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Half billion pula gone as Chinese raided Gov’t coffers

The Fengyue Glass project shenanigans are refusing to go away, especially after Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile took aim at the imbalance demonstrable in the sale of the failed plant equipment and 100 hectares of land. But Government has indicated that it was well aware that it will never recover the P500 million gobbled by the briefcase Chinese company behind the glass project.

The inquisitive legislator had asked the Minister of Trade Industry and Investment whether in view of approximately half a billion Pula of public revenues expended on the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Plant in Palapye, due regard was made by his Ministry in its decision to sell the Plant for the price for which it was sold by the Liquidator. Reatile also wanted to know how much the 100 hectares of the Plant consisting of a glass producing Plant, Power Sub-Station and the Railway Spur was sold for; and how much was realised after the sale of the 100 hectares of the Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Industrial Estates.

Responding directly to Reatile, Assistant Minister, Biggie Butale indicated that in November 2013, the Board of BDC resolved to place Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana (Pty) Ltd under liquidation and a provisional liquidator was appointed. “Liquidation is a process by which a company is dissolved or wound up, and the assets and properties of the company are sold and the proceeds thereof redistributed to shareholders,” he explained.

The Minister apportioned all blame to the liquidator: “the liquidator is responsible for the process of winding up the company which includes receiving all claims from creditors as well as the distribution of assets. The liquidator works under the supervision of the Master of the High Court. As such, BDC as a company nor my Ministry had any control or influence over this process.”

However, Butale confirmed that BDC spent half a billion Pula on the project, but stated that it was not possible to recover the money. “Whilst it is acknowledged that BDC spent half a billion Pula through its investment of debt, equity and purchase of the assets of the Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Plant in Palapye, it should be made clear that it was unlikely that the Corporation would recover the capital invested.”

Further, the minister said the sale conducted by the Liquidator was not in respect of the business and equity. “On the contrary, the sale was in respect of the assets of the company. I should however indicate that a credible, auditable and fair process was used by the Liquidator to value the assets of the entity prior to the sale. The assets of the entity were in this regard valued by a Certified Professional Valuer.” He said the valuation report demonstrated that the technical equipment to be sold was either used, incomplete, considerably deteriorated and/or certainly out of any possible warranty by the manufacturer or the supplier.

Butale the liquidator opted for an online auction to maximise recoveries hence ensuring that as many local and international bidders would have access to the sale. According to the Minister, the auction attracted a total of 2 713 bids of which 60 per cent or 1 628 were from Botswana bidders.

He further indicated that the Ministry could not have any say in the amount to be realised from the sale of Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Plant’s assets through the sale process.  The junior minister said following a valuation of the assets as explained above, the land, plant, power station and railway spur were sold for the sum of P54 382 000.00 inclusive of Value Added Tax. “What remained following the sale of 110 hectares of Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Industrial Estate was sold for P50 million, these being the movable assets.”

Warren Schewitz’s company was awarded an auction by KPMG for the sale of Fengyue Glass Plant. This publication has established that every bidder who participated was FICA registered and had paid a refundable P5000 deposit. In total there were 2 713 bids placed on 79 assets with an average of 34 bids per asset. Weekend Post understands that following the auction, two high bidders, namely G4 Consulting Engineers and Sable Transport of Zambia failed to pay despite numerous and vigorous correspondence. It has been verified that both actually attended the viewing day and wanted to bid for the entire plant and as such bid extensively on almost every item.

In the first planned auction in 2015, no buyers had shown interest in purchasing the BDC’s Fengyue Glass Manufacturing plant. The plant, situated in Palapye, was sold after the project collapsed amid allegations of corruption and was put under liquidation. The Fengyue glass project was expected to create hundreds of jobs for residents of Palapye and surrounding areas. Amongst the company assets that were up for auction is a float glass plant and equipment. An advert on the sale indicates that the float glass is designed to have a daily melting capacity of 450 tonnes of molten glass and designed in compliance with the China Louyang Float Glass Standards.  The majority of the plant and equipment remained in its original packaging. A list of other goods that are on site has been prepared by the contractor, though it has not been independently checked or verified.

The plant also boasts of a 100 hectare piece of land close to the centre of Palapye and has a dedicated electricity substation with a railway spur. Of the area, 1,000 m by 600m has been fenced. There are also 11 temporary accommodation blocks on site. But these have been temporarily rented out to a third party for a period of two years with 18 months remaining on the lease.

Civil engineering works had commenced on most of the plant and required utilities buildings with the foundations been laid. Also, varying degrees of civil steel and concrete had been completed, though the exact level of completeness is not known. The advert further stated that there are also construction plant and equipment consisting of small tools and heavy plant equipment and machinery, as well as assets from office and accommodation blocks for construction workers. The oxygen plant is believed to be complete and the oxygen is on site but in a self-contained area. The oxygen plant consists of three independent buildings outside the area of the plant, but access to it can only be gained through the main entrance of the plant.

Minister recognizes the BDC journey

This is how Assistant Minister Butale began his response to Reatile’s question: “BDC is a company limited by guarantee which was registered on the 15th April 1970. The company has played a pivotal role in pioneering growth in a number of sectors such as; Aviation with Air Botswana, Car rental with Avis Property Development, Hospitality through Cresta Group of Hotels. BDC has led the industrial development drive of Botswana through the likes of; Sechaba Breweries, Nortex Industries, Kromberg and Schubert, Kwena Rocla and Can Manufacturers.

These companies have been important in the creation of sustainable employment for Batswana. Having started off with an investment base of R20 000.00, BDC now has an asset base of P4.2 Billion. Mr Speaker, let me now respond to the Honourable Member’s specific question on the Fengyue Glass project.” The Minister wants the role BDC played in the past in industrialization and employment creation to be recognized, instead of the Fengyue blemish.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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