revealed that there are a total of 60 places of worship operating in areas not designated for worship, 31 of which operate in residential areas while 29 operate in open spaces.
According to the Registrar of Societies, of the 60 places of worship, only 19 churches are registered whilst others have no record of registration and therefore not recognised by the Laws of Botswana. Of the 19 registered churches, only four indicated that they have a membership size of 150 or more and 13 of all the 60 interviewed churches claim to have a membership size of 150 which is the minimum required membership size for churches to register with the Registrar of Societies as per the Act.
All these churches including the 19 which are legally registered operate from areas not designated for church use and therefore contravene the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013. Aaron revealed that the same issue has also been raised by the Selebi Phikwe Planning Area (2011-2035) which advocates for adoption of sustainable measures to meet land demands for such religious establishments.
He pointed out that the identified places of worship exist in the physical form of temporary structures of IBR sheets, wood and plastic which are aesthetically unappealing and compromises the aesthetics and safety of the town. “There are either no or inadequate provision of public conveniences in these sites hence making the site prone to environmental pollution,” he said.
He added that issues relating to illegal occupation of land by churches include noise pollution, land use conflicts, change of character of the area, environmental pollution due to some religious practices, safety of the congregates as some churches worship in the bush and mountains, as well as criminal acts perpetrated by some churches on worshippers under religious deception.
The objective of the study was to undertake an in-depth assessment of the problem, determine its root cause and come up with possible solutions, to determine the general provision of places of worship in Selebi Phikwe in terms of adequacy, to establish their background; date founded, membership size, where they were worshipping before and if they have land elsewhere, to determine reasons why the churches have resorted to squatting in open spaces and operate in residential areas as well as to develop possible solutions to the problem and make recommendations.
Out of the 60 churches operating illegally and in illegal places, 24 had indicated that that they once approached Department of Lands and Council and were informed that the plots will be advertised. According to Aaron, they complained that it takes long for civic and community plots to be allocated in Selebi Phikwe. This is despite the fact that still; only 19 of these churches are legally registered with their only wrong being operating in places not designated for worship.
Aaron presented three recommendations with the first one being eviction of all churches operating in areas not designated for church use. He had pointed out that the eviction will be preceded by consultation with churches and subject to consideration of suggestions from the consultation. Councillors did not like the eviction recommendation, with all that debated the report choosing the third recommendation on the list being to liaise with the Department of Lands for speedy allocation of church plots.
Councillor Kago Motsemme of Botshabelo said that the church plays an important role in building people’s personalities, arguing that if churches are evicted, the people may go to places where they as leaders of the people do not want them to go to. Another Councillor, Lillian Sethula said the council should investigate whether the affected churches had been allocated plots and failed to develop them.
Legal framework for eviction
Aaron stated that the need and desire to control developments is borne out of a number of concerns which include health, safety, environment, social and aesthetics as well as efficiency concerns. The challenge therefore, he said lies on how to fashion out a Development control code that address all the concerns without compromising flexibility and discretion on the part of planning authorities nor limiting the ability of the code to offer choices and not being overly prescriptive.
He noted that presently, the legal form of physical and development control in the country falls under two categories being the Town and Country Planning Act of 2013 which serves as the apex Planning Legislation that provides the legal backing, as well as the Development Control Code which provide statutory basis.
He said the preparation of development plan shows how land should be utilised and how physical developments ought to be carried out as per the Act. He explained that the Development Control Code is a set of planning regulations for land use and the activities that take place on it which are mainly physical developments, emphasising that the control of how land is carried out and affected is one of the functions of Planning Authorities also guided by the urban development standards.
Government is moving swiftly to completely overhaul public procurement — a new Bill has been tabled before Parliament this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame and is scheduled for debate in the coming days of the current parliament sitting.
Through this Bill the country’s purse bearer seeks to dismantle existing public procurement pieces of legislation, transform, merge and form a new public procurement arrangement. The existing public procurement high command base — the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPDB) would cease to exist.
This organisation will transition and assume the reigns of a regulator and oversight authority; the actual procurement; floating of tenders, accepting bids, adjudicating and awarding tenders will be fully taken over by Government departments accounting officers.
Accounting officers are Permanent Secretaries and statutory organisation heads and directors or any person who is responsible for the administration and day-to-day management of the affairs of a procuring entity, and any other person, who may be designated as such by the Minister under the act.
Speaking to this Bill this week, Serame revealed that the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal arrangement will be merged with the local authority’s procurement Act.
“We will now have procurement under one roof, all overseen by accounting officers, it’s all government money coming from one port,” she said.
Minister Serame explained that PPADB will no longer be player and referee at the same time, with a view to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation and management of public procurement processes.
According to Minister Serame, the new public procurement Act will promote competition among suppliers and contractors, and also provide for the fair, equal and equitable treatment of all suppliers and contractors.
PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REGULATORY AUTHORITY
Should parliament pass this bill the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will transition into a new body called Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.
The new Authority will be mandated with setting standards and practices for the public procurement system, regulate and control the public procurement system, ensure the application of fair, equitable, competitive, transparent, accountable, efficient, non-discriminatory, honest, value for money and public confidence in procurement standards and practices.
Furthermore the Authority will monitor and enforce compliance with the new Act and any relevant law by a procuring entity.
For standardization and ensuring of world class procurement best practices the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will monitor, assess, review and report on the performance of the public procurement system to the Minister and advise on desirable changes, and further issue standardized bidding documents to all procuring entities
This oversight and procurement regulator will conduct periodic inspections of the records and proceedings of a procuring entity to ensure compliance with the Act.
The regulator will institute periodically, in respect of any procurement —a procurement audit during a tender process, a contract audit in the course of execution of an awarded tender, a performance audit after the completion of a contract, and an investigation at any stage of a procurement process.
The Authority will continue to keep and maintain an up-to-date register of contractors, known as the “Contractors’ Register”, in works, services and supplies, or any combination thereof, however classified.
The new Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will be governed by a board of nine (9) non-executive directors appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
The Public Procurement Board will be charged with directing the affairs of the Authority. Day to day executive activities of the Public Procurement Authority will be run by a Chief Executive Officer who will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board.
PROCURING ENTITIES AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS
The actual procurement will now be handled by the Accounting Officers who will lead their procuring entities. The entities will consist of the procurement oversight unit, a procurement unit, an ad hoc Evaluation Committee, the user Department; or any other appropriate structure put in place by the Government.
The Accounting Officer will be in charge of establishment of appropriate procurement structures to undertake the procurement functions under the new act, which shall be staffed at an appropriate level in line with the model structure issued by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.
The Accounting Officer will also be charged with establishment, as may be prescribed, of a committee within a procuring entity which will oversee procurement activities, establishment, as may be prescribed, of an oversight committee to monitor procurement activities in a procuring entity.
The primary role of the Accounting Officers will be adjudication and award of tenders, including the adjudication of a bid recommendation submitted to him/her through a procurement oversight unit.
The Accounting officer will have powers to cancel a tender process and reject a tender offer at any time prior to entering into a contract, in the manner as may be prescribed, and the Accounting Officer shall not compensate the bidder of a tender that has been cancelled.
Under this proposed Act new set of regulations and guidelines will direct procurement complaints and appeals.
COMPLAINTS & TENDER DISPUTES
A procuring entity will, after the publication of an award decision — allow a cooling-off period of 10 days in order for the procuring entity to receive and address complaints, if any, from any contractor who is aggrieved by the award decision; and not enter into a contract relating to the award before the expiration of a cooling period.
A contractor who is aggrieved by a breach of any provision of this Act or claims to have suffered or is likely to suffer loss or damages due to a breach of a duty imposed on a procuring entity shall, at the first instance, lodge a complaint before an Accounting Officer for review.
A contractor who lodges a complaint shall have the right to participate in the review proceedings before an Accounting Officer. A contractor who fails to participate in the review proceedings shall be barred from subsequently lodging the same complaint.
Under this proposed Act an Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint after a contract has entered into force. After considering a complaint and determining that the complaint is a frivolous or vexatious complaint, Accounting Officer shall dismiss such complaint.
Notwithstanding subsection (1), an Accounting Officer may refer a complaint considered and determined to be frivolous or vexatious to the Tribunal for the Tribunal to take any appropriate action as may be prescribed.
An aggrieved person shall submit his or her complaint in writing to an Accounting Officer within 10 days from the date of the publication of an award decision by the Accounting Officer, relating to the complaint.
The Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint unless it is submitted to him/her within the period referred to under subsection.
A contractor who is aggrieved by a decision of an Accounting Officer may appeal to the Tribunal within 14 days from the date of the decision of the Accounting Officer.
Where a contract has been concluded by a procuring entity, based on an award decision of an Accounting Officer, the contract shall be irrevocable and its execution shall proceed without interruption whether the award decision by the Accounting Officer may in itself remain disputable by a contractor through the Tribunal.
Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Tribunal may suspend and subsequently revoke or terminate the execution of a contract if in the opinion of the Tribunal, sufficient evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that the execution of the contract may cause substantial loss to the public revenue or prejudicially affect public interest.
A complainant who wishes to lodge a complaint shall exhaust the dispute resolution processes provided in this Act before the complainant refers the complaint to a court.
PUBLIC PROCUREMENT TRIBUNAL
The Tribunal will be a body established independently from Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, and shall constitute retired High Court judges or practicing attorneys who qualify to appoint high court judge.
The Tribunal shall adjudicate over any matter brought before it by a complainant for a breach of any of the provisions of this Act, or any appeal brought in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
The COVID-19 pandemic which weakened world economies had left a devastating impact on Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) existence in 2020. According to the group’s 2019/2020 Annual Report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was sluggish for the first two quarters at P126 million and P426.96 million respectively. They then took an upward trajectory in Q3 and 4 at P1396 million and P1456 million respectively.
The year closed with a reduced performance at 73% for Q4. According to the financial report, export earnings opened the year at 83% which is approximately P671 million, before dropping to 81% (P1299.55 million). However, Quarter 3 experienced a slight rise in performance to 82%, or P1978.42 million before a drop in performance to close Quarter 4 at P74.9%, which was P2403.91 million.
Even if that is the case, the Centre continued to promote local investors by facilitating for local entrepreneurs to produce and find markets for their products both locally and internationally. The trend for Domestic Investment/Expansions indicated a continual upward performance surge from Quarter 1 through Quarter 4.
In percentage points, performance results reflected opening of 93% performance followed by a dip in performance to 82% Quarter 2, and then an increase to 100% in Quarter 3 and closing performance of 84.2% in Quarter 4.
For this financial year under review, BITC posted solid financial results with a surplus of P872.968, representing a decline from the previous year’s surplus of P13.991.337. The Centre started on track from the beginning of the financial year with successful execution of activities planned for the year.
However, following the subsequent onset of COVID-19 in the last quarter for the financial year, a few of the activities were negatively affected resulting from restricted cross border transfers. The impact is expected to be severe in the following financial year, especially on the Centre’s financial statements, clearly reflecting the negative impact of COVID-19.
In the financial year ended March 2020, BITC received a total subvention of P96.504.860 which represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s subvention of P101.830.560. the Grant subvention received for the past 5 years has not been constant due to the financial constraints that the government has experienced over the years which prompted for alignment of financial resources to cover the Centre’s strategic imperatives.
For the year under review BITC’s annual FDI capital inflows realised stood at P1.456 billion against an annual target of P2 billion, which is largely attributable to more than expected performance from the Financial Services sector. The total Domestic Investment for the period was P875.5 million against the set stretched target of P952 million. The total number of jobs registered by the organisation during the year under review was 3329, against an annual target of 3340.
Notwithstanding that, BITC realised high level achievements for the year under review. Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile said facilitated to establish the Selibe-Phikwe citrus project, which has a job creation expectation of 1000 vacancies as well as the expansion of Kromberg and Shubert Company through the allocation of land for construction of 7000 square metres factory to manufacture wire harness for Mercedes Benz, with over 800 jobs expected this year.
Further, the Centre continued to deliver improved investor facilitation services to both local and foreign investors through the Botswana one Stop service centre (BOSSC). “BOSSC houses relevant government departments under one roof to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors. The services offered by this Centre have grown from slightly above 130 applications for government authorisation in 2013 to 752 in the year under review,” said Olebile.
BITC continued to monitor Botswana’s performance in global competitiveness indicators such as the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index. “In an endeavour to improve the investor facilitation mechanism in the country, we have motivated for the drafting of a Business Facilitation Law, which will expedite the setting up and operations of businesses in Botswana.”
ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION DRIVE
BITC continued to respond to government’s call to stimulate direct investment and growth of local companies by procuring goods and services from locally based manufactures and services providers. The message to promote locals to actively grow the national economy has been driven through campaigns such as ‘PushaBW’ which utilised an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. As at March 2020, local purchases constituted 84% (2019:85%) of the total procurement with foreign purchases at 16% (2019:15%).
The government has reportedly missed out on an opportunity to secure 2 million doses of AstraZeneca, following efforts made by Batswana living in the diaspora to negotiate the deal for their besieged nation.
The humanitarian gesture spearheaded by Batswana in the diaspora — who say they are concerned by the high mortality rate locally — has not been warmly welcomed at the government enclave.
“We are losing our relatives, friends, and associates. Based on the network we have cultivated over time, we negotiated an offer for Botswana so that the leadership may be aware of the availability. These samaritans engaged directly with the supplier to buy because you ought to be connected for you to secure vaccines right now. It is not the question of having cash power; the demand is high,” one of the negotiators told this publication.
Information received by WeekendPost shows a country leadership that looks somehow lax in engaging the suppliers and has no pressure to procure vaccines – this is evidenced by several correspondences between some ambassadors and the negotiators seen by this publication.
“I am still trying to get the powers that be at home. HE’s (President Mokgweetsi Masisi) mobile is going unanswered. But usually, he will return the call. Grace Muzila (Permanent Secretary- Ministry of Health and Wellness- MoHW) is also not picking the phone. I will keep on calling. So let me get an indication from home before I talk to Jette (AstraZeneca supplier),” a correspondence from one Ambassador to the concerned connected Motswana reads.
This correspondence was the last time between the Ambassador and the facilitator who did not want to be named – arguing that he does not want to appear to be looking for political mileage on the deal.
As a matter of fact, in another conversation, the facilitator, who at one point was a cabinet minister, is quoted saying, “I have no personal benefit sir, it is information I am giving you freely. Our people are dying. I have done my patriotic duty, sir. Let’s try to source the vaccine to immunize our people.”
Desperate attempts to engage with the Ambassador hit a brick wall, with other information suggesting that the higher-ups were not interested in the deal, despite the dire need for vaccine locally.
At the beginning of the virus in 2020 here in Botswana, the same negotiators are the ones who organized donated masks for some Southern African countries.
Different Ambassadors were asked to collect masks, and the Botswana Ambassador in China organized 10,000 NK95 masks. “We do not have to make noise about it; we all have to contribute to assist our people, no political expediency,” he says.
Both the Health Ministry and OP media liaison offices were yet to respond to this publication’s inquiries on the matter despite numerous attempts to engage them.
According to the Presidential Taskforce report, Botswana has administered at least 318,107 doses of COVID vaccines. Assuming every person needs two doses, Botswana is estimated to have vaccinated about 6.9% of her population. Botswana has a population of around 2.5 million people.
The available AstraZeneca doses negotiated for Botswana have since been offered to other countries that demonstrated a desire to buy.
Botswana is currently struggling to immunize the citizenry as a lack of connection globally to convince the manufacturers to prioritize her. In his tours to various health facilities last week to appreciate the vaccine rollout program, President Masisi said the vaccine is costly and scarce. He also revealed how the COVAX facility failed Botswana.
“As third world nations, we poured money into COVAX to buy only to learn that they are tricking us, there is nothing. We now have to look for funds and buy the available vaccines,” Masisi told residents of Ramotswa.
COVAX is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
COVAX coordinates international resources to enable low-to-middle-income countries equitable access to COVID-19 tests, therapies, and vaccines. By 15 July 2020, 165 countries – representing 60% of the human population – had joined COVAX.
As of 11 April 2021, COVAX has delivered 38.5 million doses, falling well short of 100 million promised doses by the end of March 2021. And as of 6 July 2021, 100 million doses have been delivered.
HEALTH MINISTER SAYS NO TO SPUTNIK
Following the AstraZeneca fiasco, the concerned Batswana once again reached out to the Assistant Minister of Health, Sethomo Lelatisitswe, on the prospects of the Russian medication of Sputnik V. The vaccine is currently used by 70 nations worldwide in the fight against the pandemic, and it is one of the first to trial to fight COVID -19.
Like AstraZeneca, the Minister is not keen on the medication, which he admits in one of the exchanges with the negotiators that WHO has cleared it. The main reason why the Minister threw the Sputnik idea into the dustbin is that it “is not registered as yet by Botswana Medical Regulatory Authority (BOMRA).” Further, even saying the manufactures of the drug should come and convince them as authorities why they should procure the vaccine. The Minister could not respond as to whether BOMRA will evaluate the use of Sputnik in Botswana and whether it is possible for them to carry trials here.
SoE IS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
There is a growing concern from those sourcing assistance from affluent nations, expressing concern over President Masisi’s continued State of public Emergency (SoE). They argue that the Health Ministry’s hands are tied hence unable to make decisions because Masisi is the only man who can take decisions during the State of Emergency. “We can excuse the Health Ministry because decisions are mostly taken at Office of the President (OP). Therefore, if they do not see the need for patriotic assistance, then let it be, but our people are perishing the hurtful thing. We will keep on trying our best from our networks here for our people,” adds the facilitator who is currently in the Middle East.
Last week, Lelatisitswe told parliament that the government expects around 380 000 vaccine doses in the coming months to immunize Batswana. However, the doses are a far cry from what reality dictates on the ground.