Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Selebi Phikwe Regional Office had to deal with a very hostile Branch Committee Chairperson for Selebi Phikwe East, Margaret Podiephatswa who collided with her superiors at the regional office over her branch’s elective congress on Wednesday night at Botshabelo Community Hall.
Podiephatshwa wanted the elections postponed for the third time to first deal with grievances from different wards, but the Deputy Chairperson for Selebi Phikwe Region, Master Mmereki went ahead and conducted the election. Selebi Phikwe East Branch (Constituency) whose Member of Parliament (MP), Nonofo Molefhi is in a fierce contest for the BDP Chairmanship against Vice President and incumbent Chairperson, Mokgweetsi Masisi is rocked with divisions. However, the Wednesday elections ensured that like in Selebi Phikwe West, Molefhi’s faction gets a whitewash victory.
After the Branch Chairperson, Margaret Podiephatshwa said there will be no elections, the Regional Deputy Chairperson overruled her decision and conducted the election after he has ensured that the representation in the organs that participates in the voting process forms a quorum.
No voting took place as nominations produced the exact number of delegates required, a technical move that left the aggrieved parties without representation. Podiephatshwa stated after the elections that she does not accept the outcome of the election as due process was not followed. Mmereki advised the Branch Chairperson to follow due process to launch her protest in writing.
The aggrieved parties are Botshabelo East, Botshabelo North and Ikageleng Phase II. These three wards are headed by the only three BDP councillors in Selebi Phikwe who are reportedly supporting the Vice President instead of their area MP. These wards submitted letters of grievance on the Election Day on Tuesday and the Regional Committee postponed the election to Wednesday. The aggrieved parties cited irregularities with the election of delegates at their respective wards. On Wednesday, the problem has still not been resolved but the regional office did not budge.
The problem at wards level is alleged that factions that supports Masisi were defeated and they have resorted to disturbing the smooth process of the election of delegates for the branch. Former Mayor, Leornard Mojuta who is reportedly ready to tussle with Molefhi in the BDP primaries is said to have been allocated Botshabelo East Ward to lead the campaign trail to garner supports for Masisi. Botshabelo East is currently under the leadership of Botswana Congress Party.
Mojuta together with councillors, Lillian Sethula of Ikageleng Phase II and Gaopalelwe Letsobe of Botshabelo North are fingered to be sowing seeds of division within the party in their attempt to win support for Masisi. Some BDP supporters in the constituency accused the councillors of employing divide and rule tactics, thus creating factions in the party. Members of the party opposing the trio have accused them of neglecting their roles as unifiers but instead their leadership has created cracks in the party which they bemoan could diminish the fortunes of the BDP in the 2019 general elections.
The factional line is support of either Masisi or Molefhi in Selebi Phikwe East has divided BDP in the constituency ahead of the coming National Elective Congress in Tonota. Meanwhile, the Branch Chairperson who is also rumoured to be supporting Masisi has been accused of failing the constituency. Speaking at the Wednesday election, Podiephatshwa noted that it was her time to exercise her authority as the branch chairperson.
When announcing that the elections will not go on, she was booed by the crowd, a situation that created a fearful atmosphere. The incensed group of the majority of people who wanted the election conducted questioned Podiephatshwa’s impartiality as the branch chairperson, accusing her of fuelling the tension and factionalism that had engulfed the BDP in the constituency since their Area MP exercised his democratic right to contest against Masisi for the party chairmanship.
Mmereki who was the election officer, warned democrats that their disruptive behaviour was out of line. He read the BDP’s code of conduct pointing out that behaving in a gross manner that disturbs the smooth function of the party is a punishable offence. The Regional Deputy Chairpersons spoke strongly of the outlandish behaviour displayed by some democrats who wanted to make the election process difficult.
At the failed meeting on Tuesday, Selebi Phikwe Regional Secretary, Abraham Chakalisa also warned democrats to address their differences amicably and not bring them into party business and disturb the peace. Chakalisa also told democrats that their Branch Chairperson told them that they are not welcome at the meeting as the Regional Office. “When we arrived here, your branch chairperson did not welcome us. She told us that we are not welcome here but he have welcomed ourselves,” said Chakalisa.
Despite all the disruption and postponement, the election was finally conducted and Molefhi camp celebrated their victory. The democrats supporting Molefhi which were predominantly young women chanted victory songs on Wednesday night. It remains to be seen whether the Branch Chairperson will launch a protest and what outcome will the democrats arrive at.
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.