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Explosive land deal pits Minister against Lobatse Councillors

A plot by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security who doubles as Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, is allegedly working in cohorts with Lobatse Town Council (LTC) under the mayor-ship of Malebogo Kruger, to influence the leasing of the town bus rank.


At the time of going to print, the lease was at adjudication process, but the political wing of the Council was abuzz with allegations that all stakes were high for one preferred company (name withheld) to undertake the mega project of building the mall at the site. Kebonang is said to be desperately trying to tilt the scales for selfish ends in this matter.


“The project will be allocated to this particular company because of its association with the area MP and Minister. The awarding of the tender is expected any time soon,” Lobatse Town Councillor for Tsopeng North, Gofaone Kedise, leveled the allegations in a recent interview.


The Council has drafted tender notice and invitation to tender, tender data, standardized condition of tender for the development of the mall and already five companies have tendered. Information reaching this publication suggests that the tender is a restricted internal tender to only five companies and other companies are out of bound to tender.


Reasons for considering only the five is said to be that they have applied before, and at the time of going for press the tenders for the five have been submitted and awaiting adjudication results. The restricted companies for the mall include Star Petroleum (Pty) Ltd, EMRE (Pty) Ltd, KIP (Pty) Ltd, DSP (Pty) Ltd, and Botanka and company.


Councillor Kedise mentioned that out of the five restricted companies bidding for the tender, the four others are just used as pawns to appear like there is an element of transparency. Further, information turned down by this publication suggest that in 2014 February, Kebonang announced at a kgotla meeting that they will be a company to be revealed in due process that will construct the shopping center. Allegedly, it was before Civic leaders knew about where the mall will be built.


However, Kebonang has dismissed suggestions that he is a shareholder in one of the companies bidding for the tender and stressed that he also has no influence in the tendering process, but has interest in it in his capacity only as area MP: “The process is fair and transparent. As an MP, I also talk to many people to come invest in Lobatse but I have no personal interest at all to tilt scales in the tender.”   


The Lobatse lawmaker insisted on his support for the erection of the new mall since it will bring developments, create employment, and arouse economic activity to his constituency. He emphasised that there is no alternative plot to construct the mall and hence they used the bus rank space. He did admit however that he is aware about the discontentment by some. He underscored that developments come with inconvenience but at the end the benefits outweighs the inconvenience.


The new shopping centre is said to be enrooted to contradict the grander development plan for the town, dubbed Lobatse Regeneration Scheme. In the scheme the disposition was to upgrade the existing mall as is. Lobatse Regeneration Scheme has already been funded at the tune of 2 billion pula by the government but Lobatse legislator, Kebonang and LTC appears to have bypassed the grand initiative by moving to erect the mall at the bus rank.


The new-fangled mall will be instituted right on the same bus rank plot 333 under supposedly a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement. It will be constructed in an open area of approximately 1.2 hectares which contributes to the 3.36 hectares of the area in totality.
According to the Tsopeng North ward Councillor, Kedise, many proposals were submitted to the Council before, with one by Cambridge Investments (Pty) Ltd who possessed the much needed land and just wanted to meet the Council to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, but were made to wait and rejected.


Further, the new development is expected to take its toll on the informal sector and small business people at the existing bus rank as they will be most disadvantaged and displaced. “The informal sector will be seriously affected by this. The mall near the bus rank will also be negatively affected. The PPP takes its toll on the public because it displaces bus rank and the informal sector but only a few will benefit,” Kedise highlighted.  


But, Lobatse Mayor, Malebogo Kruger, confirmed that the Council will indeed lease the land to what she termed “deserving” investors under PPP arrangement through a transparent tendering process. She said as the Council they support the building of the new mall at the earmarked plot at bus rank despite numerous objections. “We initiated and support the project. We are bringing developments in the form of the new mall. Land belongs to the Council and we are leasing it out to serious investors,” she pointed out briefly.


But Councillor Kedise’s concern is that, as far back as 2007, the Council never advised the many applicants who wished to build malls in other areas of the town about the availability of land at the bus rank. The Council had been rejecting such application in recent years.
“We want the developments like the mall, but we want them clean,” lamented Kedise. He further observed that “we are also conjecturing why ‘all incorporating’ Lobatse Regeneration Scheme was overlooked and the new mall preferred.”


He reminisced that sometime in 2011, Councillor Rosemary Bosilong, moved a motion to the effect “that the Lobatse plantation plot be allocated as one plot for the development of commercial sector.” The motion then passed but however the Council sat on it.
The motion was necessitated by a demand by a number of companies whom also wanted to build a mall at the area.  


It is also said that another company had wanted to build the mall at the Lobatse old stadium plot not far from Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) headquarters – but were both turned down on unclear reasons. On the 29th September 2011, there was also a motion at LTC moved by the then Boswelatlou Councillor, Zubeida Raphael, with the intention to request that Lobatse old stadium plot no. 1890 Civic centre/community be turned into a commercial plot. The motion was however defeated with the reasons that the area is already developed and it cannot be changed.


Some companies from South Africa had also wanted to build a state of the art mall at the same old Lobatse stadium of the similar magnitude as of Olimpia stadium in Rustenburg, inclusive of tennis court and other sporting course grounds as well as the mall itself. Indications suggest that the Department of Lands, Town and Regional Planning in Gaborone then cautioned the town Council against submitting peace-meal plans. Instead they advised the Council to compose the Lobatse Regeneration Scheme which is ‘all encompassing.’


Before then, it is understood that some companies also came on board with endeavors to request Council to grant them leeway to build the mall in an area adjacent to Lobatse Town Park but were turned down. Meanwhile Ex Lobatse legislator, Nehemiah Modubule also expressed disapproval of the mall as he smells conspiracy between the incumbent town law maker, Kebonang and the investors of the mall.


He said Lobatse community was only informed of the move and not necessarily ‘consulted.’ Modubule was worried about the informal sector in terms of where they will be placed. According to the former MP, Lobatse does not need a mall but an economic development plan to grow the economy of the town. “There is high unemployment in Lobatse, if they build the mall, who will buy in these malls? Lobatse need industries to attract influx of people to work on those firms,” Modubule pointed out.


He said rumours suggest that Kebomang has shares in the mall and that is why he has been pushing the project so hard to make it see the light of the day. He said while at parliament, he initiated and moved a motion on the formation of Lobatse Economic Diversification Unit (LOBEDU) which is similar to Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) which only needs implementation.

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Motamma Horatius on politics and motherhood

13th January 2021
motamma

While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.

Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.

Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.

After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.

“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.

“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”

The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.

While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age.  By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.

“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.

She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.

“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.

“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”

“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”

At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.

“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.

“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’

Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.

Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.

According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).

The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.

Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.

Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.

According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.

According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.

These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.

Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.

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Gov’t imposes austerity as financial year closes

11th January 2021
President Masisi

Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.

In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.

“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.

The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021.
It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.

“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.

The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.

With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.

When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).

However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).

Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”

Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.

The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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BDP readies for Congress

11th January 2021
BDP congress

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely.
However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.

Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.

Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.

President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.

According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.

The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.

With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made.
The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.

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