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Cabinet fears DIS – former Minister reveals

Former minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang has revealed this week that members of the executive fear the intelligence organ of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS).

The DIS, in terms of the Intelligence and Security Services Act, was established to investigate, gather, coordinate, evaluate, correlate, interpret, disseminate and store information, whether inside or outside Botswana, for the purposes of detecting and identifying any threat or potential threat to national security. They also advise the President and the Government of any threat or potential threat to national security.

DIS was instigated in 2008 upon ascension to the Presidency by President Lt Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama. The organ was started through the unlawful assistance of the Disaster Funds which were diverted despite strong resistance from some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench as well as opposition legislators.

Since its establishment, the intelligence unit has been marred in controversy receiving bad publicity from the curious members of the fourth estate (media) and other notable watchdogs including parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Kebonang revealed the Executive’s fear for the DIS when summoned before PAC this week to review the corruption and or money laundering allegations surrounding the 250 million pula National Petroleum Funds (NPF).

“The money was moved to DIS. Expenditure was spent but people have now been charged with money laundering. It’s unfortunate that we all know now where the money is. But there is this fear, there is this fear, there is this fear we have on the DIS which we all fear. Directorate on Crime and Economic Crime (DCEC) also fears DIS. Equally I do. And so there is any other Minister that I know,” Kebonang told PAC members and the fully packed public gallery.

The former Minister whom was dropped in cabinet reshuffle under the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration continued: “this is an institution you can’t say a ‘no’ to. Because what they do is sensitive as it is national security. And also you can’t second guess them. And I don’t think that we can sit here and accuse Isaac Kgosi (DIS Director) of money laundering.” “I don’t think we can accuse him of money laundering,” the former Minister who only served under Khama administration reiterated.

Kebonang also pointed out that when giving evidence before PAC that “equally, I can’t think we can accuse, borne by the fact that cabinet has directed the DIS that they must return the money. Why would you return the money or direct someone to return the money if the money has been laundered?” he asked rhetorically adding that “I am only just giving what my view on this.”

Francistown West law maker Ignatious Moswaane then interjected Kebonang to ask that: “you spoke about the DIS; the fear of the organ by Ministers. Does that mean you suggest that the flouting of procedures and financial misappropriation could mean that it is happening due to this fear for the DIS?”

In response to the legislator, Kebonang explained that the “DIS is an intelligence organ. They are responsible for keeping us safe. They are responsible for assessing security. So when we dealt with it, it was on the basis that it is a government department asking for variation for the amount of funds that has already been allocated.

He added that in terms of “fears” (of DIS) whether those fears are real or imagined, it doesn’t take one very far too even to recall a recent newspaper article (Weekend Post) where even the members of this committee (PAC) stated that they fear the organ DIS and fear for their lives. According to the Lobatse legislator, the DIS never asked for the process but they only made a request and that request was approved by the accounting officer who should have known what processes to put in place.

Kebonang also want ex-president Khama summoned before PAC

Kebonang also told the PAC that they may subpoena the former President Khama to answer for his role and involvement in allocation of the NPF to DIS. He revealed to PAC that he informed Khama of the “unlawful” transaction. When the contentious Tati East Member of Parliament (MP) Moyo Guma asked the Accounting Officer at the time: “after you said that the country was at risk, as a security matter, and security measures are usually dealt with by the security people and the President. Did you inform the President (Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the time)? And was he aware of the security risks (that the DIS purported) or the funds involved?”  

In answering Guma, Kebonang confirmed that Khama was also aware. “Yes he was aware. He was aware of the funds involved. In terms of the security risks it is Isaac Kgosi who is aware of them (who may have informed Khama of them). President Khama was aware of the allocation of the 250 million pula from the NPF to DIS. I mean he (Khama) was aware of the funds made available to DIS. I personally informed him,” the former Minister highlighted.

Guma then but in as a follow up: “do you think that we should ask these questions then to Khama (former president) whether he was aware of these security threats? There is no way you can talk security threats without informing the president.” In answering Guma, Kebonang stated that “Yes, I think he is the right person to ask, including Isaac Kgosi.” Kgosi was summoned and appeared before the committee on Thursday.

Secretive DIS led to the collapse of the governance system

Meanwhile, the Leader of Alliance for Progressives (AP) Ndaba Gaolathe has made his position known that the formation of DIS was the beginning of troubles that have led to the collapse of the country’s governance standards.  â€¨â€¨Gaolathe said the formation of the DIS is the indication that government has seemed to focus on those reforms that made Botswana’s entire governance system to regress.

“As long as we are here, we will not relent from pouring cold water on the legislation that brought the DIS to life, which monster has injected a rapacious poison into our life-blood as a people,” he said.

Gaolathe has also maintained that “whether it is real or perceived the DIS is at the heart of everything that is wrong about our Governance system – it is an institution that has been associated with extrajudicial killings, the nepotistic award or non-award of mega-lucrative tenders, immigration decisions for expatriates and investors as well as non-merit appointments to key Government roles in the Executive and Judiciary.”

He said this at the AP 1st Annual Policy statement while insisting that the DIS’s participation in the ongoing money laundering scandal involving the NPF shows the extent of which the intelligence organ runs affairs of the government (more than even cabinet).

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Travel ban unfair and unjustified – Masisi

7th December 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

For the past two years, the world has been at combat with various COVID-19 variants. A new variant of concern which is considered to have a combination of the greatest hits (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) has sent alarm bells around the world.

Botswana’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance, which actively monitors COVID-19 variants in Botswana, picked four samples that were concerning and discovered a completely new variant. In accordance with international obligations, as a responsible member state under the International Health Regulations of 2005, Botswana submitted the suspected new variant for the entire global scientific community to respond to this early finding. Shortly after, the Republic of South Africa, also submitted a similar concerning variant.

The new variant, ‘Omicron’ is named after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet to avoid public confusion and stigma.
The news spread like wild fire which resulted in European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America imposing travel bans on Botswana and other sister SADC nations, resulting in drawing a wedge between nations.

In his address on the occasion of an update on Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has shunned the response by some countries to Botswana’s detection of the Omicron variant stating that it is unfortunate as it appears to have caused unnecessary panic amongst the public across the world. He considers it defeating the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic.

“The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but is also unjustified while remain confident that reason and logic will prevail, the harshness of the decision has the effect of our shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment of equality and economic prosperity for us,” he said.

President Masisi has appealed to the nations that have imposed travel restrictions on Botswana to reflect and review their travel restrictions stance against the Southern African region.

African leaders and heads of state are in agreement on a matter. Some stating that the travel bans are ‘uncalled for, afro phobic, unscientific, strict, unfair and unjustified’. They have come out to bash the unilateral travel bans and request immediate upliftment of the restrictions imposed on SADC member states by European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America.

While Batswana are banned from international travel, locally as at 26th November 2021, a total of 195 068 COVID19 cases and 2 418 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have been steadily witnessing a decrease in the number of new cases and deaths in the last three months. We are currently reporting an average of less 10 infections per 100 000 people compared to 648 cases per 100 000 people at the peak of the third wave. We have also observed a gradual decline in hospitalizations across the country with an average of less than 10 patients at a time at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) and our other health facilities countrywide,” pointed out President Masisi.

Masisi encouraged Batswana not to despair as to date, all the nations’ key indicators remain stable. “This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behaviour and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view new variant of concern,’’ he sternly advised.

Government through the different Ministries leading the different sectors, has been working tirelessly to prepare for potential outbreaks and a fourth (4th) wave. This will be achieved through; installing oxygen generating plants and increasing skilled human capacity.

With regards to the vaccination programme; as of 29th November 2021, an estimated One Million and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty One (1 053 361) people translating to 75.7% of the target Batswana citizens and residents over the age of 18 years have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Three (950 973) people translating to 68.4% have been fully vaccinated. This number exceeds the 64% target Botswana has set to achieve by end of December 2021.

Masisi enthusiastically revealed that; “We are one of the three countries in Africa that have achieved the World Health Organisation target of vaccinating at least 40% of the entire population by December 2021. We are committed to ensure that all is done to reduce the transmission of the virus in the country.

More vaccines are being procured to ensure availability for those who have not yet received any dose. Government is also considering booster doses for those who may be identified as qualifying for them.”

President Masisi urged Batswana to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing, washing hands or sanitizing and wearing masks and avoid unnecessary travelling.

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China pledges a billion vaccines to Africa

7th December 2021

As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.

President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.

Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.

Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.

Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.

China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.

Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.

He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.

In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.

Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.

Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.

For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. 
As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.

African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.

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COVID-19 has pushed cost of living up – report

7th December 2021

A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.

The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.

The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”

However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.

Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.

The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.

“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”

“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.

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