In an unanticipated turn of events, former Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo has conceded that the Ministry acted beyond its powers by approving the P81 million Air Botswana tender in the absence of a board of directors.
Mabeo, who has since been shuffled to the newly created Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, told a Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises that the P81 million Air Botswana tender was approved by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications without his knowledge.
The first term minister said he only learnt about the approval of the tender following the revelations by Acting Air Botswana General Manager Agnes Khunwane, when she appeared before the Parliamentary committee some few weeks back.
The minister admitted that by so doing, his former ministry overstepped its mandate and flouted procedures as provided by the Air Botswana Act.
Meanwhile, Neil Fit, who appeared before the committee together with the minister also admitted guilt after failing to state where in the Act, he is empowered as Permanent Secretary to take over the roles and responsibilities of the Board.
“You [Fit] are the chief advisor to the minister and you were badly advising him. You do not know your boundaries and what is happening in your ministry,” said Samson Guma Moyo, Chairman of the committee.
Guma said Fit should be dismissed for incompetence and badly advising the minister owing to the scandalous Air Botswana tender.
Fit, a Board member of Air Botswana, had told the committee that he is not familiar with the Air Botswana Act, something which did not go down well with the committee as the members felt, as a board member of Air Botswana; he should be familiar with it all.
A fortnight ago, Khunwane told the same committee that the tender was given the green light by Fit, following the dismissal of the board. The parliamentary committee heard that the board was dismissed on the 24th of November 2015, barely nine days after the management tender committee, chaired by the current acting GM, Khunwane, had met.
It is reported that the then CEO, Ben Dahwa had his own misgivings about the awarding of the tender, as he was of the view that its scope did not reflect what Air Botswana needed.
Khunwane further told the committee that subsequent to the dismissal of the board, she sought the guidance of the ministry, and she was informed by Fit that in the absence of the board, the ministry will be in charge of all responsibilities which would have been ordinarily the preserve of the board.
The tender, which was for the provision of engine maintenance services, was awarded on what appears to be a selective tendering process. The tender is for a period of three years and was only ratified by the new board in June, about six months after being awarded and executed.
Fit told the Parliamentary committee that he approved the tender after having an impression from Air Botswana Acting GM, Khunwane that it was a necessary thing to do. Guma said, continued disregard of laws and procedures should have Fit charged for negligence.
After admitting to his guilt, Fit said he will take an appropriate action with the P81 million Air Botswana tender by re-looking at it, with the possibility of cancelling the tender.
Mabeo informed the committee that after dismissing the board, he had tried to appoint new members as soon as possible but could not find the right people. The board was appointed in February this year.
The committee was also not impressed by controversial trips taken by Mabeo to Brazil, France and Canada. The trips, according to Fit were for him and his minister to familiarise themselves with the aircraft, in case Air Botswana may need them in future.
The committee was not impressed because the Air Botswana Board of Directors had disapproved of the trip as it was parallel to the process which the airline was embarking on.
Guma felt that the minister and his delegation overstepped their mandate since it was not necessarily for them do embark on the journey which strictly needed professionals and relevant people at the airline.
The committee chairman expressed his displeasure with a continuing trend where ministries are interfering in the affairs of parastatals, and illegally allowing them to run without boards.
“When it comes to governance issues, no one is above the law. We need to respect procedures as required by respective Acts,” he said.
The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).
The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.