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‘Re jelwe!’ Tshekedi Khama speaks on plastic levy

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.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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