A simmering battle is anticipated within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) between affiliates as there is a difference of opinion on which constitution the alliance is using in the wake of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leadership crisis.
The UDC’s new constitution was drawn up following the decision by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to apply to join the alliance. BCP which was initially not part of alliance participated in the latest negotiations, which led to among others creation of a new constitution and allocation of constituencies. The departure of former BMD President and UDC Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe to form Alliance of Progressives (AP) has however opened a window for debate within the UDC. Formation of the AP came on the back of a UDC verdict, which recommended that the warring BMD factions consider a power sharing agreement.
There has also been suggestion, as also corroborated by UDC President Duma Boko that the formation of the AP did not mean that Pilane and his team were automatically recognised by the UDC NEC. Boko said the UDC will engage Pilane and his NEC as de facto leadership rather than the legitimate leadership, a view that is not shared by his colleagues in the BMD. When delivering the verdict on the power sharing deal, Boko also highlighted that the UDC has the power to expel or suspend any member acting against the interest of the UDC. Pressure has also been mounting on Boko to suspend or expel BMD on the basis that the latter is controversy prone and likely to dent UDC’s chances of winning power in 2019.
Such stand has however been challenged by the leader of BMD, who believes the new constitution does not give any member the power to expel another member. Pilane is the principal architect of UDC new constitution that has ushered in BCP and also created the two Vice Presidents posts. The two posts were allocated to BMD and BCP, while BNF retained the presidency. Pilane is so confident that the new constitution favours their free participation in the UDC that last week he issued a stern warning to his detractors in the UDC that BMD would not be a pushover.
“There is no how contracting members of the UDC can expel BMD from the UDC. The new constitution does not allow that. The old constitution gave UDC the power to expel a member but the new constitution does not. If those parties have a problem with BMD they should resign from the UDC,” he said. UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa told this publication that despite some arrangements which do not speak to the old constitution, the UDC leadership still uses the old constitution.
“When UDC was formed in 2012, we were required to submit a constitution with the Registrar of Societies pending the party congress. The interim party NEC was however given the green light to make some decisions even if they are not in line with the constitution, pending ratification by the first party congress,” he said. “That is what we have been doing even after BCP was accommodated in the UDC. All decisions taken by the NEC will be ratified at the congress, and also the new constitution adopted.” UDC is scheduled to attend its first congress since its formation on the 24th of November this year.
BMD Chairman Nehemiah Modubule concurred with Pilane and highlighted that the negotiations which ushered in the BCP as partner in the UDC compels the mother party to use the new constitution. “In my understanding, the negotiations which involved BCP basically mean we must do what we agreed upon. Therefore it means the new constitution which was agreed by all parties, including the BCP is the one which is in use,” he said.
Modubule however admitted that the matter is dubious, and that their position as the BMD is not necessarily how the UDC or other partners may see it. The former Lobatse legislator also reiterated that BMD is a bona fide member of the UDC. “The letter that we wrote did not seek UDC recognition. We were only giving them feedback on their recommendation on power sharing following the departure of our colleagues to form their party,” he said. “We are still awaiting their response.”
Last week Pilane shared that: “We do not need recognition from UDC. The issues of our re-admission should not even arise. UDC has no authority over BMD. BMD is a member of UDC, there is no need for us to seek recognition, we are already members according to UDC constitution. The only thing we are waiting for from UDC is invitation to take part in NEC meetings. We have submitted four names to the UDC as required so that they start taking part in UDC meetings.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.