Former cabinet Minister, Jacob Nkate, has said he still have presidential ambitions ahead of 2019 general election despite chickening out of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) July Congress chairmanship race.
Nkate who had initially declared that he will contest the chairmanship in Tonota has resorted to the secretary general position where he will face the incumbent, Botsalo Ntuane and Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Phillip Makgalemele. In his own view, the secretary general position is more prestigious as compared to the chairmanship since the former will put him at the helm of the party and its structures.
“I decided after getting here than I can make better contribution to party in the position of secretary general as opposed to the chairman,” he told this publication in an exclusive interview this week. “It is because the secretary general is the melting pot of all issues in the BDP; you get to travel around the country to help the structures, form the structures and supervise them. I think that is something I am good at. I have done it before.”
Nkate who served as party secretary general from 2007-2009 remark that the position of the secretary general is a much more challenging position in terms of making the party a success, as compared to that of chairman. He said although he support Masisi for the chairmanship at the upcoming congress, the two of them did not reach any deal to offer Masisi free passage to the top in exchange for the vice president position in 2019.
“The idea that I have a deal with Masisi and that he will make me vice president is not true. No deal like that exists,’ he denied and added that, “Upon arriving in a country from Japan, I thought let me hear what the situation is on the ground and my conclusion was that maybe I should support him so that I do not cause too much disruptions in my party. And then we can take it from there. If between now and 2019, me and Masisi do not agree, my rights are on the table. All the options are on the table.”
Nkate stated that he decide not to challenge Masisi because his priority is 2019 but between now and 2019 he will look at the situation if the need arises for him to compete, he will compete. He said although he had made a decision not to challenge Masisi for the chairmanship, it is a good thing that they are others who have expressed interest in contesting for the chairmanship.
“It is their constitutional right, it is a good thing and it is always a good thing when an organisation of the size of the BDP goes to congress for people to express their views. The fact that I am not standing against Masisi is a personal choice and I am not going to criticise anyone for standing,” he stated. Nkate said it is impossible for a party of BDP’s size to have people agreeing all the time, noting that it is a normal thing for people to hold different views and such should be embraced.
“The BDP has 580 000 registered members in the whole country. You want all 580 000 members to agree? We will never agree. If Botsalo [Ntuane] happens to be on the other side and I am on the other side, I think it is a healthy conversation. He is a very intelligent man and I am happy to engage him,” he said confidently.
“People who say they do not want factions, they themselves are a faction. People make look bad if I disagree with others, they say I should follow blindly. It’s not going to happen. The idea that someone like me should be quiet is wrong. I am a voice and this voice must be heard,” Nkate further stated.
ON BDP DECLINING POPULARITY
The former Minister of Education is of the view that the BDP has detached itself from the citizens, something he attributes to the declining popularity of the party. The 2014 general elections dealt BDP a blow, losing unprecedented 20 seats to opposition parties and gaining a popular vote below 50 percent for the first time since independence.
‘I think the BDP needs to reconnect with the people; to have a message that resonates with the people. I do not think people are hearing us, we need to re-message and recalibrate. We need to understand what the biggest concern of the people is. We need to hear the people and people should hear us,” he noted.
“Unemployment: huge problem, we must be able to say to people what we are doing. Health; in a lot of hospitals in Botswana, people are sleeping on the floor and in passages. I am not criticising my party. I am saying let us talk about these issues.” Nkate said the entire government machinery is engulfed with problems which people are not happy about, something which he said BDP should swiftly move to address if it is to endear itself to the voters again.
“35 percent pass rate at secondary junior level is bad, people are not happy about these. We are not a corrupt country, we do not believe in corruption but there is a perception that people can do whatever they like without anything done to them. These are the issues I want my party to engage with the people about,” he remarked.
The former A-Team faction leader insists that BDP has to find its connection with the people, and for them to do that they have to allow the people to talk to them, and to believe that they are being heard: “You do that by opening your ears, opening your eyes, opening your heart. It’s all about running an effective government.”
ON GOVERNMENT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORKERS
Nkate opined that the government have got it wrong; the manner in which it has been handling issues regarding workers and their unions. Since the infamous 2011 public servants strike, government have had an acrimonious relationship with the unions. Botswana Federation of Public Servant Union (BOFEPUSU) resolved in 2014 for the first time to endorse opposition in the general elections. BOFEPUSU itself was instrumental in the formation of the opposition coalition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which now encompasses all opposition parties with representation in parliament.
“The workers of these countries are the creators of the wealth. They are the creators of the wealth that drives the country forward,” he observed. “A government that sits and sulks for five years against the workers of the country is not going to succeed, because if the workers themselves sulk the same way, then the government is not going to go forward.” The onetime BDP Youth Wing leader said that the workers are in fact the driver of the vehicle that is Botswana.
“I want a good honest conversation to take place between the government and the workers,” he said. He said during his absence from active politics as an ambassador, he was not able to advise the party because he made a point of separating himself from politics.
ON FORMATION OF BMD
Despite being at the helm of faction in the run up to Kanye, Nkate never imagined that such would lead to a sad ending. The victory of Barataphathi at Kanye Congress in 2009 set in motion a chain of events which led to the splitting of the party, resulting in the formation of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which forms part of the UDC coalition.
“Any split, whether is in the family, in a political party, in a company, is not a good thing. Yes it hurt us,” he admitted. “I did say when Rammidi left us in Mahalapye: bad thing, I say today that was a bad thing, the formation of BMD: bad thing. One of my most important goals should I succeed as secretary general of the BDP is to bring our people back. Because I know that their philosophy is the same as mine. You cannot take that away.”Nkate admits that BDP should have handled the matter differently to avoid the split.
CRITICISM OF BCL SALE
Nkate has expressed his displeasure with the way BCL liquidation and sale was handled. “I have a criticism on the way BCL liquidation process and the alleged purchase by Arab group is being handled. I am saying, where is the information? I am also aware that government cannot negotiate on the radio or newspapers but I think the government should give us information that will let us know that there is good and honest process,” he said. “That good process should lead to positive results. I support privatisation in some circumstances and I am not suggesting that BCL deal is a bad deal because I do not know. That is the problem.”
Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.
This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory. Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.
The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service. “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”
According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service. It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.
“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.
The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.
“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”
The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.
The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.
“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.
“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.
It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement. The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.
It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.
In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics. “In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.
The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.
Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.
It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations. According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.
“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says. It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.
The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.
Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.” She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.
“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.
The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.
She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.
She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon. “The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.
Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.
“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.
Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section. “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”
She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”