Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane has warned that recent events will most likely lead to unprecedented violence in the history of Botswana in the build up towards the 2019 General Elections.
Ntuane has observed that the political climate is becoming hostile with the level of intolerance both in the BDP and opposition having reached high levels. Although Ntuane initially stated this during the BDP Tonota Congress, in his report as secretary general, he reiterated his stand following the violence which erupted at the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Congress last weekend. Several people were injured in the battle for the party’s soul leading to many people condemning the acts.
“Batswana will remember me in 2019. In my secretary general congress report I foretold a violent general election. Preceded by violence at BDP in the run-up to Tonota; now the violence in Bobonong. It is building up to a perfect storm of violence in 2019 at this rate,” he shared with his followers on social media. Ntuane later told this publication that in his view it is time the civil society, clergymen and the media start preaching peace in order to avert the situation. At the BDP Congress in Tonota, it was reported that the party had received an unprecedented number of petitions regarding delegates’ selections in the lead up to the congress which indicated heightened tensions between camps which were contesting for central committee positions.
The party also heard that there was an increase in the number of disciplinary cases which points to a fact that a growing number of members may be losing their way in the heat of tense political moments. “As the ruling party that has overseen the peace and tranquillity in Botswana for the last 50 years, we cannot turn a blind eye to growing hostilities within and between various political parties,” said Ntuane. “If left unchecked, this nation will someday find itself embroiled in political violence that we never thought possible.”
The former Gaborone North South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) legislator indicated that early signs such as toxic language on radios, hostile altercations at bye-elections meant that more could be coming. He said while the ruling party could not dictate to opposition parties what to do, the ruling party should be a leading example. Ntuane has emerged as a pacifist in the BDP and he does not regret his decision to snub the party lobby list ahead of the Tonota Congress. He said he did so in the interest of the party as a way of promoting unity ahead of the crucial party primary elections and the 2019 general elections.
Ntuane also wishes to see the tension between the ruling party and Trade Unions, especially BOFEPEUSU easing out. BOFEPUSU and government have been at loggerheads since 2011. Among African countries Botswana is ranked as the most peaceful and the longest standing democracy in Africa. Since 1965, Botswana has held general elections every five years without fail with both participating parties accepting the results. The BDP has been in power since 1965.
However, the 2014 dynamics put to test Botswana’s democratic and peace credentials as the nation approaches the highly anticipated 2019 general elections. For the first time in history, BDP’s popular vote fell below 50 percent opening up the possibility of the party losing power in the next general election. Several electoral reforms have also created an environment of uncertainty as far as the country’s peace is concerned. These reforms include the introduction of the controversial Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) which is being challenged in court by opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP). Already opposition has marched in protest to the introduction of the EVM.
Some section of the society, including the late former President Sir Ketumile Masire believe the EVM could become one of the factors of instability which is unnecessary in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. The EVMs have its own opponents in the BDP among them party veteran Daniel Kwelagobe who has gone on record saying there is no case for introducing the EVM.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.