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Ndaba speaks out on BMD future

Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President, Ndaba Gaolathe on Thursday evening told multitudes of BMD supporters at the Maitisong Hall, Maruapula School in Gaborone that they have since decided to leave the BMD impasse in the hands of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), to mediate on.

Multitudes of supporters had thronged the hall clad in party regalia to lend solidarity to their “calm and collected” leader. Gaolathe won the parallel controversial party congress recently at Bobonong Community Junior Secondary School while the other was won by Sidney Pilane at Matshekge Junior Secondary School both at Bobonong village.

The meeting was the first he addressed as BMD president. Evidently, he had the support of party elders who graced the event, including former Speaker of the National Assembly Margaret Nasha, counterparts in the UDC and Botswana National Front (BNF) Vice President Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Vice President Takula Lenyatso and renowned pastors in the likes of Dumi Mmualefhe and Cosmos Moenga.

Other key people who were also present include Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) leadership consisting of its leaders Johnson Motshwarakgole, Tobokani Rari and Ketlhalefile Motshegwa among others. When he took to the podium, amid applause and cheering, Ndaba said they respect the UDC as a mother body and will duly allocate them a chance and time to intervene in the matter between his faction and that of Pilane. “We need to wait for the UDC. We need to respect the UDC processes and hope that those charged with responsibility will offer guidance accordingly,” Ndaba pointed out to the audience in the fully packed hall in Maruapula, Gaborone.

Ndaba calls for a re-run of a free and fair congress

According to the charming leader, the party should go for a re-run of the national congress to elect a new leadership through fair and fair elections. “We can’t demand at the national level free and fair elections if we are not able at the party level to demand and conduct free and fair elections,” he told the gathering. He also noted that BMD members who support his cause are not convinced about the faction taking the court route in resolving the impasse. He stated: “they do not believe that the court route is viable. They believe that the time and material and cost entail will take away whatever energy we need to offer to Botswana.”

Ndaba faction weighs options of a new political party

According to Ndaba, forming a new party may be an option, as party devotees suggest, but it should however not be the first option. He highlighted: “I know that there is talk about a new political party, and I have to be honest with you. There is pressure yes, there is pressure mounted from different directions to embark on the option. Proponents of this option advance reasons for its course and amongst them they say perhaps we need a fresh home. We need a dwelling home to this consciousness of change.”

He added that “but this should not be our first option, be patient. We need to give the UDC the opportunity to intervene before we consider all other options.” In terms of the new party, Ndaba also observed that many decisions will be taken and some of these decisions will be painful. “This is a consciousness that was inspired by activists, by ordinary people from across different needs. If this consciousness sits with discomfort, as it seems to do right now, then the current configuration, we need to be decisive about how best to transfigure ourselves so that the consciousness could change and thrive towards the kind of Botswana we all want. We will never be defeated,” he maintained on his address.

I am not returning to the BDP – Ndaba becomes emotional

The non conformist BMD leader continued his address to the multitudes of his supporters and quashed rumours about his alleged move back to BDP. “I have also heard a rumour that I want to decamp to the ruling party. I just want to say to you that I am a servant of the people. I serve at the pleasure of the people. And as long as the people think they need me to assist them in the journey that is theirs I cannot walk away from them,” the clearly emotional young leader set the record straight. He further added, whilst holding back tears: “I don’t walk away from people who prayed for me and made me who I am. And should the people say to me at some point that I have done my part, and that they need a new set of leaders, then I will be happy to bow out.”

The BMD leader takes blame for Bobonong violence

The Gaborone Bonnington South law maker further apologised to the families whose children were injured at Bobonong; and to the students of Matshekge CJSS for contaminating their school’s reputation. “It is not who to blame. The buck always stops with the leader. And this is why I take full responsibility for events leading to and after the BMD congress.” He informed the gathering that in the past week, he travelled to Bobonong to see the Kgosi to apologise to him; and to the school to tender his apology; and also visited the police to thank them for being such gallant protectors.

Ndaba also stated that he is aware of the alarm his party caused to many citizens, especially that the party as part of the UDC carries much hope for them. He conceded that he is embarrassed that the party returned from the elective Congress in Bobonong last month with two parallel sets of leadership committees. “Many of you know that that’s uncalled for, they are embarrassed by this. In fact I am embarrassed myself. Some of you have listened to radio talk shows and witnessed and wondering how this great movement of ours has become the skunk of this nation.”

According to Ndaba, their actions and conduct have represented everything that can go wrong in a democratic experiment. He explained that “the perceptions and circumstances that surround BMD have generated confusion. They have generated the disillusionment. They have generated mistrust, and have generated doubts about whether our nation can achieve the change that we also yearn for and desire.”

Further, the maverick leader pointed out that the unfolding of events, tactics and behaviour of the BMD have revealed that they have in their midst, men and women who do not believe in this change that they all see this country needs; “we have men and women whose lack of belief causes them to work against every little effort to present to this country the type of choice of leaders and political formation that our citizens can choose from on an election day,” he quipped.

“This, alone, is a travesty; it is a tragedy, for this is part of the vision that we have shared with so many of our citizens, that our movement is a movement that should be a meeting of great leaders of men and women that ordinary people can choose from in this nation,” he added. He also mentioned that “the current impasse in the BMD is not a traditional difference of opinion. It is not a contest of ideas or a contest of ideology. It is not a traditional competition among leaders for traditional leadership. The current situation in the BMD is much deeper than what meets the eye.”

He takes a swipe at BDP government for poor governance

Ndaba did not spare the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for its misdeeds. He started by pointing out that Botswana needs a government because they are tired of a government that buys Fighter Jets and Gripens at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) at the expense of financing projects that could transform the lives of the people. He added that the country needs a new government because the current one cannot account for major public expenditure saying it’s for security reasons.

“We need government because the current government is not able to manage large national potentially transformational projects. We need a new government because the current one doesn’t believe in the talent of their citizens choking their creativity including their own. We need a new government because the current one is suspicious of everybody, its suspicious of investors, and degrades the workers.”

The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker said BDP government conceals injustices, and that it is a government which has a secret service that runs the government behind the scenes with fear mongering and intimidation. “We need a government that takes care of all its affairs, and cultivates the minds of people that they too can become anything behind the sun. We are that government. And we will become that government. We have so many competent people to transform the lives of our people.”

 “We will fight for what Motswaledi stood for”

According to the son of ex and late Minister of Finance and Development Planning, “some in our midst say we are fighting for some power in the high echelons of the party, they say there is place of dominance in this fighting, they say we are fighting for a high place in a high seat in the government of 2019 should we win election.”

However Ndaba thinks otherwise: “no, this is not our fight or our war. We fight for a new Botswana. We fight for our nation the same vision by our great leader Gomolemo Motswaledi, the great vision of all fair minded citizens of this country.”
“It is always good to fight for something, even if you are wrong, and indeed we might be wrong,” he highlighted.

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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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