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Over 10 000 direct job losses since 2015

The past two financial years have been rough for the country’s largest private sector employer and biggest foreign income earner, the Mining Sector. Before the nation woke up to shocking news of BCL shut down three weeks ago, Botswana had already  stomached the liquidation of African copper mines,  Khoemakhau and Boseto mines in a space of  less than two years.

This operational termination came with the hard reality of massive job losses. Just when it seemed the halt of operations at the economic engine in the eastern side of the country was harsh enough, reports emerged indicating that Lerala mine, located at the far south end of the SPEDU region in Tswapong District, is also heading for closure and consequently job losses.


Lerala mine will be adding thousands more job losses to the mining industry’s horror archives, making a total of over 10 000 direct mining sector job losses to be recorded from 2015 to date alone. BCL is to account for over 5000 job losses, its subsidiary Tati Nickel Mine over 700 and already over 2000 job losses were recorded at Boseto and African Copper mines.
More pressure has been piling on the government to accelerate economic diversification efforts and initiatives. Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) leadership has cautioned the nation, decision makers and all stakeholders against the over dependence on the mining sector for economic sustainability.


BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai, made this cautionary statement at a BOPEU Women & Youth Symposium held in Selibe Phikwe just after the announcement of provisional liquidation for BCL mine.
According to Motsamai a mineral sector dependent economy is an economy headed for a dead end. Motsamai indicated that lack of readiness for mining sector’s ultimate crush is blight on the country’s leadership.  “We knew that one day the copper and nickel deposits at the BCL will get depleted, but we did little to nothing as leaders of this country,” observed Motsamai.

He explained that BCL financial status and global market commodity prices are only short term problems, but the long term reality in all the Botswana mines is that mineral ore will get finished.
“The sad fact is that mineral  stones are not here forever, and if we don’t as a country prepare for the demise of this God given resource, we are heading for an economic crush, and we will have only ourselves to blame, not commodity prices,” said Motsamai.


The outspoken Union leader reinforced his sentiments by citing the example of Jwaneng mine which he termed as already in the afternoon of its lifespan. “if you analyze the situation at Jwaneng mine which currently pumps billions of pula into the government purse, you’ll realize that we need to diversify our economy as soon as yesterday. There will probably be no Jwaneng mine in 20 years and if we don’t ready ourselves, the knockout punch that hit Selibe Phikwe will hit Jwaneng.” The life span of Jwaneng mine, the world’s richest diamond pits (by value) is estimated to be just after 2030.


Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko, has called on President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama to take the blame and accept failure to run the economy. According to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President, Khama has abandoned economic diversification and concentrated more on humanitarian give outs which he labelled as popularity stunts.
Duma Boko told Weekendpost   this week that president Khama as the head of state needs to account for all this countless job losses “I invite President Khama for a debate on this tragedies that are befalling our country, I am ready to give alternative counter strategies to the current crisis in our mining sector and our economy at large,” said Boko.


Opposition members have also accused Khama’s second in command for abandoning his job creation and economic diversification mandate. “The vice president is incompetent with his assignment of creating jobs for our youth, he has rather as of  recent channeled his energy and state resources to recruiting opposition members to the ruling BDP, attracting them with lucrative offers,” said Dithapelo Keorapetse, Selibe Phikwe West MP, who is also the spokespersosn of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
This past week, Monday, the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo revealed in his opening speech at the legislators and stakeholders briefing on the proposed “long overdue” National Development Plan 11 before presenting the draft before parliament on Wednesday that the country will run at a deficit budget for the first three years of the NDP. Matambo further stressed the urgent need to find alternative means of generating income for the government as the current national main source of income is faced with challenges.

“We need to intense government revenues, and we need to do that with private sector based economic activities, totally independent from mineral revenue,” said Matambo.
The state purse bearer also noted that government expenditure needs to be monitored intensively as every pula counts. He further indicated that his government is worried and thus will be more careful. ‘’It is the three consecutive years of running at a budget deficit for NDP 11 that this government is most worried about,” he said.


For his part, Keith Jeffries, Managing Director at economic & finance policy analysis  firm, Ecosult Botswana, couldn’t agree more on the urgent need for economic diversification but insisted that he needs more time to analyse the National Development Plan. “Let’s wait for the unpacking of NDP 11, and analysis on government initiatives, there will be economic reviews coming up which will better inform our opinion and recommendations,” said Mr Jeffries who is former Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor and currently a renowned economic policy analyst.


The Chairman of Parliament Committee on Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies, Samson Guma Moyo emphasised the need to diversify the economy away from the mining sector, “If we don’t find other alternative means of economic sustainability and growth, and only rely on minerals, we will not go past middle income status, lest we even realize an economic crush in the near future,” noted Guma Moyo who is also MP for Tati East.


The government of Botswana is pinning its hopes of achieving a diversified, private sector driven and sustainable economy on current initiatives such as the Special Economic Zones, Economic Diversification Drive, ESP and various investment and business development arms like the BITC, Botswana Development Corporation, CEDA, National Development Bank to enhance and accelerate foreign & domestic investment as well as economic growth.

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Cabinet approves AFCON dream

24th January 2022
zebras

The government of Botswana has reportedly approved the dream of hosting African Cup of Nations in 2027 with Namibia as co-host, following a proposal to cabinet by Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare.

WeekendSport learns that the organizing committee dreaming to host the tournament is preparing to hand their hefty book to Confederation of African Football (CAF) when bidding stage comes into open. Botswana Football Association (BFA) has, to this date, managed to win the confidence of the government, and all thoughts around the African football prestigious tournament are given serious attention with acceleration of construction of 10 mini stadia across the country, sources have said.

Furthermore, reports in Namibia state that the Botswana government has approached them with a proposal to co -host the 2027 edition of African tournament. “I can confirm that the minister of sport in Botswana has written to our minister but these are still early days and no decision has been made yet,” Audrin Mathe, an executive director in the Ministry of Sport was quoted by Namibia Sun this week. Meanwhile, Rakgare has said: “It is still an internal issues but yes, we are interested in hosting with Namibia.”

All the while, BFA president who also sits in CAF national executive committee is expected to embody a more emotive promise about the ability of African Cup in Botswana and how it can benefit the citizenry and by extension, the Southern region. With Zimbabwe having come out clean about their intentions to bid for 2034 World Cup, there has been a growing feeling that Botswana should try her luck, and therefore Botswana delegation will be hopeful to walk a fine line.

Although, the commercial potential of a Botswana AFCON Cup is a compelling factor in their favour, following the relative uncertainty of many African countries ( due to political instability, extent of corona virus ) and state of insecurity, BFA is minded not make that their thrust of the case. Hence the concentration on providing a home from home for all teams among Botswana’s diverse population and the opportunity to use the proceeds to advance legacy projects around Africa. The feeling on the ground is that the move might be bold, and some association influential players believe that it will be a matter of upgrading Maun stadium, Masunga and Serowe stadium.

An idea is also harbored that another stadium will be built in around Gaborone to boost the existing National Stadium with the Lobatse and Francistown stadia also expected to play pivotal role.  All the while, a more than P20 million operational budget is said to be needed to travel the African countries in convincing them that Botswana is more suitable to host with its security and economy very much stable.

Botswana passes the mark when it comes to transportation, accommodation and hotel facilities. The fact that CAF normally want a country that has hosted youth tournaments before enables Botswana to score points in that it has hosted before. The only problem that might mark Botswana down is road infrastructure.  BFA will consider roping in an experienced sport person and the high profile of former players like Diphetogo Selolwane is anticipated to appear for the thoughts building around the bid, and his name will be seen as watershed moment.

The southern region, however, might be dealt a devastating blow following the catastrophe that hit Angola when they hosted the 2010 edition. The Togo team was shot by rebels and panic erupted.  However, the field is open and the ever shifting sands of CAF internal politics make the race hard to call and feed fears of horse trading and backroom deals.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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