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.
SPEDU, Botswana’s investment promotion vehicle in the SPEDU Region has brought yet another immense project which will be situated adjacent to the town of Selebi Phikwe, dubbed “Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project.”
Commenting on the plan for the project,Manager Agribusiness- Maiba Samunzala, said the Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project is envisaged to become a model citrus development in Southern Africa and a flagship project in Botswana.
“This will be one of the largest flat units of citrus plantation in Southern Africa occupying one thousand two hundred hectares (1200ha) of land. This project has come at a very crucial time when our Government is seriously exploring means to create jobs. Such a project will therefore stimulate the town and restore economic activity within the SPEDU Region,” he said.
In line with Government’s efforts of diversifying the economy away from over reliance on the mineral sector, SPEDU’s critical role is to facilitate inward investment and economic diversification in the Region.
SPEDU started facilitating the project in May 2018 where engagements began between SPEDU itself, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the investors. It has been a long journey which involved a number of negotiations which was done with due caution without compromise to both parties. This deal brings the number of SPEDU’s total projects to 70 in various sectors which are at different stages of development. Amongst these projects, forty-five (45) are at advanced stages of development.
Twenty-six (26) are citizen-owned companies in Information Technology (IT), Manufacturing, Agriculture and Construction; Four (4) Government projects in Infrastructure Development and Agriculture; Eight (8) Foreign-owned companies in Agriculture; and Seven (7) Joint ventures in Manufacturing and Agriculture.
For his part, SPEDU Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mokubung Mokubung added that the project will be sitting on the Mmadinare Multi-Cooperative Society’s land, leased for a period of 33 years with an automatic renewal clause for a further 50 years. Dr Mokubung further indicated: “It was our responsibility that we ensure that clear steps are followed to allow for subleasing of the piece of land.
“A decision was further taken to approve a water quota and a reduced water tariff for this project. This decision was made considering the contribution envisaged from this project to the economy of Botswana. This project therefore will draw water from Letsibogo dam with an approved water allocation to the Project of 8 million cubic meters. Electricity supply will be from Botswana Power Corporation, while back-up generators will be present for pump stations as well as the pack house.
The development will be on a 1,500 hectare site, with 1,200 hectares of citrus orchards to be developed between 2020 and 2025 in two phases of development”, Mokubung added. The Selebi Phikwe Citrus (Pty) Ltd shortened as “SPC”, is foreign owned by South African (RSA) citizens. The RSA owners will manage the project with their highly experienced citrus growers personnel, with strong established track records in the industry, cumulatively spanning more than 50 years.
The location of the project was chosen on geo-political, economic and climatological merits including amongst others: Botswana’s stable political environment, amidst a mature democracy and a strong independent judiciary; Favourable business conditions, including attractive taxation and foreign exchange regulations, and a stable local currency with low annual inflation; Attractive long-term investment incentives; Good technical and agricultural conditions; and Adequate infrastructure and logistical access to markets.
Informed by the climactic factors particular to the site, the orchards will be planted with a range of citrus cultivars, including mandarins, Valencia oranges, seedless lemons and grapefruit. Although it will be one of the largest single citrus developments ever undertaken in Southern Africa, the development will only represent a maximum of 1.2% of the Southern African citrus plantings, all of which are mainly oriented towards overseas citrus demand markets. It is therefore not expected to have any destabilising effect on prices or industry dynamics.
The SPC project is being established at one of the most lucrative places in Botswana, as the SPEDU Region is strategically located even in the broader Sothern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The town of Selebi Phikwe is surrounded by 52 villages and rural settlements, and is located approximately 400 kilometers north of the capital city Gaborone. Selebi Phikwe serves as the commercial capital of the SPEDU Region. The town is home for 49,411 people, making up approximately a quarter of the entire population of the Region.
The Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project is forecast to create 1000 sustainable job opportunities at full capacity, with creation of both forward and backward linkages with other sectors. This Project would bring about growth and diversification of the agro industry, with spin-off effects that will generate other value chain business opportunities. The other benefits which would be brought by the Project include, increased level of exports, increased export revenue, technological and skills transfer, and import substitution.
Some of the areas in the SPEDU land pockets serves as a Special Economic Zone with the intention to support industrialisation through the economic sectors of Tourism, Manufacturing and Agro-Business in diversifying the economy.
This is in recognition of the inherent comparative advantages of the region evidenced by availability of ample surface and underground water resources. It is also the home of five of the country’s major dams, the Thune Dam, the Letsibogo Dam, the Lotsane Dam, the Dikabeya Dam and the Dikgatlhong Dam.
The region also boasts highly fertile soils and a climate conducive for agricultural, especially horticulture production. The availability of land for industrialisation in Selebi Phikwe and the region, infrastructure resources, abundant natural attractions, flora and fauna, natural resources such as granite, sandstone, marble and silica sands open up opportunity for industrialization.
Just like in politics, numbers matter in the church. As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has put so many commercial entities in the red, the church in Botswana has not escaped the wrath either. These glaring similarities between the church and world have pushed the former beyond limits and now there is a bone to pick with government.
Just last week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with men of the cloth, a jaw-jaw that precipitated a decision to increase the number of congregants per church service from 75 to 100 in line with the State of Emergency powers and COVID-19 regulations. The decision by the President is an indication that he has a foot in both camps – that is the church and COVID-19 Presidential Task Team.
But the church is still not satisfied, with some leaders expressing hard feelings over the bunch that met the President. From the latest decisions, it seems the government will open churches to their full capacity in a pi’s eye. In any case this position is expressed in black and white through various press statements from the Task team and individual ministries. Government is hell-bent on containing the possible spread of the coronavirus.
For some churches, such as the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) they have leaned on the Hobson choice – taking what is offered or nothing at all – and they have chosen the latter. The ZCC has also adopted a hush up as per the instruction of its leader, Bishop Lekganyane.
AND HERE ARE THE NUMBERS
A statistical generalisation in Botswana when it comes to church capacities demonstrates thus; St Peters Roman Catholic in Gabane, has a church capacity of 600. In main mall, Christ the King Cathedral Roman Catholic has a capacity of 1300, and in Gaborone West they have close to 1200 capacity.
Eloyi Christian Church in Selibe Phikwe boasts of a 1000 strong membership. On a normal service, The City Angeles Church in Tlokweng has 1500 people attending one service. For Spiritual Healing in Gaborone more than 800 people normally attend in between services; and as for Naledi Church of God in Palapye it has 700 people while Cornelius Apostolic Church has an average attendance of 2000 people in one service. The figures continue to pour in, Olive Church in Metsimotlhabe has more than 2500 members; while Royal Assembly in Gaborone has more than 800 attendees for a normal service. Their membership stands at 1200.
Speaking to this publication, Bishop Raphael Habibo of Assemblies of God confirmed that the 100 per service as recently prescribed is not enough. He pointed out that it would have been better had they been allowed a 200 or 300 ceiling looking at the capacity of various churches around the country.
“We are not in a position to take care of the needs of our people. In terms of counselling, ministering and standing with them during challenging times and financially. We have hired different people in church. When services are stopped it means we are not making enough money to pay these people. We hear the government’s cry but we need to come up with ways of living with this,” he said.
From Bishop Habibo’s interjection, it is evident that the church has an itching palm for purposes of paying salaries, rent, and general welfare issues. In essence the church is saying the 100 capacity command remains in the clouds, it is far from addressing the realities they face.
From the figures shared, it is evident that the church has a Midas touch but the Presidential Task Team on COVID-19 remains in the driver’s seat hence the church’s itching palm may be satisfied in a coon’s age!
While some church leaders agree that the churches do not need to be opened to the brim, they still shoot down the 100 members cap. They argue that they have enough space to adhere to COVID-19 protocols should their numbers be increased to 200 or 300.
The church says it is not only money that will ensure that they keep head above the water. There is a claim that by limiting the number of people may attend church services, emotional strain and depression are taking a toll on citizens. Faith thought leaders also attempt to link emerging worries such as Gender Based Violence and suicides to restrained spiritual interactions. While there is yet to be empirical data to full-proof these assertions as gospel truth, the church’s campaign for more numbers remains just a grasp at straws.
The church is also worried that certain decisions by the Presidential Task team appear to swim against the tide. They cite opening of borders, buses loading full capacity, tourism industry’s leisure travels, and a litany of decisions only explained by the idiom, smoke and mirrors.
CHURCH MEMBERS ARE DEPRESSED
“A lot of people have been stressed and depressed by this season. Having to live with the fear of the chance of contacting the virus or a loved one or colleague being positive is too much. It is at this point that we need to have a closer relationship with God to pray; to be in church and as we sing, we create an atmosphere of hope. People lost their jobs, businesses and for some it will take months if not years to recover.
We have even seen a rise in gender based violence – I would even think it’s indirectly connected to this pandemic. An affected mind facing a situation that is heavy and can’t take it anymore will just lose it and misbehave,” said the President of Royal Assembly Ministries, Boago Ramogapi.
“I wish the government could do “Capacity Seating” while still adhering to COVID-19 regulations of masks and distance between seats. In that case, a building that normally seats 1000 people will be able to take 500 people – there will still be space between the people and strict compliance on masks and sanitising,” he said.
He further highlighted that challenges arose amid the pandemic within the church and the main one was that many people were losing themselves and feeling helpless because they do not have the opportunity to go to church – a place that has an atmosphere to encounter, inspire and vibe peace of mind.
“On top of that, let’s understand that churches are run by the free will offerings of the congregants. Most of the time the offerings are taken when people have congregated. Discussing with some Pastors I discovered that many churches have had serious financial challenges – those renting places of worship, staff members to pay salaries and their usual outreaches to the less privileged were affected. We have banking online platforms to make transactions but they have not yet penetrated that much on the church sphere where people send their contributions to the church accounts,” he said.
When quizzed on the stand of the Ministry regarding the opening of churches, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi said;
“There is no silence at all. My Ministry has been engaged with faith leaders on the issue of increasing the number of attendees at church services. They have made their submissions to the Ministry on a number of occasions and we agreed on the submissions to be made to the Task Force team. Consultations are ongoing.
At yesterday’s COVID-19 Task Force meeting it was agreed that consultations should be concluded and submissions should be presented this coming Monday and a final decision be made.”But from the black and white issued by various Government agencies, capacity seating for churches will come in a month of Sundays!
In an effort to address the mounting challenges of unemployment and labour issues in Botswana, government has introduced the Decent Work Programme that will help the country achieve its decent work ambitions by the year 2024.
Botswana’s unemployment rate has been high at around 20% over the years as a result of the slow growth of employment opportunities. Youth and women are the most affected, however, the ratio of female to male youth unemployment has since had a significant decline from 165% in 2008 to 139% in the past three years, reflecting improvements in employment opportunities for women. The youth unemployment rate hovered around 35% over the last years.
In their Decent Work Country report, the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development strives to contribute to Botswana’s progress towards the achievement of full and productive employment and decent for all. The report prioritizes sustainable employment creation in which, government aims to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
By 20230, the Decent Work Report aspires for sustainable food production systems and implementation of resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaption to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.
It has been suggested that Botswana should move to adopt measures to ensure that proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.
Furthermore, the country aims to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education hence increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
Gender disparity has always been a challenge in Botswana. According to the report, there are aspirations to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.
As the country moves towards the digital space, technology is anticipated to play a bigger role in developing the economy. In the next ten years, Botswana says it would have enhanced the use of technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women. In a more tangible approach, there will be the adoption and strengthening of sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and women at all levels.
Achieving higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors has also been a target outlined on the report, as well as promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, formalization and growth of micro-small and medium sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
Furthermore, the report says Botswana will work to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and other forms of exploitation. “Botswana will take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and the use of child soldiers which is to be ended by 2025 in all its forms.”
Meanwhile, the slow growth in employment opportunities in Botswana is said to be due to the fact that the supply of skills from the education sector does not match the needs of the job market. The skills mismatch has led to an oversupply of certain skills in the job market, resulting in high graduate unemployment, even though other skills are in short supply.
The report highlighted that there is a need to develop an adequately skills workforce, which is responsive to the labour market demands. “The growing rate of unemployment of the youth, specifically graduates, indicates the critical need for improving the coordination, planning, quality as well as management of human resource development. Government aims to address this challenge by implementing the National Human Resource Development Strategy, which stipulates the formulation of HRD Sector Plans, aimed at matching of skills with the labour market and the needs of the economy,” the Decent Work report reads.
Meanwhile, government has introduced Labour Market Information System that collects, analyses, monitors and captures labour market information such as labour indicators, data, labour demand and supply forecasts and any other labour market data.
In other words, it is a system that collects statistical and non-statistical information concerning labour market actors and their environment, as well as information concerning labour market institutions, policies and regulations that serves the needs of users and has been collected through the application of accepted methodologies and practice to the largest possible extent.
Government further says the labour market information is key to all players: policy makers use it for decision making purposes, students and their parents for informed career choices, researchers amongst others.
The availability of reliable, comprehensive, cost effective and up-to date labour market information is a necessary condition for effective human resource planning and its implementation. Such information is not only required by government and its agencies, but also by employers for their personnel planning decisions.
Individuals also need information on the state of the labour market to make their training and career choices. As a result of this, knowledge of how the labour market functions become integral to an understanding of the key economic issues of time.