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BMD’s breakpoint P100 000 congress

There is no doubt that Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) is going for its elective congress in Bobonong next week. What remains uncertain is the events that will unfold at the congress following the expulsion of party president, Ndaba Gaolathe, his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi and four others.
 

But party chairman, Nehemiah Modubule has assured the BMD faithful that the congress is on and there will be “adequate” security to ensure smooth operations. The chairman told this publication on Thursday that 740 delegates will grace the congress at Matshekge JSS in Bobonong. The delegates will comprise of 18 members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), since six have been expelled from the party; 16 members of the Youth League; 16 members of the Women’s League; and 10 delegates from each of the 57 constituencies. In addition all Members of Parliament, all Councillors, chairpersons and secretaries of branches and regions also attend the congress.
 

However Modubule emphasized that the Youth League that was elected in Ramotswa is not recognized by the party, it was an illegal gathering, he says. He also indicates that expelled members are not welcome into the delegates’ congress. “But those who wish to travel to Bobonong are free to do so. Botswana is a free country hence we cannot bar anyone from travelling to destinations of their choice.” 
 

Matshekge School has billed BMD P24 538 for the usage of school facilities during the congress. He said the party has also budgeted P30 000 for food to be served to delegates at the congress. The other expenses at the congress will go towards production of ballot papers and identification tags for delegates. “We are seriously preparing for this congress and there is no secret plan to postpone it. There are no reasons what so ever to postpone this congress,” says Modubule.
 

According to the BMD chairman, Batswana must be assured that BMD is going for congress next week. “Our hope is that there will not be any disruptions as we have heard some declaring war in Bobonong. We are not going for a fight, we are not a boxing club but a political party. We are aware that some of our members express fear over security issues. We urge those who are intimidating other party members to stop doing that.”
 

 Modubule says he is certain that BMD will elect leaders without a fuss come next week because the committee has ensured that it provides necessary security. He said since this is a delegates’ congress, only delegates will be allowed into the hall. According to Modubule there will be a roll call to ensure that people who enter the hall at Matshekge are delegates. “We will not take anything to chance, the BMD is bigger than all of us,” he says.
 

On allegations that they intend to postpone the congress, Modubule says: “We can’t postpone congress just because we do not have money. Each constituency has agreed to pay P500 as registration for congress. So far all constituencies have paid this money and this is part of the money that we will use to organize the Bobonong congress. In addition members of the party are also pledging beasts to be slaughtered at the congress to feed delegates.”
 

On the issue of parallel delegates, Modubule says that will not be possible because all delegates will be according to process at the venue. “We can’t afford not to have a congress because of some rogue individuals out there. We assure our members that there is adequate security to deal with any possible disruptions,” he said.
 

Modubule continues: “We expect a lot of competition as usual. We have not heard of any lobby list. Personally I do not support lobbyists because they are breeding ground for factions. Lobby groups never die, they continue to an extent that the losing group pushes its agenda against the elected group,” said Modubule.
 

He explains that party members who are not delegates but have interest in contesting certain positions are aware that they can be nominated from the floor or could express their wish by giving their delegates written expression of interest and it would read at the congress.
 

Expulsions and their implications
 

Modubule confirmed that the BMD Disciplinary Committee has reached a decision to expel six party members including party President Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi. As a consequence the expelled six will not be admissible at the BMD congress. 
 

He said the decision was arrived at after the six members failed to appear before the Disciplinary Committee chaired by Mr Njubo Ofentse of Bobonong on two occasions. Modubule says the suspended members failed to appear for the hearing on the 11th of June and they were given a second chance on the 18th June.
 

According to the BMD chairman the DC called witnesses on the 18th and the NEC presented its case and verdict was delivered on the 21st of June and was announced publicly as per the dictates of the constitution. “The Disciplinary committee has the power to reprimand, suspend, or expel,” explained Modubule.  
 

Modubule further shares that the expelled members would find it almost impossible to appeal at the congress because they have failed to honour the recognized structures of the party. “They should have appeared at the Disciplinary Hearing to state their case, depending on the outcome, appeal to the next level if they are aggrieved. It is like someone waking up in the morning and lodging a case with the Court of Appeal without having gone through the High Court or lower courts,” observes Modubule.
 

On the same note, Modubule indicated that the expelled members who are currently serving in Parliament “may continue as if nothing” happened because they were elected under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket. He says they continue with their normal duties, “but they are no longer BMD members now.” 
 

But why the fracas in the BMD
 

Modubule is adamant that they are being used as scapegoats by those who appear to be against them. He says he is aware that the other group is unhappy with the arrangement of the UDC where Saleshando was made second Vice President. He says they are hurt that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has been admitted into the Umbrella. 
 

According to the BMD chairman, “how can we be enemies of unity when we negotiated and accepted the terms of the BMD participation in the UDC. We know that the other group is of the view that there should be a re-negotiation of constituencies and other terms of the cooperation package under the UDC. We are happy with the terms of the UDC because we are pro-unity. Some of us have been in the opposition for too long and we want to see the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) defeated,” he says.
 

Modubule is further convinced that the UDC will remain intact and says, “The BMD will remain in the UDC even after the congress.”  He says he is afraid that some people are beneficiaries of the BDP regime and they have no moral right to want to place him and others at the centre of a BDP conspiracy theory. “I think they are fearful of how far the UDC will go with investigations should it attain power in 2019. I personally propose that the investigations should stretch way beyond 2008. All wealth accumulated in a shady manner should be repossessed,” he adds.


Some people are beneficiaries of the BDP regime and they have no moral right to want to place him and others at the centre of a BDP conspiracy theory. “I think they are fearful of how far the UDC will go with investigations should it attain power in 2019

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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