President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama will leave in his trail at the end of his term in March, scores of public enterprising battling sustainability, ironically some which were profit making entities prior to his presidency.
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC); Water Utilities Corporation (WUC), and Botswana Corporation (BPC) are among vital public enterprises that have been experiencing perennial losses for the past decade. In 2006, WUC, BMC and BPC made a combined net profit of P371.9 million while, in the latest budget speech, the three entities recorded a worrisome combined loss of P507. 5 million.
The average net profit ratio, which is profit after tax as a percentage of gross sales, of the twelve commercial public enterprises was 21 percent during the 2008 budget speech. The financial performance of the entities ranged from a net loss of P3.5 million, for the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB), to a net profit of P714.8 million, recorded by the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) during that year.
The Dead alive Botswana Meat Commission
BMC which recorded a P34 million profit in 2006, stumbled along the way, with corruption and maladministration being detected. In this week’s Budget Speech, Kenneth Matambo revealed that BMC has again made a net loss of P229.7 loss, this is despite the fact that in 2015 government injected P600 million to help resuscitate the drowning government entity.
BMC which enjoys monopoly as the sole exporter of beef in Botswana has gone from a profit making entity to a massive lost making corporation in the last seven years with a total losses amounting to over a P1 billion. In 2013, parliament agreed to set-up a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the BMC owing to scandals, poor performances and other excesses that bedevilling the organisation.
The Committee had found that BMC CEOs, with few exceptions, have been chosen from the ranks of retired civil servants not based on merit or their commercial experience. The MPs had also pointed out that the BMC management practiced poor governance and there were bad relations between the board and management. It discovered productions inefficiencies caused by over staffing, declining productivity, and high marketing costs. There was no proper and efficient system of financial controls. The BMC became financially insolvent over the 2009-2012 period.
The Parliamentary Select Committee at the time picked on the issue of BMC marketing, pointing out that “At present BMC’s marketing agent, Global Protein Solutions (GPS) provides for a legal monopoly on exports. The BMC should seek to revise the contract and segments of the global beef export market to hedge against a monopoly of the marketing of the Botswana beef produce.”
Interestingly the Committee also declared that an investigation be undertaken by the Directorate on Corruption and economic Crime (DCEC) into the award of the marketing contract by BMC in favour of GPS and consideration be made for a review and renegotiation of the contract terms to ensure residual contract of the beef export marketing by the BMC. The Committee also discovered a “strong circumstantial evidence of under-pricing of beef to the EU, South Africa, and domestic markets over the period. The recommendations by the committee were never considered. The Parliamentary Select Committee also decided that Feedlot activities should be undertaken by the Botswana private sector and not by the BMC.
The Debt riddled Water Utilities Corporation
The WUC was established in 1970 initially to manage a water supply and distribution in the cities of Gaborone and Francistown and the towns of Lobatse, Jwaneng, Selebi-Phikwe and Sowa. Since formation, WUC has been economically self-sufficient, raising enough revenue from billing and subsidies to cover operational costs.
Over the years, there have been several water suppliers in Botswana. WUC has been supplying only towns and cities, but also supplied the Department of Water Affairs and District Councils with bulk water for further distribution to the remaining areas in the country.
However, in 2009, a year after Khama become president, Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources started implementing the Water Sector Reforms which saw water supplies being transferred from Water Affairs, which was under the authority of councils to Water Utilities Corporation.
The Water Sector Reforms Project (WSRP) was aimed at streamlining this somewhat cumbersome arrangement and therefore to improve water supply service delivery. The National Water Master Plan Review (NWMPR) of 2005-2006 recommended a major restructuring of the water sector which includes, amongst others, the separation of water resources management from water service delivery.
Following this, the Government engaged the World Bank to work with the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources to rationalize the water sector. It was from this study that the Water Utilities Corporation was expected to take over all water and wastewater service delivery in the country.
Evers since the takeover, Water Utilities has been experiencing financial problems, and at times looked to government for rescue, in 2012, the corporation made a staggering P541 million loss, followed by p191 million the following year. This week, Matambo announced in the budget speech that Water Utilities made P137.6 loss in 2017.
Matambo has contended however, that Water Utilities as well as another perennial loss making Utility Corporation, BPC are encountering financial quagmire as a result of misalignment between the levels of tariffs charged relative to their mandates.
“To address this, the current water tariffs charged by Water Utilities are gradually being aligned with water treatment and distribution expenses,” he said. Water Utilities have seen Godfrey Mudanga who presided over the period of loss making, leaving the organisation. He has since been replaced by a determined Mmetla Masire.
The cash strapped Botswana Power Corporation
In 2006, BPC registered a net profit of P162 million, followed by another profit of P121. million in 2007. Fast forward to 2017, BCP no longer a profit making entity with a loss of 140.2 million. In 2016, BPC loss stood at P99.6 million. Among the worst losses incurred by the troubled utility giant was a net loss of P1.3 billion in 2013, having recorded another loss of P1.1 billion the previous year. As the norm the continued losses have been blamed on power generation, transmission and distribution expenses.
The Minister has again hinted that BPC tariffs will be reviewed in order to meet the corporation’s operational costs. One of the lowest scandals was the failure of Morupule B, following the defect that marred the power station after its completion. Morupule B, was financed by government and World Bank at the tune of P11 billion. Government is currently considering selling the plant to Chinese state owned company China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), which was the constructor of the plant.
The fading National Development Bank
Another entity which has experienced losses in recent years is the National Development Bank (NDB). Under the tutelage of Lorato Morapedi, which has been considered for commercialisation, has not been having a good balance sheet in the last three years. In 2008, NDB increased its profit by P11 million from the previous year to P33.6 million.
Last year, owing to recent troubles, NDB made another loss of P168.2 million, a development which would likely disturb its commercialisation plan as well as its ambition to become a commercial bank. In 2016, NDB requested government to inject capital amounting to about P1 billion in the next three years in order to transform the bank and prepare it for commercialisation.
Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Morapedi wanted government to inject P400 million in the next financial year, followed by two governments guaranteed loans of P165 million and P250 million in subsequent years, of which it was granted. NDB was established under an act of parliament in 1963 with its main objective lying in providing a varied range of financial services to Botswana’s business sector and the public at large while aiming to earn satisfactory returns on shareholder’s funds.
As a Development Financial Institution (DFI), NDB is expected to be viable and self-sustaining and also to contribute immensely to the growth of the local economy. Other parastatal that has continued to make losses is Air Botswana. Over the past 15 years Air Botswana has sparingly made profits, while the recent years have been marred by losses and issues of maladministration.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).