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Thursday, 18 April 2024

SONA silent on assets disposal, Opposition MPs not amused

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Opposition Members of Parliament are furious over President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama’s silence on the state of government enterprises and parastatals. They observe that in his State of the Nation Address, President Khama failed to paint the true picture of the country’s state of affairs.  

 

Information gathered by this publication indicates that as of 2016 the Government is owed 1.6 billion pula by Parastatals and state owned enterprises which otherwise should be paying dividend and expanding government revenue if well managed.

 

According to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo, Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) owes government over half a billion pula followed by the electricity service provider, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) at P425.4 million while state owned Development lender, National Development Bank (NDB) is failing to pay P300 million belonging to taxpayers; in addition, Botswana Post and Botswana Savings Bank account for over P240 million owed to Government.

 

Matambo further revealed that the most indebted State Owned enterprise, BMC is actually failing to service its loan. These loans were given out of the Public Debt Service Fund and each loan has a repayment schedule which is used to service such loans.

 

In his address, President Khama announced the formation of a number of parastatals confirming the setting up of Special Economic Zones Authority & Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority.

 

“The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority, which should become operational the coming financial year, has been established to facilitate expansion and diversification in the energy sector,” he said.

 

Policy Specialist, Lawrence Ookeditse on the contrary dismisses the formation of new parastatals as stretching government coffers.  “We cannot be exited over formation of new parastatals and these regulatory bodies, while those already existing are failing to fulfill their establishment mandate,” he observed.

 

OPPOSITION IS NOT IMPRESSED

 

Leader of Opposition in Parliament and President of the UDC, Duma Boko observes that Khama’s control of economy and upholding of good corporate governance is one of his worst failure.

 

When responding to SONA on Wednesday, Boko indicated that:

 

“Khama’s administration is reluctant or unwilling to set any targets for itself. To date no one knows how many jobs the Administration hopes to catalyze each year during the 11th Development Plan period; no one knows how many engineers, artisans or technicians the Administration hopes to churn out; how many professionals, business people and other experts our Immigration system will grant residence to assist our economy to grow.

 

No one wants to commit to just how much and by what order of magnitude to diversify our economy as well as our export base. Such is the tragedy of the Khama Administration’s planning, coordination and governing posture. It is simply just muddling through!”

 

Opposition legislators also stressed that President Khama should attend Parliament after delivering the State of the Nation Address to hear and appreciate MPs’ responses and deliberations and further account to the Nation.

 

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse, who is also BCP spokesperson, observes that Khama just passes over fundamental issues and stresses over lame issues of 18 000 temporary jobs by ESP.

 

“The reality on the ground is that state owned businesses are retrenching and closing shop, people are losing jobs, but the President fails to acknowledge that as the torch bearer person,” he said.

 

According to Keorapetse the purchasing power of an average Motswana has been eroded over the years because of rising prices of commodities in the market.  “SONA did not address these bread and butter issues concerning the economic welfare of our people,”said Keorapetse.

 

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Dr Phenyo Butale who is also UDC parliamentary caucus spokesperson argues that President Khama is completely silent on poor governance at Parastatals and corruption in state owned enterprises. According to Butale the sudden selling of public asserts without procedural processes raises eyebrows.

 

‘’This looting of taxpayer‘s properties and rushed privatization of the national economy is of great concern, it resembles the deeds of people in a rush to steal and crush the economy because they realize their time is up’’ notes the Gaborone Central Legislator citing the recent decision to dispose off part of Morupule power station .

 

“Khama further fails to acknowledge the obvious fact that Botswana‘s education is under threat, University of Botswana, the highest institution of learning in the land is in serious debt and the President goes silent on that and talks about target 20 000, an initiative that enriches fly by night private institutions that are owned by few political elites,” said Butale.

 

“The time has come for the President to sit in parliament and listen to MPs’ responses to SONA and field questions from MPs,” stated Keorapetse in an interview with Weekendpost this week.

 

The youthful and outspoken MP argues  that  the President cannot just deliver the speech and run away, citing that other new entrants to democracy  like South Africa have presidents sitting in parliament to account to MPs and be subjected to responses on SONA.

 

MP Butale shared the same sentiments: “We have a president who doesn’t want to be put to scrutiny and account, he delivers a huge speech that is defeated by the reality on the ground and then runs away.”

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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