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BUAN should extend to Selibe Phikwe

REARABILWE RAMAPHANE

 

Following the demise of BCL limited which prior to that formed the economic nucleus of Selibe Phikwe, the former mining town future remains uncertain.

 

Former Government Legislature and cabinet Minister, now a property magnet and shrewd business tycoon, David Magang observes in his ‘’View from Mana House’’ CAN PHIKWE BE REDEEMED eloquent piece weeks ago in this publication that the concept of special economic zones, roping in the Chinese investment acumen would go a long way into saving the otherwise soon to become a ghost town.

 

The Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization strategy unveiled just 2 weeks ago during the African Industrialization Day commemoration which was lamented by President Khama’s SONA last week also suggests a big turnaround for Phikwe, commendable craft and of course well presented, however implementation still remains to be witnessed if it will be any different from other countless mega national projects and economic undertakings which chewed billions to waste.

 

The strategy seeks to unearth  thousands jobs in textile industry ,the same industry which axed over 2000 jobs in 2008 when investors pocketed   proceeds from tax holidays and vacated the country leaving the town more  dependent on BCL mine.

 

Agricultural sector and food processing which forms part of the revitalization strategy can also receive accolades for contributing to undiversified Phikwe we see today, just to name a few ,the crush of Talana Farms, collapse of Satmos dairy farms when death robbed the town one of its builders, Samuel Sono .

 

Now notably the deterrence of Phikwe from housing Botswana’s second university by the decision maker’s years ago evidently haunts Phikwe and government diversification efforts today. However it is not too late for such development, which undoubtedly would make a significant economic boost and complementation to the revitalization strategy.

 

Making an in-depth look into the revitalization strategy under the stewardship of former Bank of Botswana governor Linah Mhohlo, the strategy is encored on projects which should any little fallout on implementation occur, we are back to square one!!

 

The strategy also doesn’t explain how retooling and rescaling  thousands of former miners to fit into the new key sectors now being farming, manufactured parts  assembling , travel and tours businesses  just to name a few will be done. Lets asses Agriculture and food processing as well an over view on the tourism industry ignoring Manufacturing for now.

 

You now already beginning to locate how my heading came about, lets visit Botswana‘s premier agricultural academic institution and see if we can’t bring it into this conversation. It’s been almost a year since the Botswana College of Agriculture fully upgraded to the status of a university and attained the nomenclature of Botswana University of Agriculture& Natural Resources (BUANR).

 

Having gained autonomy from the University of Botswana, now that enables BUANR to independently carry out its specific mandate of becoming a world class innovation and research agricultural academic institution. The expectation is that the university should take its relevant position in providing solutions to exiting agricultural challenges.

 

BUANR has an obligation to provide academic research and innovative consultancy to decision makers and other stake holders towards closing up local food insecurity loophole which sends billions abroad in import bill.

 

We expect BUARN now that it’s no longer a faculty but a fully fleshed entity with its own budget ,to develop frameworks and carry out researches that unleashes and unlocks Botswana’s potential in Horticultural production, milk produce, Beef product diversity , leather processing and products manufacturing ,and other agricultural industries  that are currently untapped locally.

 

However I doubt with the current infrastructure and institutional space BUANR can rightfully carry out its mandate. I want to believe infrastructural development and institutional facilities upgrade to fully equip the agricultural institution are in the pipeline.

 

Building campuses or special academia centers separately from the main administration space has proven not to negatively affect the running of an academic institution in anyhow. University of Botswana does it with its research center in Maun. International academic institutions like University of Johannesburg continue to successfully make it into top 10 African universities with such campus model in place.

 

Considering the current institutional parameter which the university is situated, any infrastructural development in the same place would either be squeezed up or consume the practical’s area spared for farming and other practical academic undertakings.

 

The university will need an innovation and research center employed with expects and professional academics to facilitate robust solution seeking and also act as university link with other science, research and technology stakeholders like Botswana Innovation Hub, BITRI and other academic institutions.

 

Should the decision makers think along the same lines, Selebi Phikwe comes out as more qualified to host such a development ,proposing a model similar to the University of Botswana‘s Okavango Research institute in Maun or a full separate campus housing 2 or 3 relevant faculties to avoid congestion at the main campus.

 

Being born and bred in Phikwe my ordinary self, perhaps it is paramount that before breaking down my reasons attached to this opinion, i lay forth a disclaimer that this position is not in anyhow influenced by my sense of belonging to copper and nickel town, nor any political endeavor but solely influenced by the economic potential in the Phikwe area as well as a goodwill lame man analysis on the future outlook of our town.

 

WHY SELIBE PHIKWE?

 

Now I believe we beginning to comprehend where BUANR could fit in the revitalization equation. Setting up an academic institution in Selibe Phikwe, let alone an innovation and research center will go a long way in complementing the efforts of other stakeholders in turning the Phikwe area into Botswana‘s major industrial city and transforming the region into a premier sight for innovative and technology companies, SPEDU would surely approve of this sentiment, at least from what I gathered at their new brand launch months ago.

 

Basically complementing the revitalization strategy with capacity building and skills development. Automatically a development such as an institution comes with infrastructural erection thus  temporary employment creation, that on its own brings about the diversity in jobs availability, which Selibe Phikwe currently desperately needs credit to the obvious reasons of Nigel Dixon Warren-the terminator.

 

AGRICULTURAL POTENTIAL IN SELIBE PHIKWE REGION

 

Putting up BUANR campus in Phikwe would not only benefit the Selibe Phikwe region and its people, but would also bring about great efficiency in the service delivery and well resourced execution of mandate for the Agricultural academy itself.

 

The region sits comfortably at the centre of well positioned dams availing abundant water for agricultural practical’s. From the far south sits the newly opened Lotsane Dam in Maunatla, sailing through the Thune dam in the east south of Selibe Phikwe , the Dikgathong Dam in the North eastern side right on the Motloutse basin and off course the traditional Letsibogo on the northwestern top of the SPEDU region.

 

These resources together with the fertile soil around the region gives the BUANR a great environment to carry out their agricultural research , experiments ,studies and academic capacity building that is substantiated with practicals and actual physical undertakings , thus turning it into a world class agricultural university that produces readymade and industrial graduates.

 

As we expect BUANR to promote commercial and techno-based methods of agricultural practice , I think there is no better region to provide such environment ,taking into consideration the existing facilities like NAFTRC’s National Agro-Processing Plant , renewed and re-motivated SPEDU , and the Linah Mhohlo uphill task ,BUANR would complement this efforts with research , innovative and academic techno based expertise turning the Phikwe region into Botswana’s bread basket and eventually reducing the national import bill brought by food insecurity, and ofcource saving our town from turning into Botswana’s Detroit as David Magang would put it.

 

THE INDIGENOUS NATURAL RESOURCES

 

Furthermore Selibe Phikwe is engulfed in a naturally resourced parameter rich in environmental diversity. The Limpopo River, Motloutse, Thuli Block and Platjan brings about an interesting ecosystem with indigenous tree spices, undisturbed forestry and variety of wildlife, aquatic plants and animals ,something which also translate to great tourism potential aswell.

 

With the little information I have about the thresh hold of BUANR areas of academia, great environment in Bobirwa constituency, Tsetsebjwe natural forests, Lentswe le Moriti vegetations and Sheerwood Ranges is more than enough for the execution of BUANR mandates as far as student science and research practical’s are concerned ,at least for the Natural Resources nomenclature .

 

Generally Selibe Phikwe and the whole SPEDU region is rich in agricultural potential and natural resources that could be unleashed to cultivate wealth and economic transformation and diversification which  eventually comes with thousands jobs for the people living in the area hence maintaining Mhohlo’s reputation of successful national assignment record!!!

 

Arguably one would question my silence about livestock and animal husbandry potential of the region, well that can be blamed on the FMD outbreak that hit our zone years back, but sipping from the BMC records of few years back, one would learn that before Foot N Mouth outbreak, the zone 7 which enclaves Selibe Phikwe was one of the highest producers of good quality cattle’s, at least from communal farms.

 

And my sources at the Ministry of Agriculture revealed to my knowledge hungry person that the authorities are in a processes of reviewing the zone, giving hope that soon the region will be open for European Market intake as matter of fact President Khama confirmed it on Monday(SONA).

 

Perhaps the placing of a research institution here in Phikwe would extent an expert help to resurrecting the region’s cattle supply to BMC,so is the Botswana Vaccine Institute ,I would like to invite them to prospect extending their services here in Phikwe more so that reports suggests they are planning to expand commercially and factory wise, Minister  Ralotsia’s visit to France earlier this year informs that.

 

Now getting into Conclusion, esteemed readers of the this ‘Insightful publication’ let me note that The Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resource now has a role to play as an academic and research think tank for environmental policies to “”Ministry of Natural Resources & Wildlife-’’’ as well as agricultural policy crafting to its mother ministry which now has a direct task of improving Botswana’s food security.

 

With the Southern side of Botswana housing the main campuses of both the BUANR , University of Botswana and other research institutions like NAFTRC, already Okavango Research Center(Maun) covering the far northern side ,and Palapye enjoying the housing of BUIST, Selibe Phikwe is now better placed to host an extension of the agricultural academy , should funds and developmental plans permit. I rest my case.

 

Rearabilwe Ramaphane is 2015 Alumni of Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Leadership program. Chairman of Innovative Youth Organization, Selibe Phikwe based researcher and freelance publisher .He writes here in his own personal capacity

rearabilwe.ramaphane@yahoo.com – 75525191

 

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Opinions

Accounting Officers are out of touch with reality

19th October 2020

Parliament, the second arm of State through its parliamentary committees are one of Botswana’s most powerful mechanisms to ensure that government is held accountable at all times. The Accounting Officers are mostly Permanent Secretaries across government Ministries and Chief Executive Officers, Director Generals, Managing Directors of parastatals, state owned enterprises and Civil Society.

So parliament plays its oversight authority via the legislators sitting on a parliamentary committee and Accounting Officers sitting in the hot chair.  When left with no proper checks and balances, the Executive is prone to abuse the arrangement and so systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees.  They track the work of various government departments and ministries, and conduct scrutiny into important aspects of their policy, direction and administration.

It is not rocket science that effective oversight requires that committees be totally independent and able to set their own agendas and have the power to summon ministers and top civil servants to appear and answer questions. Naturally, Accounting Officers are the highest ranking officials in the government hierarchy apart from cabinet Ministers and as such wield much power and influence in the performance of government.  To illustrate further, government performance is largely owed to the strategic and policy direction of top technocrats in various Ministries.

It is disheartening to point out that the recent parliament committees — as has been the case all over the years — has laid bare the incompetency, inadequacy and ineptitude of people bestowed with great responsibilities in public offices. To say that they are ineffective and inefficient sounds as an understatement. Some appear useless and hopeless when it comes to running the government despite the huge responsibility they possess.

If we were uncertain about the degree at which the Accounting Officers are incompetent, the ongoing parliament committees provide a glaring answer.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ordinary people on the streets have been held ransom by these technocrats who enjoy their air conditioned offices and relish being chauffeured around in luxurious BX SUV’s while the rest of the citizenry continue to suffer. Because of such high life the Accounting Officers seem to have, with time, they have gotten out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve.

An example; when appearing before the recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the President Permanent Secretary, Thuso Ramodimoosi, looked reluctant to admit misuse of public funds. Although it is clear funds were misused, he looked unbothered when committee members grilled him over the P80 million Orapa House building that has since morphed into a white elephant for close to 10 successive years. To him, it seems it did not matter much and PAC members were worried for nothing.

On a separate day, another Accounting officer, Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Naledi Mosalakatane, was not shy to reveal to PAC upon cross-examination that there exist more than 6 000 vacancies in government. Whatever reasons she gave as an excuse, they were not convincing and the committee looked sceptical too. She was faltering and seemed not to have a sense of urgency over the matter no matter how critical it is to the populace.

Botswana’s unemployment rate hoovers around 18 percent in a country where majority of the population is the youth, and the most affected by unemployment. It is still unclear why DPSM could underplay such a critical matter that may threaten the peace and stability of the country.
Accounting Officers clearly appear out of touch with the reality out there – if the PAC examinations are anything to go by.

Ideally the DPSM Director could be dropping the vacancy post digits while sourcing funds and setting timelines for the spaces to be filled as a matter of urgency so that the citizens get employed to feed their families and get out of unemployment and poverty ravaging the country.
The country should thank parliamentary committees such as PAC to expose these abnormalities and the behaviour of our leaders when in public office. How can a full Accounting Officer downplay the magnitude of the landless problem in Botswana and fail to come with direct solutions tailor made to provide Batswana with the land they desperately need?

Land is a life and death matter for some citizens, as we would know.

When Bonolo Khumotaka, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, whom as a top official probably with a lucrative pay too appears to be lacking sense of urgency as she is failing on her key mandate of working around the clock to award the citizens with land especially those who need it most like the marginalised.  If government purports they need P94 billion to service land to address the land crisis what is plan B for government? Are we going to accept it the way it is?

Government should wake up from its slumber and intervene to avoid the 30 years unnecessary waiting period in State land and 13 years in Tribal land.  Accounting Officers are custodians of government policy, they should ensure it is effective and serve its purpose. What we have been doing over the years, has proved that it is not effective, and clearly there is a need for change of direction.

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Opinions

Is it possible to make people part of your business resilience planning after the State of Public Emergency?

12th October 2020

THABO MAJOLA

His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi EK Masisi, the President of the Republic of Botswana found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, using the powers vested in him to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from the 2nd April 2020 at midnight.

The constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provided that such a declaration could be up to a maximum of 21 days. His Excellency further invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult members of parliament on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus. At this meeting Members of Parliament passed a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and extended its duration by six (6) months.

The passing of the State of Emergency is considered as a very crucial step in fighting the near apocalyptic potential of the Novel COVID-19 virus. One of the interesting initiatives that was developed and extended to the business community was a 3-month wage subsidy that came with a condition that no businesses would retrench for the duration of the State of Public Emergency. This has potentially saved many people’s jobs as most companies would have been extremely quick to reduce expenses by downsizing. Self-preservation as some would call it.

Most organisations would have tried to reduce costs by letting go of people, retreated and tried their best to live long enough to fight another day. In my view there is silver lining that we need to look at and consider. The fact that organisations are not allowed to retrench has forced certain companies to look at the people with a long-term view.

Most leaders have probably had to wonder how they are going to ensure that their people are resilient. Do they have team members who innovate and add value to the organisation during these testing times? Do they even have resilient people or are they just waiting for the inevitable end? Can they really train people and make them resilient? How can your team members be part of your recovery plan? What can they do to avoid losing the capabilities they need to operate meaningfully for the duration of the State of Public Emergency and beyond?

The above questions have forced companies to reimagine the future of work. The truth is that no organisation can operate to its full potential without resilient people. In the normal business cycle, new teams come on board; new business streams open, operations or production sites launch or close; new markets develop, and technology is introduced. All of this provides fresh opportunities – and risks.

The best analogy I have seen of people-focused resilience planning reframes employees as your organisation’s immune system, ready and prepared to anticipate risks and ensure they can tackle challenges, fend off illness and bounce back more quickly.  So, how do you supercharge your organizational immune system to become resilient?

COVID-19 has helped many organisations realize they were not as prepared as they believed themselves to be. Now is the time to take stock and reset for the future. All the strategies and plans prior to COVID-19 arriving in Botswana need to be thrown out of the window and you need to develop a new plan today. There is no room for tweaking or reframing. Botswana has been disrupted and we need to accept and embrace the change. What we initially anticipated as a disease that would take a short term is turning out to be something we are going to have to live with for a much longer time. It is going to be a marathon and therefore businesses need to have a plan to complete this marathon.

Start planning. Planning for change can help reduce employee stress, anxiety, and overall fear, boosting the confidence of staff and stakeholders. Think about conducting and then regularly refreshing a strategic business impact analysis, look at your employee engagement scores, dig into your customer metrics and explore the way people work alongside your behaviours and culture. This research will help to identify what you really want to protect, the risks that you need to plan for and what you need to survive during disruption. Don’t forget to ask your team members for their input. In many cases they are closest to critical business areas and already have ideas to make processes and systems more robust.

Revisit your organisational purpose. Purpose, values and principles are powerful tools. By putting your organisation’s purpose and values front and center, you provide clear decision-making guidelines for yourself and your organisation. There are very tough and interesting decisions to make which have to be made fast; so having guiding principles on which the business believes in will help and assist all decision makers with sanity checking the choices that are in front of them. One noticeable characteristic of companies that adapt well during change is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for beyond shareholder value and how to get things done right.

Revisit your purpose and values. Understand if they have been internalised and are proving useful. If so, find ways to increase their use. If not, adapt them as necessities, to help inspire and guide people while immunizing yourself against future disruption. Design your employee experience. The most resilient, adaptive and high performing companies are made up of people who know each other, like each other, and support each other.

Adaptability requires us to teach other, speak up and discuss problems, and have a collective sense of belonging. Listening to your team members is a powerful and disruptive thing to do. It has the potential to transform the way you manage your organisation. Enlisting employees to help shape employee experience, motivates better performance, increases employee retention and helps you spot issues and risks sooner. More importantly, it gives employees a voice so you can get active and constructive suggestions to make your business more robust by adopting an inclusive approach.

Leaders need to show they care. If you want to build resilience, you must build on a basis of trust. And this means leaders should listen, care, and respond. It’s time to build the entire business model around trust and empathy. Many of the employees will be working under extreme pressure due to the looming question around what will happen when companies have to retrench. As a leader of a company transparency and open communication are the most critical aspects that need to be illustrated.

Take your team member into confidence because if you do have to go through the dreaded excise of retrenchment you have to remember that those people the company retains will judge you based on the process you follow. If you illustrate that the business or organization has no regard for loyalty and commitment, they will never commit to the long-term plans of the organisation which will leave you worse off in the end. Its an absolutely delicate balance but it must all be done in good faith. Hopefully, your organization will avoid this!

This is the best time to revisit your identify and train your people to encourage qualities that build strong, empathetic leadership; self-awareness and control, communication, kindness and psychological safety.  Resilience is the glue that binds functional silos and integrates partners, improves communications, helps you prepare, listen and understand. Most importantly, people-focused resilience helps individuals and teams to think collectively and with empathy – helping you respond and recover faster.

Article written by Thabo Majola, a brand communications expert with a wealth of experience in the field and is Managing Director of Incepta Communications.

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Opinions

Elected officials should guard against personal interest

23rd September 2020

Parliament was this week once again seized with matters that concern them and borders on conflict of interest and abuse of privilege.

The two matters are; review of MPs benefits as well as President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s participation in the bidding for Banyana Farms. For the latter, it should not come as a surprise that President Masisi succeeded in bid.

The President’s business interests have also been in the forefront. While President Masisi is entitled as a citizen to participate in a various businesses in the country or abroad, it is morally deficient for him to participate in a bidding process that is handled by the government he leads. By the virtue of his presidency, Masisi is the head of government and head of State.

Not long ago, former President Festus Mogae suggested that elected officials should consider using blind trust to manage their business interests once they are elected to public office. Though blind trusts are expensive, they are the best way of ensuring confidence in those that serve in public office.

A blind trust is a trust established by the owner (or trustor) giving another party (the trustee) full control of the trust. Blind trusts are often established in situations where individuals want to avoid conflicts of interest between their employment and investments.

The trustee has full discretion over the assets and investments while being charged with managing the assets and any income generated in the trust.

The trustor can terminate the trust, but otherwise exercises no control over the actions taken within the trust and receives no reports from the trustees while the blind trust is in force.

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi, has defended President Masisi’s participation in business and in the Banyana Farms bidding. His contention is that, the practise even obtained during the administration of previous presidents.

The President is the most influential figure in the country. His role is representative and he enjoys a plethora of privileges. He is not an ordinary citizen. The President should therefore be mindful of this fact.

We should as a nation continue to thrive for improvement of our laws with the viewing of enhancing good governance. We should accept perpetuation of certain practices on the bases that they are a norm. MPs are custodians of good governance and they should measure up to the demands of their responsibility.

Parliament should not be spared for its role in countenancing these developments. Parliament is charged with the mandate of making laws and providing oversight, but for them to make laws that are meant solely for their benefits as MPs is unethical and from a governance point of view, wrong.

There have been debates in parliament, some dating from past years, about the benefits of MPs including pension benefits. It is of course self-serving for MPs to be deliberating on their compensation and other benefits.

In the past, we have also contended that MPs are not the right people to discuss their own compensation and there has to be Special Committee set for the purpose. This is a practice in advanced democracies.

By suggesting this, we are not suggesting that MP benefits are in anyway lucrative, but we are saying, an independent body may figure out the best way of handling such issues, and even offer MPs better benefits.

In the United Kingdom for example; since 2009 following a scandal relating to abuse of office, set-up Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

IPSA is responsible for: setting the level of and paying MPs’ annual salaries; paying the salaries of MPs’ staff; drawing up, reviewing, and administering an MP’s allowance scheme; providing MPs with publicly available and information relating to taxation issues; and determining the procedures for investigations and complaints relating to MPs.

Owing to what has happened in the Parliament of Botswana recently, we now need to have a way of limiting what MPs can do especially when it comes to laws that concern them. We cannot be too trusting as a nation.

MPs can abuse office for their own agendas. There is need to act swiftly to deal with the inherent conflict of interest that arise as a result of our legislative setup. A voice of reason should emerge from Parliament to address this unpleasant situation. This cannot be business as usual.

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