In a fresh turn of events, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has this week made shocking revelations that the Botswana consumers have been swindled of their hard earned money through the controversial plastic levy.
Weekend Post has established that while it is not yet law, manufactures have been charging consumers the plastic levy since 2007 as they have included the fee in the total amount for the plastics. In return the retailers also charge buyers separately, both amassing huge profits in millions from the transactions.
“To be honest, re jelwe (we have been defrauded or fleeced). The manufacturers and retailers have found a loophole on dodging to pay government in the rolling out of the plastic levy.” Khama blames both the manufacturers and retailers for entering into the deal in bad faith and in the process ripping off the consumers from the incomplete (as the funds were not collected) yet consequential deal. Khama also admitted that as government, they also erred precisely by not being able to put appropriate systems in place to collect the said levy on time.
Khama, in 2017, told a parliamentary committee, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that due to government’s failure to regulate and collect the plastic levy, the initiative as such failed its purpose and retailers are taking advantage. “Batswana are being overcharged by paying for plastics at the same time having to pay for a commodity that is included in the price of packaging. The value of your shopping from a retailer is further increased by the cost of a retailer that they are selling the plastic for,” he was quoted conceding at PAC.
Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has since distanced themselves from the failed levy and could also not quantify the amount accumulated from the levy since its introduction in 2007 referring this publication to Ministry of Environment, Natural resources Conservation and Tourism. “The plastic levy falls under Tshekedi Khama’s Ministry. They are the ones responsible for collection of the levy,” Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry told this publication upon inquiries on the funds.
As far as he knows, he said, as government they have failed to collect the levy and that means as well that the general Botswana consumers are poorer as they have lost on the transaction. In this publication’s endeavor to put a figure on the amount accrued from the plastic levy business deal, both Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry as well as Ministry of Environment, Natural resources Conservation and Tourism could not shed some light into the amount.
Tshekedi Khama could only state in a short message sender (sms) conversation with this reporter that “I don’t have the statistics on that, maybe Statistics Botswana could help or the Ministry of Trade.” However the Statistics Botswana officials insisted that they do not have such information as to how much was accrued from the levy. The National Strategy Office which is also fingered in the collection of the levy washed their hands maintaining that they “are not the right office for those figures” and referring this publication back to Tshekedi Khama’s Ministry.
Tshekedi Khama hurriedly introduced the levy under controversial circumstances which has now milked the customers millions of pula for far too long. The levy was initially intended to discourage buying of plastics as were seen as an environmental hazard. As government has failed to implement and collect funds accrued from the levy, the plastic industry has this week curiously denied the existence of the said plastic levy. A Marketing Executive at Choppies, Tshego Molosiwa told Weekend Post when contacted for a comment that the said plastic levy could not materialize.
“We have noted your enquiry with regards to the Plastic Levy. There is currently no levy that retailers pay to government as no measures have been put in place for such a transaction to materialize,” she said. Another retail official for a multi-corporation supermarket who preferred speaking on condition of anonymity pointed a finger at the manufactures accusing them of collecting the levy at the expense of government and at the detrimental of consumers.
It is understood that this leads to retailers in turn being forced to charge extra charge and that they will continue to charge consumers as and when they buy the plastics. “We buy at the plastic manufacturers whom include the cost of levy in their price. Already there is levy in manufactures plastic levy. The manufactures then have to transfer to government the said levy because it’s already included when the manufacturers sell to the retailers,” he pointed out.
He said as retailers they do not get in contact with such funds just like it is the case with the controversial much talked about National Petroleum Funds (NPF) as the filling stations too do not get in contact with the NPF funds. For plastic levy the retail official pulled government’s leg sarcastically to say that she (government) “failed to collect the levy and maybe she saved us from stealing the money as it happened with the NPF.” More than 250 million pula, and the figure keeps up shooting, has been stolen from the NPF and the matter is currently being handled before the courts.
The retail official also stated that “but to be honest the plastic industry in Botswana at one point went to government with the intention to give it the plastic levy, but nobody wanted to collect it. Tshekedi said he is not interested. Meanwhile millions of pula has been collected. The money is there at the manufacturers. Supermarkets have a record.” He added that, now the government has taken a decision to cancel the plastics, and that Tshekedi cancelled the levy and as retailers they will obey the law. He continued “we will use the biodegradables.”
On his part the Director of plastic manufacturers, MW Packages and Mushtaq Plastics, Nadeem Symeed told Weekend Post separately that there is no such thing as plastic levy. He said this against the backdrop of information that manufactures nonetheless have been charging for the levy in their sales. “There is nothing as plastic levy as it has not been implemented. There is even no law to that effect,” he highlighted to this reporter when quizzed.
Introduced in 2007 as a mechanism to fund environmentally pleasant practices, the plastic levy now appears like is a lost dream with chunks of unstated funds accumulated falling in the wrong hands and not assisting in the purpose in which it was intended to do for the environment.
Collecting the levy has demonstrated to be, for government, a burdensome undertaking for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, as the public’s hard earned cash remain uncollected, benefitting the business owners who are now, as it appears, disowning the levy funds.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.