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Khama name used as shield in BTO tender row

President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s name has allegedly been used to scare off police officers who were inquiring about potential corruption that could have taken place at the Botswana Tourism Board (BTO), following the awarding of a P 1 million tender to a company called African Points Solutions (APS) without due process.

The controversy prone organisation found itself implicated in yet another tender scandal when reports emerged towards the end of 2017 that the quasi-government institution, under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism casually awarded the management of the P1 million Heart of the City Carnival event to a company owned by individuals with links to the Khamas.

The company is linked to the Khama family in various respects among them through association with the Lady Khama Charitable Trust, which has been cited as among the beneficiaries of the company. Sources are also of the view that the Lady Khama Charitable Trust is being used as a conduit to ‘clean’ the money that was acquired through inappropriate means from government. There is wide belief that the actual beneficiary is Tshekedi Khama.  

Company documents reveal that one of the shareholders of the company is Nathaniel Tlhalerwa, who works directly under President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s office as the director responsible for the Presidential Inspectorate Task Team. His duties among others are to inspect, asses and advice the president [Khama] on the viability and risks associated with flagship programmes. Tlhalerwa previously also worked as deputy coordinator for BOT50, and was vital in preparations leading to the celebrations.

A whistle blower within BTO has reportedly talked to the police about the happenings at the BTO following this publication’s breaking of the story in its 2017 last edition. According to sources, when approached for questioning by the police, Thalerwa deployed intimidation tactics telling the police “not to be involved in a matter which was being dealt with by the Office of the President”.

According to sources, Tlhalerwa spit on the faces of the junior police officers, telling them that he would only entertain their bosses who are at senior level. WeekendPost has also been informed by insiders that there are employees within the procurement division who opposed the awarding of the tender to APS because it did not meet basic procurement requirements.

This publication indicated that APS had no compliance documents upon awarding of the project to them. The company only got the documents after they were given the tender. The compliance documents include the trading licence, tax clearance, and PPADB registration. The tender was also not advertised.

The Purchase Orders that this publication has seen show that they were issued before compliance documents were submitted. The company had its first tax clearance on the 15 November 2017 and exemption for licence from the Gaborone City Council (GCC) while BTO on the other hand made its first Purchase Order to the company on the 26th of October 2017. Despite opposition from BTO staff the deal when on, and the company was awarded the management of the event.

Heart of the City, which was held on the 16th of December 2017, is an annual event that happens at the end of the year staged to herald the Christmas Season. The event is aimed at reviving and celebrating the history of the Main Mall as well as showcasing the diverse cultures of the people of Botswana.

BTO itself has been subject of probing by the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises since 2016. It has been established that incidences of undermining public procurement laws and procedures are on the rise, with ministers and boards engaging on contracts with their preferred companies contrary to the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures.

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has recently been forced to cancel some of the procurement decisions he was involved in at BTO without following due process. This included the planned opening of an office in Dubai because it was not budgeted for, and a proper process relating to use of public money was not followed.

Recently Khama also got his way with a British company called ASUIA, which was brought on board as a technical partner in collection of the planned tourism levy to be collected from visiting tourists in the country’s entry points. Under the new proposal, ASUIA would have been entitled to one third (33.3 percent) of the total collection every month. This translated to about P2.5 million monthly and P30 million annually.

Again the engagement of the company failed to meet the basic procurement requirements. WeekendPost has also learnt that another plan, to give APS management rights of the popular Khawa Dune Challenge was being hatched. The Khawa Dune Challenge is being sponsored by BTO.

This publication is in possession of email communication with details of how APS would be handed on a silver platter the management tender. Three BTO staff members were to benefit from the deal. The three (names known to this publication) were to be given P20 000, p15 000 and P10 000 respectively for apparently playing their part in facilitating the deal.  

TLHALERWA TELLS HIS SIDE OF THE STORY

According to the centre man, Nathaniel Tlhalerwa, there is a lot of misinformation with regards to the management of the event and how the APS ended up being involved with the BTO.  He said their partnership was not a tender because the company already had its own initiative when the BTO asked to be part of it.

“We had our own event planned for that day, and BTO proposed to partner with us. Even the P1 million that is being mentioned, did not actually come to the company but majority of the money went to the service providers. Also as a public servant, I am obliged to declare my business interest, which I have done.” Thalerwa said he is being victimised unfairly because he is an employee of the Office of the President.

“I have never been called for questioning by the Police. Even if they wanted to do so, there is a clear process to follow. For someone at my senior position, they would have to write to my supervisor informing them of their intentions. No one has done so as far as I know. Reports that I was questioned are wrong.”

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

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.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

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.

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