President Lt Gen Ian Khama delivered his valedictory remarks to Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faithfuls yesterday, marking the beginning of an end of era of his presidency.
In less than nine months from now, Khama will be heading home after accumulative 20 years in the presidency, first tenure as Vice President and later as president. When he returns from the ongoing Tonota Congress, Khama will head into obscurity as he leaves heir to the throne, Mokgweetsi Masisi to enjoy the spotlight.
It was during the same time — 10 years ago that former President and BDP leader Festus Mogae made a boastful statement that, “Batswana now know that there is still no alternative to this Party. It represents competence, experience and an unwavering commitment to develop Botswana for the benefit of all Batswana. No amount of malicious propaganda will deflect it from this noble goal.” The remarks were made at an elective congress in Molepolole in 2009.
Two years later, to prove legitimacy of Mogae’s proclamation, BDP strolled into one of its easiest victories since the 1994 general election, increasing its popular vote to 52 percent and garnering an impressive 45 seats in the process. Perhaps the most impressive thing amidst those stats was kicking opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) out of its traditional strongholds in Gaborone. BDP then took control of Gaborone City Council (GCC) for the first time since 1984.
Juxtaposing BDP fortunes in 2009 against its main rival, BNF, the latter was going through one of its most turbulent times in recent history. Since 1998, BNF has been a party torn apart by factions and instability. Although BDP was having its own shares of infightings, its victory then proved it is a party whose end was decades away.
Fast forward to 2014, BDP’s fortunes changed with the blink of an eye. Two events, inside and outside the party led to a situation which would change the fortunes of the BDP forever — the splitting of BDP and the creation of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). In 2014, BDP’s popular vote fell below 50 percent for the first time in its history while the opposition on the other end gained an unprecedented 20 seats in parliament, UDC accounting 17 seats while three others belonged to Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
It was Mogae who had conceded that if the BDP popular vote was to drop below 50 percent, the party’s mandate would be undermined. “A scenario where we win the majority of seats but fail to command a comfortable majority in the popular vote is not a good one. Let us face it, it would undermine our mandate. Although in other countries it is not uncommon for a party to win elections sometimes with numbers as low as 30 percent, our opponents seem to think our 52 percent gives them some hope and even reason to celebrate,” he had said.
Khama’s legacy at stake
When President Mogae bypassed frontrunners for the second in command throne; David Magang and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, it was on the back of Professor Lawrence Schlemmer’s recommendation. The Cape Town based political consultant was engaged by the party after the 1994 general elections to offer prognosis of the party in the lead up to the 1999 general elections.
The 1994 general elections had dealt BDP a heavy blow and had leaders’ substantially bruised egos of its leadership. For the first time in years, the prospects of losing power to opposition party became real. Schlemmer’s recommendation would catapult Khama from the army to the country’s number two position. The report had recommended that BDP, which was riven with factions, bring someone with a strong personality and appeal within its fold to help unite the part. At that time the description duly fit Ian Khama.
Almost 20 years since his grand fashion arrival in politics, a lot of questions are hovering around as to whether a man who was brought in as messiah has succeeded. By the time he leaves office next year, BDP would have hit its lowest popular vote in history, and also had an offspring—something which was peculiar to the ruling party and ubiquitous within opposition parties since independence.
The BDP split resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate in many years to come. BMD is part of the Umbrella for Democratic, a coalition of opposition parties ready to battle it out for power with BDP in the 2019 highly anticipated elections.
Khama will be looking at protecting his legacy and avoiding a situation where the party would lose power immediately after his leadership. The economy has stunted in the last few years and did not fully recover from the 2008 global economic crisis. Unemployment fuelled by job losses has added strain to Khama’s legacy and he has very limited time to reverse the situation.
Enter Mokgweetsi Masisi
Masisi will be sworn as president on the 1st of April 2018, becoming the fifth person to assume the office. His ascendance will be coupled by the desire to reverse the ill-will the party has gained since 2009 general elections. The split, as per admission of various leading figures in the party has badly hurt the party.
Masisi will try to avoid the ignominy of being the last man to be BDP state president. For the first time, BDP faces a united opposition front, with BCP having joined the UDC bandwagon. It is generally believed that if BDP could be having any advantage in the coming election, it would mostly be its financial strength, in terms of prospects, BDP would face another alternative government in UDC. Not only is UDC enjoying surging good will from the citizenry, its leadership in Duma Boko, Ndaba Gaolathe and Dumelang Saleshando proves to be equally capable.
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.