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Masisi to defend his BDP chairmanship

Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to defend his chairmanship of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) next year. The 2017 National Congress is billed to make or break political careers of several ruling party stalwarts especially those who aspire for the presidency and or the vice presidency of the republic.

Following the Mmadinare congress last year, which ushered in Masisi as chairman the BDP will have a more gruelling elective congress next year that will see many political careers hang in the balance. Masisi is said to have made it clear to his inner circle that he will contest the chairmanship. The move is seen as the President in waiting’s intention to stamp authority and demonstrate his aura within the party structures. 

President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to step down at the end of March in 2018, it will be 18 months before the 2019 General Elections. By all accounts the focus will shift towards Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is expected to ascend to the highest office. While some within Masisi see the decision to stand as a risky dice, the Vice President does not want to second guess his popularity, and he is determined to put to bed those who doubt or undermined his political prowess and command within the party.

Several names have been suggested as potential challengers for Masisi as President Khama’s tenure nears expiry. Some have made abundantly clear that they have presidential ambitions and they intend to challenge. Former secretary general of the BDP, Jacob Nkate; and Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama are loud and clear on their ambitions. Tebelelo Seretse unsuccessfully took on Masisi in Mmadinare last year; she may try her luck again. Minister Nonofo Molefhi has some party members pushing him to avail himself, and he has kept quiet.

But Masisi’s inner circle is convinced that next’s year congress is a worthy gamble, and by all accounts those who want to dictate party terms should be part of the group that will be elected next year. Losers at this congress may well kiss their political relevance goodbye. But for Vice President Masisi, losing the chairmanship could send the party and the country into confusion. There could possibly be questions as to how he will win a national election if fails at party level; some could ask why they should trust him and entrust him with national issues if his party does not trust him. However, this publication learns that Masisi is confident that he wants to bite the bullet because he is not a coward. Should Masisi lose the chairmanship to any challenger, he will be a limping president-in-waiting; he could easily be challenged and beaten should the BDP go for a presidential vote in April of the following year.

These events leading to this 2017 National Congress bear a resemblance with what transpired in 2003 at the Gantsi congress prior to the 2004 General Elections. This is the congress that is believed to have ‘robbed’ Ponatshego Kedikilwe of the opportunity to succeed Festus Mogae as the country’s fourth President.

Mogae’s Vice President at the time, Lt Gen Ian Khama won the party chairmanship race against Kedikilwe with a convincing margin. As things stand, if President Khama does not drop Masisi before he leaves office at the end of March 2018, Masisi automatically assumes office as the country President and Party President through the party’s automatic succession plan.

Article 29.3.3 states that ‘In the event of a vacancy arising in the Presidency of the party at a time when the party is in power, the Vice President of Botswana shall automatically become the State and Party President. But Masisi does not want a situation where he is president and had recently lost some party position to one of the party members, it will be damaging to his national standing.  His audacious recruitment drive in the opposition ranks is part of the strategy to cement his standing in the BDP.

Hell will break loose if Masisi loses the chairmanship of the party, it will automatically translate that the party no longer has trust on him. He will become a weak President in 2018 with no party support and his future will hang in the balance. He will risk making history becoming the first President to have ever run the shortest term (18 months). At this stage he can only be ‘rescued’ if the party believes in his leadership and administration as the President. However, the party has the option to substitute him with someone who would have won the chairmanship because that person will have the support of the party. In this setup, it is vital for the party to win elections than an individual.

SIGNIFICANCE OF 2017 CONGRESS

The 2017 National Congress significance is that the elected central committee will take the party to the 2019 General elections. Should Masisi win the chairmanship next year, it means that by the time he takes over from President Khama, he will still be chairman and the party will have the option to choose the next chairman from the 18 member central committee. Therefore this may mean that those aspiring for chairmanship should ensure by all means possible that they are part of the next central committee. Upon Masisi assuming the Presidency, the constitution states that ‘In the event of a central committee member, other than one of the six Office Bearers resigning, being incapacitated, dying or otherwise ceasing to be a member of the central committee, the President of the party shall appoint another person to fill the vacancy, pending the next National Congress. In this case Masisi will be eligible as the party president to appoint a chairman of his choice.   

THE 2003 FALLOUT 

The 2017 National Congress will resemble the events that unfolded at Gantsi in 2003. Former Mmadinare legislator and BDP stalwart who was later given the transitional Vice Presidency, Ponatshego Kedikilwe took over as the BDP chairman in 1995; he would have ascended the ladder to become the President in 1998. Conversely, things took a bitter turn, with the backing of President Mogae; Vice President Khama challenged Kedikilwe for the chairmanship of the party. The stakes were high: Had Kedikilwe won; there was a strong possibility that he would have challenged and defeated Mogae for the State and Party Presidency the following year.    

An ex- soldier, Khama did not find it difficult to breakthrough; he endured the comfort of working with former Army General Mompati Merafhe and the backing of his faction. Merafhe had for many years been part of the central committee as an additional member after suffering hard blows from the strong Kwelagobe- Kedikilwe alliance. Tried and trusted, when he announced his bid for the party chairman, he was seen as the only man strong enough to defeat the alliance.

Khama convincingly outdid Kedikilwe winning with a big margin; this was the end of Kedikilwe’s steadfastness. He would only return in 2012 taking over as a transitional Vice President taking over from Merafhe who was ill at the time.

MASISI’s VICE PRESIDENT

The outcome of the 2017 National Congress might also significantly bring into the picture the face that will ascend to the position of Vice Presidency. This could be someone within the central committee who has party backing and support. The position of Vice-President has always accounted for a smooth political succession. Masire served as Vice-President and Minister of Finance and Development Planning in the government of Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana. Following Seretse’s death in 1980, Masire ascended to the presidency.

Soon after he assumed the office, Masire chose Lenyeletse Seretse for the position of Vice-President. Lenyeletse Seretse held that position until his death and was succeeded by Peter Mmusi. Mogae succeeded Mmusi and Khama became the Vice President.

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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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