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Friday, 19 April 2024

BDP backbenchers grief on economy, corruption

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Following presentations of the National Development Plan 11 and the State of the Nation Address by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo and President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama respectively, some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers have expressed misgivings on the state of the economy and challenged the system to address public concerns.


Member of Parliament for Tati East Samson Guma Moyo revisited the then Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando’s motion of Declaration of assets by senior government officials and political office bearers. Guma Moyo argues that such a law would go a long way into bringing about public confidence and trust in public office bearers and political leaders.

 


Driving his message home, Guma Moyo explained: “I talk about this matter because I am a victim of circumstances and as a public figure, and all of us in this House, and we are custodians of people’s values and assets. I keep using this term again and again. When there are perceptions that we have become corrupt and our names at times are dragged into courts, it is a matter that should worry me as a person. That allows me to examine myself. It does not matter how many times I defend myself, but that perception still sits and then it cuts across everybody and all of us as politicians.

 

We have been seen as people that cannot be trusted. What then should we be doing and I keep repeating this again and again, the need for us to bring the Declaration of Assets Bill is key. It has to come in urgently, it protects all of us; we are responsible for the nation. We should be trusted but what does that Bill say? I am not saying everything of us must be made public but there must be a way in which we must actually account for how we make our work because most of the wealth that we generate comes from this economy; we know that the e know that the economy of Botswana is largely driven by Government and the need for us to be trusted is key.”


According to Guma Moyo who is also the chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises & Statutory Bodies, the public always questions the independence of awarding Government tenders from  political offices , raising eyebrows about business interests of people holding such offices.

 

“There is a lot of talk amongst the public about corruption and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money, recently I found myself being a victim of this circumstance, If we want to clear the air and regain public confidence, then we must have a Declaration of Assets Bill enacted into a law as soon as yesterday, It would do us lots of good if the public had a trail of our assets,” he said.


Reports from parliament also reveals that Guma wants senior government officials and all those holding key positions in state owned enterprises and Parastatals to declare their assets and business interest to avoid conflict of interest. On another hot potato subject, Guma Moyo indicated that he is a serious supporter of the direct election of the President. “We are a Republic, we are not a Kingdom.

 

It is always important that all leaders are elected by the people. The situation where there is an automatic succession makes me feel uncomfortable because then the leaders are imposed on us by most probably the President that leaves. Even the one that is elected to succeed you can never be sure whether he will succeed at times because that is how the setup is,” he said.


DIRECT ELECTION OF PRESIDENT | INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENT


Guma Moyo said there is need to review the constitution and allow the President to elect even members of the Cabinet across the country and let the Members of Parliament remain in Parliament and the Executive remain in the Executive. “It is something that both of us have to look into carefully.”
He argued that Parliament must be very strong on its own, free from the Executive interference.

 

He said the role of Parliament should be purely legislation and oversight, “and we move away from the issues that we are now critically involved in developmental issues and the implementation of projects. That has never been the intention of the Constitution, it compromises all of us. When the President has to pick people from Parliament, then there is always an expectation all the time that, “I also have to be put there” and we are putting the President in a very difficult situation when there are capable men and women out there that can even do a far much better job than MPs sitting here.

 

Then also restricting the President to appoint his vice within ourselves. We need to look at these issues. A House like this must debate laws, look into culture and values. If you have a House that does not speak freely about issues that are being seen out there as critical and then we choose to talk about what we want to talk about and leave people out there, we are deceiving ourselves.”


ON THE ECONOMY | UNEMPLOYMENT


Debating the state of the economy, Guma Moyo said the country is at a stage where unless Government urgently addresses the issues affecting the economy, “we are sitting on a time bomb in particular with the youth.” He said gone are the days when a university kid goes out of school he knows he is going to get a job. There is no guarantee today even if you have got Masters or PhD in whatever discipline that there is going to be job.

 

What then does it mean to us? We need to change the mind-set and create an economy that on itself creates jobs and then we need to look into what is it that we could focus on. This economy can only create jobs through sectors like agriculture and mineral beneficiation. That is where you unpack unemployment. We are a nation, even if you go into a supermarket, just go and look at it, only five (5) per cent of the products that you see in a supermarket comes from this country, the rest is imported.”


He said it is important to look at the import bill, unpack it, change it, “but before we do that, we need to look at the infrastructure that assists us to grow agriculture. Gone are the days when we should be looking at infrastructure that assists us to win constituencies. That one, that is constituency based, is wrong. It should be an infrastructure that assists to grow this economy.

 

There will come a time even when there are projects in your constituency, you will be the only one elected and one day you would not be in Government, both sides of the aisle, because there will be no economy. The agricultural sector, the food sector is key. A population of 2,5 million or 2,2 million cannot feed itself, with all the water being there.”


MEPHATO REATILE – ABOLISH BMC MONOPOLY


Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Mephato Reatile could not hide his disappointment with the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and immediately wants abolition of the beef monopoly. “When we look at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), we have protected it so much with the policies and laws governing such companies but currently there is none of the citizens who is proud of the Company because of the current state it is in, those who were in the management of the BMC way back, and have benefitted from it, are either old or some have passed on.

 

Those who are around do not see the value of the BMC because we have managed to babysit the company for quite some time, and they cannot even think for themselves since the government is always there to rescue, the money is always there for them to use, they are given guarantees to take loans from the banks. The time to abolish monopoly at BMC, is not tomorrow but today because when we abolish the BMC monopoly we will be opening gates, the people who will be marketing the beef from their abattoirs where the market is are Batswana,” he said.


Reatile reasoned that if Batswana are allowed to market their beef, they will be creating employment. He said BMC alone cannot grow and cannot create employment even if it could get another market for its goods somewhere.  “We already know that it has decided to engage Global Protein Solutions (GPS) Food Group . GPS is the one that markets the BMC beef yet it was used to market products of a competitor to BMC which is the Namdeb.

 

The time has come – and even the Namdeb has since parted ways with the GPS, but we are still stuck with it yet it is not effective. I have met with a lot of Batswana who have sourced market for the BMC meat outside and they are consulting with the BMC and negotiating with the company so that it gives them meat to sell, but rather than them being given quotations, GPS has to come into the picture and presented sky rocketed prizes, therefore given this situation, there is no how our meat could get market from outside the country.”


Reatile said the BMC should have found out how Namibia Allied Meat Company (NAMCO) got to access the United States of America market. “If the NAMCO has managed to penetrate the American market Mr Speaker, yet we always attend summits and our meat always wins with good ratings when we reach the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it shows that Botswana is doing well. On the marketing part, we are failing and it clearly indicates that there is a problem. The thing is that, the Meat which is rated and gets good ratings, is not a product of the BMC, it is a product of the cattle owned by Batswana.”


MINING IS NOT DOING WELL


Reatile observed that the BCL and Tati nickel mines are not the only ones affected by dipping commodity prices leading to closure of mines. He said the Mowana mine has been closed for close to 13 months now, and it is to undergo liquidation as well. “The mine workers have not yet received their benefits since the closure of the mine. What I believe should happen, since there are investors who have shown interest to buy the mine, it means that by January the plant will start to run, then the government should do something.

 

It is therefore imperative that the Government does something since investors are already there, and they have agreed that they will release the money after they have been assured of the quality of plants that are here because they are not hesitant on their reserve bank. It is just a matter of how good the infrastructure is. The government has to therefore take it upon herself to find money to pay off the Mowana mine employees because the money will be paid through the investors once cleared off and then the government could benefit from the mine. We cannot address a challenge for a mine which has recently been closed while we have a mine which has been closed for quite some time now,” he observed.


BUTI BILLY WANTS KHAMA TO ACCOUNT
 

Francistown East Member of Parliament, Buti Billy was also in his element when responding to the State of the Nation Address. Billy wants President Khama to answer to Parliament. According to Billy the time has come for the President to sit and listen to debates and responses especially to connected to his presentations in Parliament.

 

“It is undemocratic for the President to deliver SONA and leave it to Members of Parliament to debate and deliberate on it without his audience,” he said. The MP said the current practice kills Botswana’s democracy hence the president must be compelled to account and answer to questions from legislators. He is of the view that this will strengthen democracy as MPs themselves account to the general public who actually voted them to power.


NDB IS WASTE OF TAXPAYERS’ MONEY – MARKUS


Another BDP backbencher Konstantino Markus of Maun East constituency poured scorn on the National Development Bank (NDB) and labelled it a total waste of public money. The Lorato Morapedi led state owned lender is currently bankrupt and owes taxpayers over P300 million worth of unserviced loans. The Maun East Legislator said this when responding to SONA last week in Parliament.

 

Markus argues that with current business structure and leadership the state owned bank will remain useless and bankrupt. “The situation is worsened by the bank’s high interest rate, NDB’s assets and liabilities should be ceded to the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) which is performing much better,” he said. The MP added that with the current negative bank account of the NDB it will be a great loss for the government to privatize or commercialize the bank to external investors.

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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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