Following the major purge of staff seen to be resisting change with regard to the new Strategic Plan of Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), its new Executive Director Botho Seboko is undertaking a vigorous rebranding exercise at the organisation.
The organisation, members and the board has been embroiled in disputes in relation to governance issues, role clarity, and power struggles that saw the former Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo and all staff at the Secretariat being wiped out. The board, with the headship of Chairman Oscar Motsumi thereafter head hunted Seboko to persuade him to take the hot seat filling the shoes of Mabilo. Seboko is on a 3 year contract precisely to implement the new BOCONGO Strategy 2017 to 2020 subject to renewal in terms of performance.
In a one-on-one interview with WeekendPost this week the former Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Secretary General who almost raised the oldest party from the ashes said he found BOCONGO in a similar case and is devoted to re-branding it. At BPP he introduced the slogan which caught frenzy in social media dubbed #RonaKoBPP. Since leaving the party, it slumped to sleeping mode.
“When I arrived in BOCONGO it was an organisation in limbo. Remember it did not have an Executive Director for close to 6 months. Neither did it have qualified people in the absence of the Executive Director except for its Communications Officer,” he said. He continued to say that “it has lost relationships with donors, we have lost communications with key stakeholders, and we were not in dialogue and engaging with government.”
Seboko also said he found BOCONGO’s financial books in disarray and that at the last Annual General Meeting the organisation failed to present an audit. “We had so many creditors or debts,” he said, adding that they did not have any existent donor save for normal subvention funds from the Ministry on Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.
According to Seboko, the new strategy was adopted in 2015 but due to a conflict between the board and then Director it suffered a one year loss so in 2016 there was literally no implementation until he occupied the position earlier this year in February 2017. “My job coming into BOCONGO therefore was and is still to ensure that at the end of the strategy the organisation is back to its members; to ensure that there is a fresh look on BOCONGO in terms of the manpower that is employed in the inside organisation and the outward picture in the form of logo and branding material.”
In the 8 months in office, Seboko says BOCONGO has moved to a new office. “We developed the new branded logo, brought new phones; website is now functional, staff emails also working. We have a new staff of Executive Director, Programs Manager, Chattered Accountant, Communications Multi-Media and Graphics interns, Front Desk Officer and, Administration Officer.”
The new strategy states that there is a need to decentralize power from Gaborone to other areas where there are BOCONGO members around the country. In the strategy there are 7 regional networks; Gantsi, Ngamiland, Chobe, Francistown, Selibe Phikwe (BOMASE), Serowe/Palapye and Greater Gaborone. BOCONGO will also be divided into 4 thematic groups and there is need to align them with the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG’s), National development Plan (NDP11), Vision 2036 and Africa vision 2063.
The thematic groups are; inclusive social policy, sustainable environment and resource management, economic justice and democracy and governance. Members will be now categorized in the groups and composition of the board will be chosen amongst the 7 regions while 4 will come from the thematic groups. As BOCONGO he added that they have also facilitated for the funding of a new NGO, Botswana Watch, at the tune of 50 000 US dollars from OSISA.
The Executive Director said time has turned and NGOs are doing the implementation of the projects while the Secretariat is holding the money for them. “As such the role of BOCONGO has changed. BOCONGO reports financially to the donor while NGOs report narrative.” Furthermore, Seboko revealed that BOCONGO has also requested for funds to resurrect the defunct Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana office. According to him, MISA will start operations soon as OSISA has approved funding for it at the tune of US$ 50 000.
“We did a proposal for EU as well for 2019 General Elections focusing on the disabled particularly the blind, for the first time in this Republic we will see documentation in Braille for the blind,” Seboko said. “The project was funded for 144 000 Euros to be spent in the next 2 years. The blind will be able to vote and teach others on how to vote in the next elections owing to the project.” This, Seboko pointed out, will be done in conjunction with the Botswana Society for the Deaf and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA).
“We have also approached the Canadian Embassy to lure them to fund us so that we assist hold Councillors accountable. They have thereafter funded us with 2 000 Canadian dollars. We need to develop for our communities a check list based on management system based on public office bearers at District level that the communities can assess and check what the Councillors said in their manifestos,” he revealed. Seboko also highlighted that for the last 10 years BOCONGO has received 1.2 million per year consistently from government through Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs as they are obliged to do in their partnership with Civil Society. He also said they will work harmoniously with the NGO Council.
He also pointed out that BOCONGO remains non partisan and does not even provide opinions on topical political issues. Seboko also stated that they have so far pulled 3 successful panel discussions being: controversial Electronic Voting Machines; Freedom of Information (for a build up to MISA resurrection); and a debate over who is funding our political parties. BOCONGO is notorious for an acrimonious relationship between the board and the head of the Secretariat (Executive Director) which often leads to the sacking of the latter.
Before Mabilo, Boitshepho Bolele was also unceremoniously kicked out while on probation. Prior to her, Executive Secretary Mosweu Simane also abruptly resigned from the position to be the General Secretary of an affiliate member Botswana Council of Churches (BCC). He was followed by Nobantu Kalake who also left for greener pastures at the British Council. The hot position has also seen resignations from Barulaganye Mogotsi to Debswana, Baboloki Tlale and Ketlhomilwe Moletsane were also in the mix.
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.