Government was this week accused of overlooking the church, especially, the Botswana Council of Churches when soliciting views on revitalisation strategies for the Selibe Phikwe area following the closure of the BCL mine.
Different Council leaders revealed at the just ended 3 days 4th Alternative Mining Forum held in Selebi Phikwe recently that BCL closure directly affected them as the social custodians of the human race. Rev Gabriel S Tsuaneng, Vice President of the Botswana Council of Churches observed that minerals are a gift from GOD and the church must play the role of a watchdog to ensure proper mineral exploration and mining which benefits God’s people.
Tsuaneng also noted that as the church, they think and have the acumen to influence policy crafting which consequently affects their members who actually form the population of Botswana. “We challenge the government to provide space for engagement with the people and the church,” he said.
“We only learnt through the media that BCL was closed and that government planned some form of counselling for the affected persons, you see there is one form of counselling to a human soul that doesn’t need experts and theoretical classroom guidance, but can only be addressed by pastoral divine filled counselling and that’s where we come in as the church,” he explained.
According to the outspoken Reverend, his organisation continues to hear about Phikwe revitalization strategies through media publications, “The corridors of powers did nothing to bring us on board as spiritual leaders in order to inject hope and invite divine guidance to this significantly huge endeavour of reviving thousands of demoralized and demotivated souls,’’ he indicated.
According to him, an undertaking such as unearthing thousands jobs needs sharp minds and divine cultivation and spiritual engagement at national decision making level in order to output any tangible results. He however assured participants that they as the church and BCC are not politically motivated, “If we keep quite people say we are fine with the status quo and thus we are BDP and when we speak they confuse us for opposition affiliation.
No, we are the church of the people of God and we will not allow uninformed media reporting and political parties to set the agenda for us, but rather we are the social justice custodians and we will be the ones who set and define agenda for the politicians and decision making echelons.’’ For his part, Mayor of Selebi Phikwe, His Worship Amogelang Mojuta, observed that BCL closure should go a long way in teaching both Phikwe residents and Batswana in general a lesson.
Mojuta noted that prior to BCL’s demise his town was “the place to be” where all the ungodly deeds occurred that which translated to even high rates of HIV prevalence in his town. “Apart from teaching us that minerals will be depleted one day, this situation should teach us that first and foremost we need to lead a godly life and teach our children such values,’’ he said. According to the Mayor, BCL employees earned big money, and still neglected their parents, property investment and savings.
When presenting the findings of a documented two weeks study undertaken to independently assess the Socio-economic impacts of BCL closure, investigations coordinator, Boitumelo Kopana revealed that the impacts are severe that it’s actually purported. “According to our findings, people literally have nowhere to go after vacating BCL houses, people do not have any form of savings and monetary investment and majority of the people are actually emotionally crushed by his situation,’’ she observed.
The study which was conducted by a Botswana Council of Churches for a period of two weeks reveals that there is currently flooding of transfer applications at government schools in greater Phikwe settlements, further more it observes an influx in requests for ploughing incentives like free seeds at villages around Phikwe.
“In Sefhophe alone we have recorded over 60 incoming transfer requests since the BCL closure, and over 100 extra requests for agricultural incentives , thus our greater Phikwe areas are feeling the pinch more than most people perceive,” explained a member from the investigation team. The BCC revealed they will engage the government in this matter and present the findings of their study to cabinet at a policy forum they expect to host at the government enclave next week.
“We have a policy forum with the government scheduled for next week, we hope to advance our case there and engage the decision makers further on national issues,” BCC General Secretary Reverend Simane told WeekendPost in an interview. The 4th Alternative Mining Forum was held in Selibi Phikwe from November 28th– 30th November 2016 under the theme: “Making Natural Resources work for the people –ensuring that no one is left behind,” facilitated by Botswana Council of churches in Partnership with Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations resourced by Norwegian Church Aid. The forum engaged Civil Society and faith based communities in Botswana with particular focus on Selibi Phikwe and surrounding villages for Advocacy and policy Engagement with relation to the closure of BCL Mine and related issues.
There is uproar and confusion at Gaborone City Council (GCC) caused by the municipality’s decision to reject cheaper bids and instead award a contract of Asphalt overlay, resealing and road marking works of 10km in Gaborone to a more expensive contractor.
The tender was posted on December 8th last year with TRI VENTURES (PTY) LTD awarded the tender after being the best evaluated bidder. The company, to do the job, quoted P14 707 454.78 as the total bid price and P12 501 336.56 as the total contract price of the award.
The awarding of the job to this company has rubbed other bidders the wrong way and even suspecting the tender adjudicating body of having hidden interests. The arguments from the tenderpreneurs is that the common methodology for awarding the jobs is always hinged on the least expensive taking the job. This, they support further by saying the government has been decrying lack of funds but GCC continues to splash the funds without being logical and prudent.
From the tendering companies, a number of them were below TRI VENTURES’ quote. Trench Plant Hire quoted P12 million, with Costain Services praying for P13 million, Conconet PTY LTD asked for P12,9 million and Clanfield PTY LTD also quoted P12.9 million for the 10 km job in the capital city.
The latter, Clanfield PTY LTD which according to CIPA records is owned by Tlholego Ntebele, approached High Court this week Thursday seeking interdict which will pave way for the review of the tender. The company had initially filed an appeal and the Appeals Board dismissed it.
“In this regard you are hereby informed that, if you are aggrieved by the decision by the Appeals Board you may seek remedy from the high court in accordance with section 24(6) of the LAPAD act,” appeal dismissal letter read. The Appeals Board’s main contention was that the company quoted the money which is lower than the council minimum cut off point of P14 511 798 76.
In their heads of argument at the court, the company through their attorneys argued that by being inexpensive, it was enough to grant them the job. In fact they argued that the winning bid of TRI VENTURE owned by Lebogang Dikole reached the GCC budget ceiling and therefore Clanfield Pty Ltd were the best placed to be awarded.
The request for the interdict was nonetheless dismissed by Justice Radijeng but the company is still adamant that they will appeal. Delivering the speech on Legal year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane implored the courts to adjudicate on urgency basis matters of tenders as they stall progress on national developments.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which came into effect at the beginning of 2021 with a market of 1.2 billion and combined GDP of $3 trillion, could contribute $76 billion to the world economy, according to World Bank.
To harness this potential, African countries would have to address the infrastructural challenge — which means dishing out or augmenting existing infrastructure funding models in favour of new funding models. ACFTA — the biggest trade agreement since World Trade Organization — fundamentally seeks to scrap out tariffs in 90 percent of goods, subsequently improving trade by at least 15 percent by 2024.
However, trade between African countries will most likely to be hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure key in facilitating business. Africa, particularly the Sub-Saharan region has been grappling with the question of funding its infrastructure, and lags behind other regions in the world in meeting infrastructural needs.
As highlighted by African Development Bank in its 2018 economic outlook, one of the key factors retarding industrialization has been the insufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power, water, and transport services that would allow firms to thrive in industries with strong comparative advantages.
The continent’s infrastructure needs an amount of $130–170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range $68–$108 billion, according to African Development Bank. Africa’s infrastructure deficiency is well-documented, and has been subject of interrogation by development partners for decades.
The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, produced by World Bank in 2010, collected comprehensive data on the infrastructure sectors in Africa—covering power, transport, irrigation, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology (ICT) as well as providing an integrated analysis of the challenges they face.
While the report noted that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s improving growth performance and has the potential to contribute even more in the future, it also discovered that Africa’s infrastructure networks increasingly lags behind those of other developing countries and are characterized by missing regional links and stagnant household access.
These deficiencies, cause African firms to suffer production costs, therefore making goods not only expensive but also lowering competition in the economy to the consumer’s disadvantage. African countries continues to fare badly in the annual Global Competitiveness Report — published by World Economic Forum — in the infrastructure pillar, with only South Africa being an exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, though still having power problems.
The infrastructure pillar looks at the quality and extension of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water and air) and utility infrastructure. This is so because better-connected geographic areas have generally been more prosperous and well-developed infrastructure lowers transportation and transaction costs, and facilitates the movement of goods and people and the transfer of information within a country and across borders.
It also ensures access to power and water—both necessary conditions for modern economic activity. Power is listed among Africa’s biggest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries facing regular power shortages and many paying high premiums for emergency power, according to World Bank which indicated that to address Africa’s infrastructure needs it will cost around $93 billion a year, but African Development Bank puts the figure at $130–170 billion a year, after its recent study.
The infrastructure challenge cut across all countries, from fragile economies to resource-rich countries such as Botswana mainly because a large share of Africa’s infrastructure is domestically financed, with the central government budget being the main driver of infrastructure investment.
In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the continent does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs.
Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.
“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance in Botswana. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi could find himself ensnared in controversy, as contentious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov this week emerged as the likely investor in the water desalination worth approximately P3 billion.
News of a possible water desalination project resurfaced after President Mokgweetsi Masisi made his second State visit to Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob in a space of less than a month. President Masisi and his entourage travelled to Namibia to explore the possibility of collaborating on a water project, according to government officials.
Reports in Namibia indicate that talks are already underway with Geingob and an investor who is offering desalination water from the Atlantic Ocean. “Being a good neighbour and alive to Botswana’s water challenges, Geingob invited him to come and meet the investor to share thoughts on the project”, Masisi announced on his official social media pages.
“We are happy with the prospects because we need the water. However, our ministers and technocrats have to determine what is best for us bearing in mind our governance procedures,” Masisi wrote. Tautona Times, an Office of the President (OP) publication, reports that funds and other technical considerations permitting Botswana to partner with Namibia in a water desalination project which could address the current water shortages that the two countries are facing are being sourced.
Namibia has been working on a project to treat water from the Atlantic Ocean and use it for drinking purposes. Last Thursday, an investor willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Heads of State and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete.
Botswana however is still part of Botswana- Lesotho water transfer project. The L-BWT scheme will supply water to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a 700 km water conveyance pipeline from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana.
In August 2018, Botswana was tasked with an investment request of €3.42 million grant funding for outstanding feasibility studies related to the dam and conveyancing pipeline. “We are still part of the Lesotho- Botswana water transfer project where Botswana was tasked by the three countries to approach the African Development Bank to fund the feasibility study which they did and it’s been done. The technical team for the three countries even toured the pipeline site to determine what’s on the way which may require moving”, said impeccable sources.
After the trip, Tautona Times reported that an investor who was willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Presidents and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The said investor is Rashid Sardarov, according to the Namibian press.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) Panama Papers have linked Russian billionaire and Namibian land baron, Rashid Sardarov, to a number of unscrupulous offshore companies. Sardarov, who is believed to be a person of interest between the two Heads of State, owns large tracts of land in Namibia, and is a long-term client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers data leak, which was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
ICIJ reports that absentee landlord Sardarov is a 60-year-old flamboyant Russian oligarch with an interest in energy businesses, property, aviation, hospitality and wildlife hunting. In 2013 he bought several farms in Namibia, measuring 28,000 hectares (the equivalent of about 34,000 football fields), through his Switzerland-based company, Comsar Properties SA. Sardarov also apparently intends to build a game ranch 70 km outside Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek.
One of the main purposes of creating an offshore company is to hide the names of the real owners. Even though creating these kind of companies is not illegal, the Panama Papers once again showed that some of these shell companies, masked in secrecy provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.
Rashid Sardarov is unapologetic about his riches, and was quoted by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo as saying: “I’ve been a billionaire for years, and I’m not ashamed to say so”. He received Bosnian citizenship in 2011 because he was a major investor there.
In addition to his 2013 land purchases in Namibia, at the end of 2014, Sardarov wanted to buy an additional 18,000 hectares of land for expansion. It is not yet clear whether Sardarov acquired the extra land he wanted. But he is building a state-of-the-art game ranch, Marula Game Lodge, in the region.
Botswana and Namibia recently signed a Bi- National Commission and the two Heads of State emphasized the unique responsibility they have to their nations. They agreed to constantly engage each other in communication and other ventures that will yield benefits to the people of the two countries. President Masisi and Geingob acknowledged the common challenges that Botswana and Namibia have adding that the time for working in silos is over.