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BOPEU President takes government head on!

BOPEU’s new President, Masego Mogwera, has come out with guns blazing that Government cannot and must not abdicate its primary responsibility and priority.

 

Mogwera has pointed out that, by abdicating its priority, its primary responsibility, the Government will then have no role to play in the lives of the citizens, the welfare of the nation and the future of the country and thus its purpose and relevance will be questionable. BOPEU’s iron lady was addressing members of the media two days after the presentation of the 2017/2018 budget speech.


Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Mathambo, has during the 2017 / 2018 National Development Budget proposals in the National Assembly remarked that, “with regard to employment creation, it is important to clarify that the principal role of Government is not to create jobs directly, but to provide a conducive macroeconomic environment to facilitate the development of the private sector”.

 

BOPEU has come out openly to differ with the Minister of Finance on his assertions that it is not Government responsibility to create jobs.  BOPEU President, Masego Mogwera has fiercely went on an outrage that “BOPEU vehemently rejects this preposition and characterize it as an abdication of state responsibility”. The statement by the Finance Minister is a departure from the stance of Government in the 2016/17 Budget.


Further the stance of the Minister of Finance on job creation is contrary to Government’s international obligations under the DECENT WORK COUNTRY PROGRAMME, entered by and between the Government of Botswana and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the 17th of February 2011 where amongst other things, employment creation was identified as Botswana’s top priority.

 

It is for this reason that during the last national budget speech, Government remarkably outlined some of the economic activities undertaken by Government with potential for creating employment such as infrastructure backlog eradication, road networks and maintenance, wildlife and tourism initiatives among others. Mogwera thus lamented that, “it was therefore utterly shocking and devastating to hear Minister Mathambo abdicating the Government from its number one responsibility. And one may wonder what will be the role of Government if it is abdicating itself from its number one priority”?


BOPEU’s iron lady further contents that, the 2017/18 budget speech statement on the role of Government in job creation and the 2016/17 budget speech employment creation strategies depicts what she terms “glaring contradictions”. She further contents that the 2016/17 Budget approach to job creation by Government was very commendable despite the lack of specific and measurable targets and sustainability of the jobs alluded to.

 

The approach resonated well with listing job creation as a national priority.  In BOPEU’s view, Government should have endeavoured to improve this approach rather than opting to eliminate it and deciding to occupy the back seat to watch as business ‘presumably’ takes place.


When this publication quizzed Mogwera whether there is a distinct difference between job creations and creating an environment for equitable job creation she hit back that, “Government’s effort to provide a conducive environment to facilitate development of the private sector is not a new phenomenon and has never seen the light of the day. The promised improvements in ICT, electricity and water supply and land policing and servicing among other things as efforts to create a conducive business environment are not justifiable and adequate for job creation initiative.”


Though BOPEU iron lady concurs that Government should create a conducive environment for the private sector to create employment, she is however of the firm view that Government has a direct responsibility in job creation without necessarily ballooning the wage bill by identifying strategic sectors such as tourism and mining with a potential for employment creation. And she emphasises that Mathambo must be clear if this new view is his or it’s a collective Government view because it is a total deviation from last year’s budget and economic plan.


To further compound this contradiction, Government has further committed itself to employment creation in the context of the NDP 11 theme; ‘inclusive growth for realization of employment creation and poverty eradication’. This theme was aptly crafted and befitting to national priorities.

 

Impressively in good accord with the NDP 11 theme, the 2017/18 Government has set a timeline target for the eradication of abject poverty by December 2017; a commendable approach which Mogwera says should have been adopted for employment creation as well. Mogwera is firm that it is for this reason that BOPEU leadership has resolved to call on Government to retract the statement and reconsider its position in so far as job creation is concerned.


BOPEU has also indicated that it has made some proposals in light of the 2017 / 2018 national development budget and will be sending them to Government for consideration. Amongst these proposals is that Government should assume a leading as opposed to a back-bench role with job creation. “We believe that Government should lead job creation initiatives by identifying appropriate and strategic industries to leverage on and inject capital for job creation initiatives” noted Mogwera.

 

It is BOPEU’S assertion that in this way Government, nurtures small businesses with growth potential to expand into big businesses and in turn create employment opportunities for local people. This ‘hand-holding’ and ‘incubation’ of small and medium scale businesses is necessary where local business have persistently failed to position themselves as engines of growth.


Mogwera continued to tell this publication that they believe that small and medium sized businesses contribute immensely to self-employment and improvement of household incomes and livelihoods and hence setting clear targets is the sure way to working within the ambit of strategy monitoring and evaluation, a commendable new national priority government has identified in the 2017/18 budget.  “The Government must take a leading and direct role in employment creation. In our view, job-creation is government responsibility”, Mogwera emphasised.


BOPEU’s new President has also indicated that they are once more sending a proposal to Government that as part of exploring various alternatives to job creation, Government should put in place tax incentives to encourage local companies to employ more graduates. This is not the first time that BOPEU has made this proposal to Government and BOPEU seems to be hell bent on pursuing this proposal until it sees the light of the day. This proposal was first made by BOPEU after the 2015 / 2016 budget speech during their then breakfast budget speech review.


It is through this proposal that BOPEU is asserting that through the Government should set a specific number of employees that should any local company employ, such an employer would be entitled to tax exemption. In essence, the more graduates a company employs, the more tax exemption it enjoys.  In this sense, in their feat to avoid tax, local companies will be encouraged to employ more graduates.

 

This can help circumvent the rampant crisis of graduate unemployment and this is what Mogwera asserts is amongst the many ways of direct job creation by Government that Mathambo’s 2017/2018 seeks to abdicate the Government from as a number one priority and primary responsibility. Mogwera further contents that, in doing so, the Botswana Government as a signatory to the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work Country Programme, should take all necessary measures to ensure that jobs created are decent.

 

Decent and sustainable jobs are emphasized in the Decent Work Country Programme of the International Labour Organization which Botswana Government’s international obligations under the Decent Work Country Programme, entered by and between the Government of Botswana and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the 17th of February 2011 where amongst other things, employment creation was identified as Botswana’s top priority.

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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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