SONA silent on assets disposal, Opposition MPs not amused
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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Malawi appeals for help over Cyclone Freddy at PAP
As of yesterday evening, the death toll from the Cyclone in Malawi had risen from the initially reported 190 to 225 in a short period of time, over 20 000 people have been displaced, and the worst of fears are yet to come as the fatalities continue to mount. This was reported by a Malawi Member of Parliament attending the Pan African Parliament session in Midrand, South Africa, Hon Steven Mikiya.
Mikiya was giving a statement on behalf of Malawi as the ongoing Pan African Parliament in South Africa.
Mikiya said the Cyclone has wreaked the most havoc in our country’s Southern Region. “The Southern Region, has been hardest hit with widespread heavy rains and strong winds. This caused a rapid rise in water levels and subsequent flooding. Meanwhile, power supply has been disrupted, roads blocked off and rendered impassable and mudslides have also been widely reported,” he said.
He made a special appeal to the PAP: “Where I come from, there is a parable which I would like to share with you which says, “mzako weniweni umamudziwa panthawi ya mavuto.” Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed or put loosely, a person who helps at a difficult time is a friend you can rely on.”
Mikiya continued: “Yes! Misfortune has knocked on our door and left in its wake a trail of death and destruction that may take years to fully recover from. However, amidst these difficulties, I have every reason to believe that sometimes when you are in a dark place and think you have been buried, you have actually been planted. My belief, Mr. President, arises out of my faith in this gathering and out of the conviction that it is not coincidental that Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi and Mozambique while the delegations of both countries are here.”
According to Mikiya, the level of destruction, the loss of life, property and the decimation of the entire fabric of established communities has been unprecedented. He noted that all this, is coming at a time when Malawi was starting to show signs of recovery from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that also came hard on the heels of Cyclone Ana and Cyclone Gombe that left a similar trail of devastation and destruction in Malawi and neighbouring countries.
As of Sunday, this week, from the 12th of March, Malawi and Mozambique have been facing the devastating effects of Cyclone Freddy that made a landfall over Mozambique on Saturday the 11th and reached Malawi by Sunday the 12th of March.
The Malawi legislator said he has absolute faith in the Pan African Parliament, which he described as “a league of nations brought together by a shared ancestry, history, identity as well as our beloved continent which we inhabit”.
Meanwhile, Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, has declared a State of Disaster in the affected areas effectively appealing for local and international support for the affected families.
Mikiya appealed to the Pan African Parliament drawing “positive” inspiration from Europe which rallied around Turkey after the destructive earthquakes to bring the much-needed relief and humanitarian aid to the people of Turkey.
He said Africa should demonstrate to the world that the African Union and its Organs are not mere talk shows, but effective institutions which stand up when it matters most.
“Alone, it may take us a lifetime to fully recover, but together, in the Pan-Africanist spirit of Ubuntu, our lives and livelihoods will return to a semblance of normality in record time. This is the time to live by our operative mantra, “One Africa, One Voice.” Mikiya concluded.