In a potentially telling twist, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is abuzz with reports that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has requested his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi not to contest for the ruling party’s chairman position at the party’s elective congress expected next year July.
Masisi had made it clear to his inner circle that he intends to defend his position next year. His reasoning oscillated around cementing his stature as the future president, a need to put to bed doubts over his influence in the party, and plain need to demonstrate his character and strength to his detractors. The Vice President continues to be very active within the BDP structures, recruiting hordes of disgruntled opposition figures and is at the forefront of a campaign to paint a resurgent ruling party after the grueling 2014 general election.
But word that Khama has asked him not to defend his position of chairman could throw the spanner into the works, with Masisi’s backers scratching their heads beyond normal, what could be up Khama’s sleeves – if these reports are true? Officially, Masisi’s supporters learn that the Vice President has been asked to focus ‘on the bigger picture’, push more of official government business, and prepare for the transition. Masisi has been tasked with the task of job creation among his many assignments within government. The country is currently experiencing exponential job losses in parastatals and the private sector.
What irks those who are already discussing the latest development is the suggestion that President Khama has indicated that his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama could run for chairmanship instead. There is confusion within the Masisi camp, with some who are determined to block Tshekedi already working around the clock to find a ‘confident and robust’ opponent to stand in the way of the potential candidature of the younger Khama.
BDP insiders say Vice President Masisi finds himself without many options; he is at the mercy of President Khama at the moment. “He has no choice but to step aside and focus on government business. He has a job to do, regardless of the unofficial or postulated reasons as to why he should make way for Tshekedi or any other candidate,” said a BDP senior figure.
NKATE RETURNS END OF THIS MONTH
Those who want to block Tshekedi are running short of options, but their most attractive route could be Jacob Nkate who is returning from his ambassadorial role in Japan at the end of this month. Nkate has made it clear that he will return to stake a claim in the party presidency, launching his bid with a quest for chairmanship.
But with the latest turn of events, insiders say Nkate will have to ask himself a few questions before taking the bait – is he ready to take on a candidate who has the backing of President Khama? What is in it for him if he wins or loses the chairmanship race? Will he ever ascend to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency? And what would be Vice President Masisi’s attitude and or role in his (Nkate)’s campaign for chairmanship? Insiders continue to point out that the road will be bumpy for Nkate because most of his lobbyists could decide to be hidden because they are not ready to oppose an influential President Khama.
Indications are that President Khama still commands a very strong influence within the BDP. Compared to his predecessor, Dr Festus Mogae, at the same stage towards his retirement in 2007, the latter was a ‘lame duck’ President with little influence. It is well known that Khama was already influential at this point. BDP MPs who spoke to this publication concede that the President Khama addressed BDP caucuses are the most attended and definitive; when compared to those addressed by Vice President Masisi. “Who would dare not toe the line?” one MP asked rhetorically.
Hypothetical suggestions are already on the table on how Khama could have already moved to neutralize Nkate. The elevation of Thato Kwerepe to the position of Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Basic Education is seen as a strategy to gloss Kwerepe and insulate him against an anticipated onslaught from Nkate in the forthcoming BDP primary elections in preparation for the 2019 general election. The former Minister of Education has made it clear to his supporters back at the constituency (Ngami) that he is coming back to claim a constituency he once represented before he was outdone by his political nemesis in the 2013 primary elections.
Before Khama’s reported intervention in the BDP congress puzzle, Nkate was being coerced to take on Botsalo Ntuane for the position of secretary general. However Nkate was not keen because the position of secretary general spells out nothing for him in terms of his bigger picture of eyeing the high office. The 2017 BDP elective congress is potentially seen as a platform that will make and break kings and queens – and the succession issue within the ruling party could be settled for good in July next year.
The anti-Tshekedi battalion has reportedly rushed to Nkate because of their view that another potential person of interest, Minister Nonofo Molefhi does not appear to be willing to publicly express his interest. They also fear that his family ties with the Khamas will dissuade him against contesting. Those who question Molefhi’s confidence to take on Tshekedi also point out that he is a man who believes too much in the ‘order of things’, “he believes that if something is destined to be his, it will come to him. He does not want to fight for anything hence it will be a risk to bank on him,” said one of the BDP seniors.
While Molefhi is seen as having the goodwill within the BDP and across the party divide, those who doubt his readiness question his fighting spirit and his grasp and presence at party structures. They believe that he cannot be compared to Masisi, who they believe will put up a good fight against Tshekedi. While Tshekedi himself is not a strong party person, they believe Khama’s clout could carry him through and help him cross the bridge. Molefhi, who has been likened to South Africa and African National Congress (ANC)’s Kgalema Motantlhe, is expected to throw his weight behind Tshekedi if the reports on Masisi’s position come out to be true. Motantlhe’s loss to President Jacob Zuma in the race for ANC presidency was put squarely on the former’s indecisiveness and late declaration of interest.
The recent nomination of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) has also pushed some BDP activists over the edge hence realigning allegiances in the process. Some felt that they have been overlooked for new comers into the party. It is expected that Nkate’s return this month could mark the beginning of a spirited campaign within the party – a journey that will leave hind causalities because of the ongoing succession talk.
Tshekedi Khama has made it publicly known that he wants to be BDP chairman and President and should an opportunity arise he will gladly take it. Those around Masisi are asking themselves plenty of questions such as – what could Tshekedi aspire next should he win the chairmanship next year?
They speculate that for Tshekedi to become President at least in the foreseeable future under the current automatic succession plan, he must hope that Masisi makes him Vice President when he takes over as President in April 2018. But there are no guarantees in politics, BDP insiders say. They point out that there will be nothing compelling Masisi to make Tshekedi his Vice President. Further, they speculate that there is nothing incentivizing Tshekedi not to go for the jugular and this could force him (Tshekedi) to act on his affinity early by challenging Masisi for the party presidency.
CAN THE KHAMAS WAIT ANOTHER 18 YEARS?
There is also a school of thought that questions the prospect of Tshekedi waiting until 2019 congress to challenge Masisi for the party presidency. They point out that it will be risky for the party to change the leadership four months before the general elections in 2019. Some BDP insiders believe that the succession issue will be concluded by next year after congress. The Khamas have had to wait for 18 years to come back into power after the death founding President Sir Seretse Khama.
Lt Gen Ian Khama was Commander of the BDF during the time at the goodwill of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. Another former President, Dr Festus Mogae had to use his influence and goodwill to make President Khama his Vice President. “I am of the view that they are tired of being at the mercy of other people, they may decide to control their destiny this time around, with Tshekedi challenging for positions at party level,” reasoned a seasoned BDP politician. He points out that he does not see Tshekedi waiting on the wings and hoping for another Good Samaritan to bring them back into the thick of things. “There is so much at stake, interests and political control,” says a BDP insider.
KHAMA MAGIC STAYS ON
Meanwhile President Khama has indicated that he is retiring from the Presidency but he will not be retiring from the party. He has made his next move very clear at three platforms of the BDP. At a regional meeting in Tutume in the north east, President Khama told his listeners that he will lead the BDP campaign in the 2019 general election. He also communicated that he has raised a lot of funds for the elections and the figures have already surpassed those of the 2014 general election.
He repeated the same message at a meeting of the BDP held in Kanye last month. At a recent BDP Members of Parliament caucus President Khama made the same proclamation, something which party insiders say points only in one direction – President Khama is not going anyway far, and he is interested in the next course or direction the party takes.
(Note that we have spoken to four BDP MPs, two ministers, six senior party figures who all indicated that they are aware of this development. It remains as we reported it, reports and a debate within the BDP.)
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.