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Drug trade fuelled by top Gov’t officials

Illicit drugs are on the loose in Botswana, fresh information turned up by WeekendPost has revealed. Most of the drugs are smuggled into Botswana from neighbouring countries through un-gazetted areas, including through the border where there is a defective routine search and check-ups.

There are no electronic x-ray machines or scans at the border or points of entry to roughly detect drugs and law enforcers rely only on “intelligence”, this publication has learnt. This publication has further turned up information to the effect that a high number of citizens of Botswana are recorded as involved in this cross border drug smuggling than foreigners. Point of entry check-ups are seen as flawed and an uncomplicated freeway by drug lords who hide the illegal substances in strategic car parts, restaurants food packs boxes, credulous body parts like armpits, beneath private parts including out rightly swallowing them.

They would later excrete them through the anal passage. According to highly placed sources in the fight for substance abuse and rehabilitation, the most smuggled drug used by clients remains Marijuana (dagga) followed by Methcathinone which is known as CAT, then crack cocaine (madaena), and cocaine, including others like Heroin. Botswana Police Service (BPS) Director of Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Busang Lesola has raised the red flag concerning drug usage in Botswana. He told this publication that illegal drug use and trade is of serious concern in Botswana and they (CID) are doing everything within their power to address it.

The sentiment was also echoed by Officer Commanding at Narcotics, Fauna and Flora Investigations (NFFI), Detective Senior Superintendent Miriam Kilano who also confirmed to WeekendPost in an interview that they have many cases in relation to the said drugs which regrettably find their way into the country and are utilized by citizens and foreigners. She described the state of affairs as “seriously of concern” to her department and the public in general. Investigations by this publication have uncovered that cocaine can be categorized as the most expensive with a customer base cutting across all socio-economic groups – particularly people with financial power.

The illegal drug is in powder form and costs around BWP 300 per sachet which its effect lasts for almost a month. More investigations by this publication also reveal that although drug use cuts across the education sector, both public and private schools, it is however said to be very rampant at Private Schools. It is understood that dealers may be tapping on the students’ financial significance as a result of their lucrative pocket money as mostly are from well off families.

Recently, the son of Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, together with three alleged crime partners were nabbed with drugs in their possession at a road block in Pitsane en-route to Gaborone from South Africa. On the matter, Kgathi (23) is charged with Tumisang Tlhalefang (24), Kgosietsile Geoffrey Dihutso (23) and Alphius Raditladi (25). The quartet underwent BPS routine search at a road block and were caught with pants down in possession of “11 white blocks packaged in Romany cream biscuits box and thirty pieces contained in a packet of Simba chips suspected to be methacatinone.”

They are due to appear in court on December 6 to face the charges of “unlawful possession of habit forming drugs.” When WeekendPost asked why the drug trade and usage is continuing whilst the hotspots and trade spots are well known by the community and some CID operatives, the CID official was at pains to answer and almost fell short of critiquing the law governing drugs saying it has its own limitations when it comes to arresting the situation.

Information turned up indicates that the lucrative market for the drugs and some of the hotspots drug infested places in Gaborone are said to be the suburban area Phakalane, Phase 2, Maruapula and Tlokweng just to mention a few. In terms of the said places, BPS, CID Officer in Charge, Petrus Nkgetse also confirmed in his interaction with the WeekendPost at CID headquarters, NFFI department in Gaborone. He said that the current law does not speak to those who have smoked the illegal drugs ‘per se’ but only provides that they can only have a case against drug users once they catch them red handed and ‘in possession of such illegal drugs’.

Prior, the police utilized the Drugs and Related Substance Act which was later reviewed to the current one named Medicine and related Substance Act. The new Act, the police say, carries more hefty penalties for perpetrators than the previous. In terms of the new Act and other interventions the CID officials were adamant that the situation is under control as far as they are concerned. Meanwhile, a non- governmental organisation that provides substance abuse education, prevention, and rehabilitation services to the general public, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) said it was equally concerned about the rampant drug use and abuse.

“Drugs, yes, it’s now a very serious problem in Botswana, it’s now rampant,” the oganisation through its Clinical Programs Manger, Lorato Koosaletse told this publication. According to Koosaletse, more of illegal drugs and substances are emerging and the country cannot keep up with the rise. She gave an example of concoction of drugs said to be on the rampage where students and other drug users release faeces, dry them and later mix them with dagga and inhale.

The BOSANET official stressed that students are involved in unlawful drug use “as early as 12 years” and others “old as 60 years” as well as “the rich and the poor” which make part of their client base for rehabilitation. As causes of substance abuse, Koosaletse said most people get into drugs for various reasons such as a public expectation; as a result of peer pressure; for entertainment; and others do drugs out of curiosity, ending up in addiction, among others. The BOSASNet executive also called for “more stricter and punitive laws; more rehabilitation centres or facilities where people can easily get help.”

According to official statistics of a testing and rehabilitation centre, Elite Life Coaching, there cases of a 15 years old female and a 16 years old male who tested positive for crack cocaine as at January 2017. 52 people of all genders also tested positive for marijuana, 42 for crack cocaine, 31 for CAT and 28 for cocaine between April 2015 and January 2017 in Gaborone.

Habit forming Dagga (Marijuana):

According to official statistics by BPS CID, NFFI department, in 2017 between January and March, they arrested 172 citizens and 11 non citizens in connection with 111 cases of 204.6945 kg of Dagga possession. In 2016, there were 617 cases recorded of dagga weighing 1053.422kg from 871 Batswana and 44 non citizens. 652 cases of Dagga possession were also recorded in 2015 weighing 253.6322 kg and 732 citizens and 45 non citizens were arrested to the cases. There were 639 cases of dagga possession also in 2014 and 837 Batswana as well as 33 foreigners were arrested. The said dagga weighed 359.173 kg.   

Marijuana (DAGGA) is a green or grey mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The drug contains a number of substances called cannabinoids and it is these cannabinoids that affect the brain, heart and lungs.
It is smoked in the form of hand-rolled cigarettes or in a pipe. Signs of marijuana abuse are frequently visible in users: red, blurry, bloodshot eyes; constant, mucus-filled cough; rapid heartbeat; hunger, referred to as munchies; dry mouth; anxiety, paranoia, or fear; poor memory; poor coordination.

The recreational Methcathinone (CAT):

Sometimes called “cat” or “jeff” or “catnip” or “intash” is used as a recreational drug due to its potent stimulant and euphoric effects and is considered to be addictive, with both physical and psychological withdrawal occurring if its use is discontinued after prolonged or high-dosage administration.It is usually snorted, but can be smoked, injected, or taken orally; and effects include; feelings of euphoria; Increased alertness; Slurred speech; Shaking of the limbs; Increased heart rate; Risk of blood clots on the brain, heart attacks or strokes; Headaches or Migraine attacks; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or pains in the stomach; Increased empathy and sense of communication; Both decreased and increased sexual function and desire; Bruxism. The effects of methcathinone usually last from four to six hours.

BPS CID, NFFI statistics illustrate that in 2017 from January to March, only 10 cases were recorded in relation to 106.1g of CAT. 14 citizens and 2 expatriates were arrested. In 2016, there was 1560.8273g of CAT confiscated from 40 Batswana and 2 foreigners emanating from the 24 cases recorded. CAT weighing 130.8989g was confiscated from 14 cases involving 25 Batswana and 2 non citizens in 2015. Only 1 case was recorded in 2014 involving 1 citizen in possession of CAT weighing 0.05g.
The addictive Cocaine:

In terms of cocaine, official statistics from CID, NFFI indicate that in the first quarter of 2017, 38 g of the drug was confiscated from 5 Batswana and 4 foreigners in which there were 4 cases. The Cocaine weighed 38g. In 2016, there were 21 cases of 23 Batswana and 3 expatriates found in possession of 4313.7216 g of cocaine. Before that, in 2015, 18 cases were recorded of cocaine weighing 188.5 g involving 22 citizens and 5 non citizens. 19 Batswana where arrested in 2014 in connection to 12 cases of cocaine weighing 146. 915g. Cocaine is an addictive drug derived from coca or prepared synthetically, used as an illegal stimulant and sometimes medicinally as a local anaesthetic.

Cocaine short term effects include; Loss of appetite; Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature; Contracted blood vessels; Increased rate of breathing; Dilated pupils; Disturbed sleep pattern; Nausea; Hyperstimulation; Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior; Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability; Tactile hallucination that creates the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin; Intense euphoria; Anxiety and paranoia; Depression; Intense drug craving; Panic and psychosis; Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time); Cocaine causes heart, kidney, brain and lung damage.

Cocaine Long-term effects include: Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain; High blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death; Liver, kidney and lung damage; Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed; Respiratory failure if smoked; Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected; Malnutrition, weight loss; Severe tooth decay; Auditory and tactile hallucinations; Sexual problems, reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women); Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion; Irritability and mood disturbances; Increased frequency of risky behavior; Delirium or psychosis; Severe depression; Tolerance and addiction (even after just one use).

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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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