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BOCONGO, BCC accuse Gov’t of Economic and Social Injustices


The collapse and ultimate closure of BCL has impacted on the not only economic justice of the Selibe Phikwe residents and surrounding areas. It has more badly eroded the little social justice that was aspired at the then copper mining town.

 

In the light of these, basing its authenticity on its newly adopted strategic plan, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) is riding on partnership of its affiliating member; Botswana Christian Council (BCC) on the ongoing study to identify the social injustices preceding the economic injustices imposed on the people of Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas through the abrupt and unforeseen closure of the BCL mine.


The ongoing survey has through its preliminary report, of which final report will be made public before the end December 2016, painted a dehumanising impact of the BCL closure on residents, vulnerable communities and families, businesses and the Non-Governmental Organisations that have been serving the dead mining town.

 

The BOCONGO Board Vice Chairperson Mr. Olebile Machete responding to the Weekend Post enquiries as to the exact purpose of the impact survey assessment explained that “we at BOCONGO together with our affiliating partner BCC are of the strong view that inclusive development through democratic ownership involves empowering people as primary beneficiaries, but also as actors in their development”. He continued that what BOCONGO is currently engaged in is just a grain of the new strategy.

 

This study is aimed at BOCONGO and BCC learning the impact of uncertainties from the Selibe Phikwe community and what is going to be of their lives.  BOCONGO expresses that this scenario will essentially impact the whole nation and thus needs mitigation of affiliating BOCONGO members to mitigate.


BOCONGO expresses that, though it does in its new dispensation continues to recognise the Government of Botswana as the most immediate strategic partner, as all the BOCONGO work is strategically aimed at complementing efforts of the Government, it is however concerned at the rate of economic and social injustices where communities have become the victim and Government being the perpetrator.

 

Machete points out that “BOCONGO shall in response to this  prevailing and growing unfortunate fashion and behavior by the Government, thus as guided by the new the new three year strategic plan, endevour to motivate more formal partnerships on delivery of certain targets in specific thematic areas based on our member comparative advantages”.


BOCONGO shall in the next three years 2017 – 2020, guided by its new strategic plan, embark on joint plans within relevant structures and appropriate entities, including government departments where direct and deliberate plans shall be developed, monitored and evaluated to a certain progress and value addition.

 

Machete is quick to emphasise that, as much as possible, the new BOCONGO, having learnt from the past will avoid casual agreements and partnerships and rather will be more legal, constitutional and obliging to ensure concrete efforts towards inclusive development as obligated by its member affiliates at the recent Annual General Meeting where the new strategy was adopted. The new strategy shall be branded and marketed for stakeholder knowledge and buy-in and follow up efforts shall be made to explore opportunities for new partnerships.

 

Machete continued that “BOCONGO readily recognises that the new targets are ambitious and therefore strongly require an aggressive approach to partnership prospecting for co-responsibility and subsidiarity for value addition in service delivery. And we shall be engaging several stakeholders such as BONELA and BOSASNET and other social justice, economic justice and human rights institutions to address social and economic injustices that we find not only in Selibe Phikwe but nationally. We can no longer pretend that the situation is normal”.


Amongst other things coming from the impact assessment survey done by BOCONGO and BCC in Selibe Phikwe is that extracting companies operating in Botswana are not regulated to the benefit of local communities. They make millions from geographical areas and not plant anything back into the communities. The Phikwe pollution has left disastrous health effects. And Machete insists that BOCONGO shall through lobby and advocacy ensure that these issues are addressed and appropriate regulation put in place.

 

“BCL for example should have set up respiratory control and treatment centres funded by the mine. This should have been a pre-requisite to mining and we will be dialoguing with Government and appropriate institutions on the way forward not only for Selibe Phikwe but for other mining areas that are ongoing and that shall arise. We have agreed that if need be we shall frequent the courts to ensure that not only economic justice is met but that social justice be upheld.


The preliminary report carries amongst other things complaints by neighbouring villages such as Sefhophe where the head teachers have already complained to the village chief that they are unable to enroll all students being transferred to their schools from Selibe Phikwe schools. Health facilities are also not coping as luxuries of private hospitals have diminished overnight. These are social pressures that were not taken into consideration when authorities decided to close the mine.

 

BOCONGO expresses worry that “it is not only with the employees that consultation should have been done but it should have also been with authorities in neighbouring villages to prepare for such drastic changes that impact directly on the day to day affairs of their operations in schools, clinics, hospitals etcetera. Micro loans are taking all the monies that have been paid to the former employees and landlords are struggling, it is all economic and social injustice misery that could have been mitigated had things been done in consideration of all affected parties.

Machete also told this publication that the new BOCONGO strategy is aligned to the reality that, in representative democracies, it becomes indispensable to have organised groups like the NGOs effectively working for the people and representing their interests. It is about creating structured and permanent forums for dialogue that includes diversity of thoughts in advising and monitoring development policies, plans and strategies.

 

The main mission of BOCONGO is to provide an enabling environment for the NGO sector to become a recognized partner in the development process in Botswana. “Furthermore, BOCONGO aims to promote experience sharing with other NGOs as well as provide and we shall carry out this mission without a grain of apology”, noted Machete who continued that, human rights norms and standards do not operate in a vacuum, they lead to a conceptualisation of political and social relations between the state and citizens from the perspective of legitimate claims and obligations.

Of central significance is seeing individuals as rights holders and states as duty-bearers. With regards to social protection such a standpoint means that the state is obligated to guarantee economic and social justice and that citizens can claim it.


Machete further emphasised that the new strategy is a focus to ensure that the concept of citizenship, in terms of what is necessary for and meaningful about being a citizen, focuses on important matters such as the quality of relationships between citizens, the distribution and mix of resources necessary for ensuring that relationships are positive in nature.

 

This perspective underscores the value in pursuing a social inclusion agenda undergirded in the idea of social citizenship. Under a social citizenship framework social resources are not granted by the state out of benevolence or other motives but rather are conferred as a right of citizenship. All these point to the painfully felt impact of closure of the BCL mine and based on the increasing inequalities in the country in other areas beyond Selibe Phikwe.


When the Weekend Post asked the BOCONGO Deputy Leader on the position of BOCONGO with regard to SPEDU plan and implementation of the same, he narrated that, according to the World Bank Report, Botswana is the third most unequal country in the world. The government of Botswana has since 1966 delivered myriad mixtures of infrastructure, goods and services with a view to fighting poverty and improving the quality of life of the people.

 

However, this social provision has not made a significant impact on poverty reduction for the majority of the people in the country. “For the funds spent, not enough has been gained in terms of enhancing the overall quality of life by reducing levels of poverty and bridging the widening gap between the rich and the poor and SPEDU if not guarded by the NGO world led by BOCONGO will simply join the fray of lost promises. We shall thus through a lot of activities planned and aligned to our new strategic plan, in robustness, in resoluteness through and with our members, address all these challenges”.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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