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Masisi’s surprise VP package

All factors remaining constant, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to ascend to the Presidency next year April, and like a natural occurrence, this has motivated ambition among some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) cabinet ministers who wish to become Vice Presidents next at the time.


A demonstration that a completely new dispensation is coming resonates in the Vice President wish list that has some surprising names, including but not limited to Slumber Tsogwane, Shaw Kgathi, Samson Guma Moyo, and Eric Molale. All these four individuals are serving or have served in Cabinet. As these names are suggested as potential candidates, some within the BDP are quick to dismiss it as a “joke” or “flattery”.  But by the look of things, there is credence in the reverberations.


Insiders point to the fact that the ongoing battle for the control of the ruling party is far bigger than the central committee positions. The current axis within the ruling party have nothing to do with the dismembered A Team and Barata Phathi factions, but rather personalized battles for survival as well as the general interest of saving the party beyond 2019. The bigger price could be the Presidency come 2019.


Masisi will definitely pick his Vice President from the current crop of Members of Parliament of his ruling party, at least for the period between April 1st and the 2019 general election. Insiders further indicate that the Masisi battalion is of view that the Vice Presidential pick should be a permanent appointment that can go beyond 2019 elections – they do not necessarily fancy a stop gap appointment for the period between April 2018 and 2019 elections – “why waste time?”, that is the question they are pushing.


This push however eliminates Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale who currently has no constituency. For a Vice President, one must be an elected Member of Parliament, Molale was Specially Elected by President Khama and his bid to get the public vote hit a snag when he was hammered by Barolong paramount chief, Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II.


Those close to Molale point out that he remains hopeful because he still harbours the interest to contest the Goodhope-Mabule constituency in 2019. Molale, a former permanent secretary to the president under former President Dr Festus Mogae and recently President Khama is not a popular figure within the ruling party. The fact that he struggled to against Lotlaamoreng in the bye-election sealed his fate in the party circles – all that remains is just his personal ambition.


Slumber Tsogwane’s motivation arises on a stop gap basis according to those close to the script. He is seen as a man who would not hurt a fly and would not want to cling to the position post 2019 election. However his short term ambition works against the agenda of the influential figures within the Masisi brigade who want a permanent appointment on the assumption that the BDP is winning the 2019 general election – “Why waste time?” is the question. But Tsogwane is said to be definitely on Masisi’s side and he is seen as a non-offensive figure who could be trusted to hold fort temporarily.


Shaw Khathi is the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, a very senior ministry under President Lt gen Dr Ian Khama. He is a member of the central committee, serving as the deputy secretary general and chairing one of the critical sub committees of the party – communications and international relations. Kgathi is a key member of the Khama cabinet and is in the good books of Vice President Masisi.

 

All these factors are said to have pushed his anxiety levels when it comes to the Vice Presidential race – the lobbying is on over drive. He fits both ways, at stop gap and permanent appointment because he has a constituency and he is confident he will get a return ticket from the Bobonong voters in 2019. Insiders say his fate will be decided by the BDP members at the July congress where he intends to defend his position of deputy secretary general.


Interesstingly Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma Moyo is seen as the real contender for the Vice Presidency post. Moyo is one of the known backers of Masisi, he catapulted the current Vice President to chairmanship at the last congress, bankrolling most of the campaign.

 

Moyo, a former chairman of the party himself who resigned unceremoniously before his term expired, is also an ambitious and calculative politician. Some inside the BDP believe that he is helping Masisi as a way of creating a fertile ground for himself when it comes to the Vice Presidency. BDP people speculate that Moyo could be having presidential ambitions beyond Masisi. At some point the Tati East legislator wanted to sponsor a Private Member’s Bill on Direct Election of the President, a law that would potentially widen the net for Presidential aspirations.


MOLEFHI’S “SYMPATHISERS” LEFT OUT


There is no doubt that Selibe Phikwe East Member of Parliament, who is also Minister of Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi has his own legion of supporters and well wishers within the party. He has expressed interest to challenge for the position of chairman of the BDP, a decision that pits him directly against Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi who intends to defend the chairmanship. Molefhi is seen or was seen as a potential Vice President pick under President Khama and futuristically under Masisi.

 

But insiders say his decision to challenge for chairmanship has scuttled his chances unless Masisi finds the strength that Khama drew out to appoint former Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe who had challenged him for chairmanship of the party before.
Tshekedi Khama is well known for his outspokenness and had expressed interest in standing for chairmanship and leadership of the BDP, but he has not acted, at least for now, on his ambitions yet. Because of his name and relation with the President, Tshekedi is seen as a potential leader within the party but political correctness has cast doubt on his ambitions. Indications are that both camps need his endorsement to score further points at the July congress. There is also no doubt that he remains a key figure in making the king or becoming one himself in the short to medium term.


Dorcas Makgato is expected to retain her position as chairperson of the BDP Women’s Wing at the weekend. Makgato, who is Member of Parliament for Sefhare-Ramokgonami and Minister of Health and Wellness has dug deep and solidified her political standing. Her name has always been pronounced along the Vice Presidential debate ever since she joined politics but her detractors have smeared her name and associated her with those who are against Vice President Masisi.

 

In an attempt to further push her down the abyss there was a lobby to motivate Francistown Mayoress, Sylviah Muzila to challenge her for the chairmanship of the BDP Youth Wing but she declined. Makgato is seen as opinionated and not afraid to say her mind on the state of the party and government. She is seen much a Molefhi sympathizer – her chance rests with the July congress.


Dr Venson-Moitoi recently returned from a bruising battle at the African Union Commission where she sought to become the Commission’s chairperson. Some within the BDP saw her as a potential Vice President, especially five years ago. But the assumption that she is not coming back to Parliament after the 2019 general election could rule her out of the ongoing lobby. As for the stop gap appointment – which is the only shot she has at Vice Presidency in the short time – Masisi’s supporters still ask the question, “why waste time?”. But she remains the best candidate for the period between April 2018 and 2019 general election date because she will be exiting the active political scene.


Phillip Makgalemele has ambitions for Vice Presidency and he could be lobbying somehow. He has served as junior Minister at the then Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administratio but his cold war with Molale saw him shipped to a different Ministry. The Shoshong Member of Parliament is not one to shy away from demonstrating his capability; he is expected to stake his claim albeit at a moderated dose.

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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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