The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane was this week hauled before the red-hot coals by his fellow Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Members of Parliament over the faltering P1.6 billion Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) projects.
In addition the Legislators faulted Tsogwane, who is seen as one of Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi’s favorites’ on a number of goofs recorded under his nose by the Ministry. At some point Tsogwane’s name was mentioned along those who aspire to Vice President come April next year when Masisi takes over as President. But now his colleagues are questioning his delivery card. Where are the ESP projects you promised? They fired at a BDP caucus this week.
Unlike last week’s party caucus meeting whose primary objective was to shoot down an opposition Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse’s disciplined forces bill, this time around focus was primarily on constituency developments, and a number of MPs queried the apparent skewed development agenda. Of course, at the top of the agitated MPs’ wailings was the controversial Economic Stimulus Program (ESP). According to Weekendpost sources MP’s are demanding a report card of the program – some have boldly stated that the overhyped initiative has failed to live up to expectation and it safe to say it is a failed idea.
“It milked government millions if not billions of pula and it’s only appropriate to demand to know to what extent the initiative has stimulated the economy. You will find that some constituencies were promised a number of projects but two years down the line, there is nothing, we expected around 500 houses in Dukwi from the program, nothing!” said Nata-Gweta’s Polson Majaga. The ESP is reported to have pulled P1.6 billion from government coffers. When it was launched in Sefhare Ramokgonami constituency a number of areas were promised their share of the cake but most are yet to receive the goods.
“Though I can’t vividly remember which projects were allocated to which area, to be honest the ESP has fared below average, look at my constituency there is nothing, but initially I was promised a junior school in Ngware,” observed the BDP Chief, Whip Liekat Kablay. It is said Tsogwane was instructed by the party Chairman, Vice President Masisi, who was also leading the ESP idea to deliver the report card at the latest by next week. But his fellow MPs are of the view that he will still give them the ‘everyday rhetoric’. There is a view from within the party that the ESP was intended for cabinet ministers’ held constituencies and some “well-connected party arm chair activists”.
Kablay accused the government for focusing developments only in one direction. He said the northern constituencies are treated with kids’ gloves. “I can’t say the ministers’ areas are given priority but that’s what people are saying, look a hospital is being erected in Sefhare-Ramokgonami and there are other projects in Palapye, and a Police Station is also being built in Mochudi, but our constituencies are idle,” said Kablay. Still at the caucus meeting, BDP MPs would just not give Tsogwane a break, when thought he could take a breather, another issue emerged – the P10 million Constituency Funding.
This was widely criticized when it was first announced because it was viewed as yet another wild BDP political card. Legislators complain of lack of consultation on the initiative and they want the whole idea to be scrapped if not changed. “This is dubbed constituency fund, not council fund,” said Majaga before adding that “This money should be under our control because we are aware of the neither challenges in our constituencies, not the Village Development Committees (VDCs) nor Council. They cannot claim to know the constituency better than us, besides, we are their principals and we know the priorities. Look at the Nata-Gweta we were affected by Dineo floods and I could have prioritized accordingly more so that traffic was inconvenienced,” Majaga said.
Though the MP’s were given an opaque response as to whether they will get to control the P10 million, they told Tsogwane that they will fight for the proper channeling of the fund. “Maybe in the next financial year we would get the fund to be placed directly under MPs control, but for now there are no signs that this fund will placed with us. The next financial year is fast approaching and we hope to see action,” Kablay said. The complaints by the BDP MPs follow a number of protests from the opposition camps over the fund which were thrown out of the window.
In his own world, minister Tsogwane is said to have claimed that to the best of his knowledge the ESP projects were ongoing and everything was smooth. The Botswana government launched the Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) with the aim to boost the national economy. The ESP is a program that is meant to boost economic growth through increased government spending in identified sectors, diversify the economy and accelerate employment creation, said President Ian Khama at the launch ceremony in Machaneng village in eastern Botswana.
The Program was a response to the current unfavourable economic climate following the world economic recession of 2008/2009 which has resulted in job losses. "One of the major challenges in the economy is fall of commodity prices in the mining sector including diamonds," said Khama at the launch. "There is a need to diversify the economy even more so as to create sustainable jobs and to be able to cushion the economy against the international shocks of the mineral process," he said.
The program aimed at boosting the national economy through accelerated job creation and citizen empowerment using the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) and harnessing the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) program for citizens, has been given national attention since its introduction by Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama in last November. The caucus discussed other issues including the welfare of MPs. This coming Monday Parliament will amend the standing orders as per the request at last week’s caucus.
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.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.