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Our 100 million Pula bash

The P100 million budget given to the BOT50 committee to prepare for the Golden Jubilee celebrations has been justified. The event that marked the opening ceremony for the Independence celebrations held on Thursday night also put to rest doubts over the P14 million tender awarded to Redpepper to organising the opening ceremony for the 50th anniversary Independence celebrations.

It was the biggest and best party in the 50 years of Botswana’s Independence.

The best way to capture events of our Golden Jubilee celebrations is to line up words according to letters of the alphabet and re-live the moments from the eve of Independence to the D-Day.  Putting these words into action in their order of sequence gives a picture of what transpired on September 29th and 30th at the Gaborone International Conference Centre and the National Stadium:   

The Redpepper organised Independence eve ceremony invited Admiration; it lived to the expectation of a national  Anniversary, hence our Anthem got to be Appreciated by our international guests ; It was a Blast of Blue, a Boisterous Celebration that saw Citizens Colour a Commemoration well-Coordinated by Redpepper and BOT50 organising committee. The Crescendo of Crowds in Darkness was Dazzling. There were Demonstrations of fireworks Detonated in Dramatic fashion to mark 50 years of self-rule. For some, it was an Emotional Experience filled with Energy, Entertainment and Enthusiasm. The Explosions of firecrackers gave meaning to the Extravaganza. It was Fabulous and Families that attended at the national stadium were Fascinated by the Festival of Firecrackers. It was a Glittering Gathering that marked our History on a Holiday that Inspired Hope and Hoopla. Our people Celebrated.  

It was Jaw dropping, this was a Joyous moment, full of Jubilation and Laughter – the event is Legendary. It gave us Light into our Memorable past and the Memories of September 29th and 30th shall last because of the Music and the National Noise that we caused to happen. It was an Occasion and Outing not to be missed, it was Overwhelming, Everybody Participated in this national Party, a clear sign of Patriotism organised in a Pattern that demonstrated Pomp, and Power of unity; as well the importance of Preparations, but most importantly it captured our Pride as a nation.  The event was peppered with Quality in all its aspects. 

The Red lights that flashed as the BDF and artists performed reminded us of Redpepper’s excellent work in organising the event; everybody was Rejoicing with Responsibility. Our Traditions were on display as we paid Tribute to our forefathers and ourselves.  It was an Unbelievable and Unique ceremony.  From different Views at the national stadium, one could paint a Vision of where coming from and going as a nation. President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama punctuated the celebrations by launching the new national Vision 2036, which also introduces the National Development Plan 11, as Botswana matches to a centenary of celebrations.

PRESIDENT KHAMA’S DANCE MOVES

Multitudes of those who attended the pre-Independence ceremony at the national stadium, including President Khama could resist the local tunes. President Khama, a known enthusiast of music made use of his dancing skills but this time around he was not responding to the soft sound bites of Polka, he was mesmerised by Dr Vom’s Tsaya Thobane. The number one citizen accompanied by Minister of Youth Sport, and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng nailed the Dikhwaere melody. The two displayed a well-coordinated dance up the grand stand of the national stadium with almost the entire crowd cheering them. Once again Dr Vom proved that he is a crowd favourite.    

LOCAL ARTISTS ROCK THE NIGHT

It was a night to remember for local artists who came out to perform during the eve of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The golden queen Maxy led the pack with her 2008 hit song Re Batswana which captures our history and character as a nation. Dr Vom was in his element as he got President Khama and Minister Olopeng to put on their dancing boots to recognise his famous song Tsaya Thobane – one of the biggest songs to ever be produced locally. The phenomenal Vee could not miss such an event of pomp and class, as usual he did his magic and the crowd was impressed with his performance. Veteran kwasa kwasa and rumba musicians, Franco, Alfredo Mos and Jeff Matheatau re-lived the old memories with some of their hit songs from yester years. The music part of the celebrations was worth it, and the fact that it was all local glossed the self-rule tag.

SOUND, LIGHTING GLOSS UP CELEBRATIONS 

With a fourteen million pula budget, Red Pepper PR did not compromise on quality, they brought the best sound ever and the lighting was very professional. Throughout the event, the mood swayed along in different lighting patterns such as up- lighting, string lights, pattern projection as well as pin-spotting which was beautifully done with almost all the colours. It was a night to remember, Batswana were given the best party in 50 years of Independence.

BDF STILL RULES THE ROOST

Our National Stadium has a capacity of over 25000, the BDF has never struggled to fill up the stadium with their annual BDF Day celebrations. The army men still lived up to their billing as they proved to be the darling of the crowd with their coordinated moves. They are very excellent entertainers through their music and drills. They captivated the crowd with the Independence eve drills and music. With the pride associated with celebrating 50 years of Independence being the major crowd puller, there is no doubt the BDF was also the magnet that wooed Batswana to the National Stadium.

IT WAS A FIRE CRACKING NIGHT

Many will attest to the view that most people at the national stadium have never attended a fireworks show. The Coordinator of the BOT50 events, Ms Charity Kgotlafela had promised firecrackers like no other, and indeed she delivered. Our people were treated to one of the best fireworks displays on Thursday’s Celebration marking the opening ceremony of our Independence Day celebrations.

Everyone was fascinated by the fireworks display, their movement, sounds and lighting – some shot straight up before exploding, others whirl in a spiral, some shatter into thousands of sparks, others tumble like a scarlet waterfall or float in a glittering silver shower.  There were various colours as the crackers exploded, we experienced blue, red, green, silver, green, yellow and all the noisy colours and the shapes were plenty.  The  movements kept one’s eyes pinned to the sky as the fireworks would coll, jet, spin, spiral, whirl, whisk, burst, spurt, shoot, spatter, splatter, spurt, gush, rain, spray, scatter, dart, whizz, zoom, float, flitter. The light quality was dazzling, blazing, shimmering, glittering, sparkling, glowing, glimmering, twinkling.  There were happy faces all over the stadium and at homes. Oh yes, hundreds of thousands were glued to their television screens to be part of history. It was a sight to behold.

KHAMA LAUNCHES VISION 2036

On Independence Day, President Khama launched Vision 2036, which takes over from Vision 2016. The new vision borrows from the just concluded vision and marks the beginning of National Development Plan 11. 

The new national vision tagged ‘achieving prosperity for all’, has been in the oven for over a year and is ready to be rolled out. The vision is hailed as a game-changer in the socio-economic and political space. It is anchored on four pillars that are expected to lead Batswana to the “Botswana we want by 2036.” The pillars are Sustainable Economic Development, Human and Social Development, Sustainable Development and Governance, Peace and Security. The vision was arrived at following three broad questions; what kind of Botswana do we want to build by the year 2036? what kind of person would a Motswana like to be in 2036 and lastly in order to achieve these dreams and aspirations, what should be done, and by who?  The Vision 2036 document suggests that, “by 2036, Botswana will be a high-income country, with an export led economy underpinned by diversified, inclusive and sustainable growth driven by high levels of productivity.”

OUR FRIENDS GRACED THE MILESTONE EVENT  

Various Head of States and international guests descended in the capital Gaborone to witness the historic event, which marked 50 years since Botswana began the journey of self-rule.

The 29th of September started with an award ceremony that recognised our founding fathers and other pioneers of the modern day Botswana. The awards were followed by an opening ceremony that we described above. Go to page 7 of this issue to read more on those who were awarded by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama. 

Britain, which granted Botswana independence in 1966, was represented by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is the second son of the reigning Queen Elizabeth II.  Queen Elizabeth II, ascended to the throne in 1952, and it was under her rule that Botswana gained independence. Before independence, Botswana had been a protectorate since 1885.

Southern African Development Committee (SADC) Chairperson and Swaziland monarch, King Mswati also attended our celebrations. Swaziland and Botswana share a common history and had good relations from time immemorial.

King Letsie III of Lesotho was also in attendance. Lesotho, just like Swaziland has worked closely with the Botswana government since 1966.

 Namibia was represented by Vice President Dr Nickey Iyambo and its former president Hefikepunye Pohamba. Namibia and Botswana are good neighbours that share common interests. In July this year, incumbent President, Hage Geingob visited Botswana at the invitation of President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama.

 Former president of Nigeria Gen. Dr Yakubu Gowon was also in attendance. Nigeria and Botswana have a relationship which includes training of members of the military and the police. The two have enjoyed a cordial relationship over the years.

The United States of America assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield also attended the celebrations. The United States is one of Botswana’s most significant diplomatic partners, and through its agencies and other non-governmental organisation, the US continues to assist government of Botswana and its communities.

Cuba’s vice president, Mr Salvador Valdes Mesa also graced the occasion. Cuba has been one of Botswana’s allies in the area of health, with Botswana having a significant number of doctors from Cuba.  Cuba also trains some of our medical practitioners and our sports heroes. 

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe who missed the eve ceremony, joined the Friday celebrations. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe also gained independence from Britain, following the collapse of Ian Smith’s rule.

Mozambique president, Filipe Nyusi was also in attendance. Although Mozambique was ruled by Portugal prior to self-rule, its relationship with Botswana is historical. Other countries, which have a relationship with Botswana, were represented by their ambassadors. 

 

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SPEDU brings yet another big project in selibe-phikwe area

30th November 2020

Shiellah Moribame-Moakofi

SPEDU, Botswana’s investment promotion vehicle in the SPEDU Region has brought yet another immense project which will be situated adjacent to the town of Selebi Phikwe, dubbed “Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project.”

Commenting on the plan for the project,Manager Agribusiness- Maiba Samunzala, said the Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project is envisaged to become a model citrus development in Southern Africa and a flagship project in Botswana.

“This will be one of the largest flat units of citrus plantation in Southern Africa occupying one thousand two hundred hectares (1200ha) of land. This project has come at a very crucial time when our Government is seriously exploring means to create jobs. Such a project will therefore stimulate the town and restore economic activity within the SPEDU Region,” he said.

In line with Government’s efforts of diversifying the economy away from over reliance on the mineral sector, SPEDU’s critical role is to facilitate inward investment and economic diversification in the Region.

SPEDU started facilitating the project in May 2018 where engagements began between SPEDU itself, Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) and the investors. It has been a long journey which involved a number of negotiations which was done with due caution without compromise to both parties. This deal brings the number of SPEDU’s total projects to 70 in various sectors which are at different stages of development. Amongst these projects, forty-five (45) are at advanced stages of development.

Twenty-six (26) are citizen-owned companies in Information Technology (IT), Manufacturing, Agriculture and Construction;
Four (4) Government projects in Infrastructure Development and Agriculture;
Eight (8) Foreign-owned companies in Agriculture; and
Seven (7) Joint ventures in Manufacturing and Agriculture.

For his part, SPEDU Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mokubung Mokubung added that the project will be sitting on the Mmadinare Multi-Cooperative Society’s land, leased for a period of 33 years with an automatic renewal clause for a further 50 years. Dr Mokubung further indicated: “It was our responsibility that we ensure that clear steps are followed to allow for subleasing of the piece of land.

“A decision was further taken to approve a water quota and a reduced water tariff for this project. This decision was made considering the contribution envisaged from this project to the economy of Botswana. This project therefore will draw water from Letsibogo dam with an approved water allocation to the Project of 8 million cubic meters. Electricity supply will be from Botswana Power Corporation, while back-up generators will be present for pump stations as well as the pack house.

The development will be on a 1,500 hectare site, with 1,200 hectares of citrus orchards to be developed between 2020 and 2025 in two phases of development”, Mokubung added. The Selebi Phikwe Citrus (Pty) Ltd shortened as “SPC”, is foreign owned by South African (RSA) citizens. The RSA owners will manage the project with their highly experienced citrus growers personnel, with strong established track records in the industry, cumulatively spanning more than 50 years.

The location of the project was chosen on geo-political, economic and climatological merits including amongst others: Botswana’s stable political environment, amidst a mature democracy and a strong independent judiciary; Favourable business conditions, including attractive taxation and foreign exchange regulations, and a stable local currency with low annual inflation; Attractive long-term investment incentives; Good technical and agricultural conditions; and Adequate infrastructure and logistical access to markets.

Informed by the climactic factors particular to the site, the orchards will be planted with a range of citrus cultivars, including mandarins, Valencia oranges, seedless lemons and grapefruit. Although it will be one of the largest single citrus developments ever undertaken in Southern Africa, the development will only represent a maximum of 1.2% of the Southern African citrus plantings, all of which are mainly oriented towards overseas citrus demand markets. It is therefore not expected to have any destabilising effect on prices or industry dynamics.

The SPC project is being established at one of the most lucrative places in Botswana, as the SPEDU Region is strategically located even in the broader Sothern African Development Community (SADC) region.

The town of Selebi Phikwe is surrounded by 52 villages and rural settlements, and is located approximately 400 kilometers north of the capital city Gaborone. Selebi Phikwe serves as the commercial capital of the SPEDU Region. The town is home for 49,411 people, making up approximately a quarter of the entire population of the Region.

The Selebi Phikwe Citrus Project is forecast to create 1000 sustainable job opportunities at full capacity, with creation of both forward and backward linkages with other sectors. This Project would bring about growth and diversification of the agro industry, with spin-off effects that will generate other value chain business opportunities. The other benefits which would be brought by the Project include, increased level of exports, increased export revenue, technological and skills transfer, and import substitution.

Some of the areas in the SPEDU land pockets serves as a Special Economic Zone with the intention to support industrialisation through the economic sectors of Tourism, Manufacturing and Agro-Business in diversifying the economy.

This is in recognition of the inherent comparative advantages of the region evidenced by availability of ample surface and underground water resources. It is also the home of five of the country’s major dams, the Thune Dam, the Letsibogo Dam, the Lotsane Dam, the Dikabeya Dam and the Dikgatlhong Dam.

The region also boasts highly fertile soils and a climate conducive for agricultural, especially horticulture production. The availability of land for industrialisation in Selebi Phikwe and the region, infrastructure resources, abundant natural attractions, flora and fauna, natural resources such as granite, sandstone, marble and silica sands open up opportunity for industrialization.

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Church in the doghouse

30th November 2020
CHURCHES

Just like in politics, numbers matter in the church. As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has put so many commercial entities in the red, the church in Botswana has not escaped the wrath either. These glaring similarities between the church and world have pushed the former beyond limits and now there is a bone to pick with government.

Just last week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with men of the cloth, a jaw-jaw that precipitated a decision to increase the number of congregants per church service from 75 to 100 in line with the State of Emergency powers and COVID-19 regulations. The decision by the President is an indication that he has a foot in both camps – that is the church and COVID-19 Presidential Task Team.

But the church is still not satisfied, with some leaders expressing hard feelings over the bunch that met the President. From the latest decisions, it seems the government will open churches to their full capacity in a pi’s eye. In any case this position is expressed in black and white through various press statements from the Task team and individual ministries. Government is hell-bent on containing the possible spread of the coronavirus.

For some churches, such as the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) they have leaned on the Hobson choice – taking what is offered or nothing at all – and they have chosen the latter. The ZCC has also adopted a hush up as per the instruction of its leader, Bishop Lekganyane.

AND HERE ARE THE NUMBERS

A statistical generalisation in Botswana when it comes to church capacities demonstrates thus; St Peters Roman Catholic in Gabane, has a church capacity of 600. In main mall, Christ the King Cathedral Roman Catholic has a capacity of 1300, and in Gaborone West they have close to 1200 capacity.

Eloyi Christian Church in Selibe Phikwe boasts of a 1000 strong membership. On a normal service, The City Angeles Church in Tlokweng has 1500 people attending one service. For Spiritual Healing in Gaborone more than 800 people normally attend in between services; and as for Naledi Church of God in Palapye it has 700 people while Cornelius Apostolic Church has an average attendance of 2000 people in one service. The figures continue to pour in, Olive Church in Metsimotlhabe has more than 2500 members; while Royal Assembly in Gaborone has more than 800 attendees for a normal service. Their membership stands at 1200.

Speaking to this publication, Bishop Raphael Habibo of Assemblies of God confirmed that the 100 per service as recently prescribed is not enough. He pointed out that it would have been better had they been allowed a 200 or 300 ceiling looking at the capacity of various churches around the country.

“We are not in a position to take care of the needs of our people. In terms of counselling, ministering and standing with them during challenging times and financially. We have hired different people in church. When services are stopped it means we are not making enough money to pay these people. We hear the government’s cry but we need to come up with ways of living with this,” he said.

From Bishop Habibo’s interjection, it is evident that the church has an itching palm for purposes of paying salaries, rent, and general welfare issues. In essence the church is saying the 100 capacity command remains in the clouds, it is far from addressing the realities they face.

From the figures shared, it is evident that the church has a Midas touch but the Presidential Task Team on COVID-19 remains in the driver’s seat hence the church’s itching palm may be satisfied in a coon’s age!

While some church leaders agree that the churches do not need to be opened to the brim, they still shoot down the 100 members cap. They argue that they have enough space to adhere to COVID-19 protocols should their numbers be increased to 200 or 300.

The church says it is not only money that will ensure that they keep head above the water. There is a claim that by limiting the number of people may attend church services, emotional strain and depression are taking a toll on citizens. Faith thought leaders also attempt to link emerging worries such as Gender Based Violence and suicides to restrained spiritual interactions. While there is yet to be empirical data to full-proof these assertions as gospel truth, the church’s campaign for more numbers remains just a grasp at straws.

The church is also worried that certain decisions by the Presidential Task team appear to swim against the tide. They cite opening of borders, buses loading full capacity, tourism industry’s leisure travels, and a litany of decisions only explained by the idiom, smoke and mirrors.

CHURCH MEMBERS ARE DEPRESSED

“A lot of people have been stressed and depressed by this season. Having to live with the fear of the chance of contacting the virus or a loved one or colleague being positive is too much. It is at this point that we need to have a closer relationship with God to pray; to be in church and as we sing, we create an atmosphere of hope. People lost their jobs, businesses and for some it will take months if not years to recover.

We have even seen a rise in gender based violence – I would even think it’s indirectly connected to this pandemic. An affected mind facing a situation that is heavy and can’t take it anymore will just lose it and misbehave,” said the President of Royal Assembly Ministries, Boago Ramogapi.

“I wish the government could do “Capacity Seating” while still adhering to COVID-19 regulations of masks and distance between seats. In that case, a building that normally seats 1000 people will be able to take 500 people – there will still be space between the people and strict compliance on masks and sanitising,” he said.

He further highlighted that challenges arose amid the pandemic within the church and the main one was that many people were losing themselves and feeling helpless because they do not have the opportunity to go to church – a place that has an atmosphere to encounter, inspire and vibe peace of mind.

“On top of that, let’s understand that churches are run by the free will offerings of the congregants. Most of the time the offerings are taken when people have congregated. Discussing with some Pastors I discovered that many churches have had serious financial challenges – those renting places of worship, staff members to pay salaries and their usual outreaches to the less privileged were affected. We have banking online platforms to make transactions but they have not yet penetrated that much on the church sphere where people send their contributions to the church accounts,” he said.

When quizzed on the stand of the Ministry regarding the opening of churches, the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Anna Mokgethi said;

“There is no silence at all. My Ministry has been engaged with faith leaders on the issue of increasing the number of attendees at church services. They have made their submissions to the Ministry on a number of occasions and we agreed on the submissions to be made to the Task Force team. Consultations are ongoing.

At yesterday’s COVID-19 Task Force meeting it was agreed that consultations should be concluded and submissions should be presented this coming Monday and a final decision be made.”But from the black and white issued by various Government agencies, capacity seating for churches will come in a month of Sundays!

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Inside Botswana’s ambitious decent work programme

30th November 2020
work programme

In an effort to address the mounting challenges of unemployment and labour issues in Botswana, government has introduced the Decent Work Programme that will help the country achieve its decent work ambitions by the year 2024.

Botswana’s unemployment rate has been high at around 20% over the years as a result of the slow growth of employment opportunities. Youth and women are the most affected, however, the ratio of female to male youth unemployment has since had a significant decline from 165% in 2008 to 139% in the past three years, reflecting improvements in employment opportunities for women. The youth unemployment rate hovered around 35% over the last years.

In their Decent Work Country report, the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development strives to contribute to Botswana’s progress towards the achievement of full and productive employment and decent for all. The report prioritizes sustainable employment creation in which, government aims to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

By 20230, the Decent Work Report aspires for sustainable food production systems and implementation of resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaption to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

It has been suggested that Botswana should move to adopt measures to ensure that proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility.

Furthermore, the country aims to ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education hence increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Gender disparity has always been a challenge in Botswana. According to the report, there are aspirations to eliminate gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

As the country moves towards the digital space, technology is anticipated to play a bigger role in developing the economy. In the next ten years, Botswana says it would have enhanced the use of technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women. In a more tangible approach, there will be the adoption and strengthening of sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and women at all levels.

Achieving higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors has also been a target outlined on the report, as well as promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, formalization and growth of micro-small and medium sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

Furthermore, the report says Botswana will work to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
“Botswana will take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and the use of child soldiers which is to be ended by 2025 in all its forms.”

Meanwhile, the slow growth in employment opportunities in Botswana is said to be due to the fact that the supply of skills from the education sector does not match the needs of the job market. The skills mismatch has led to an oversupply of certain skills in the job market, resulting in high graduate unemployment, even though other skills are in short supply.

The report highlighted that there is a need to develop an adequately skills workforce, which is responsive to the labour market demands. “The growing rate of unemployment of the youth, specifically graduates, indicates the critical need for improving the coordination, planning, quality as well as management of human resource development. Government aims to address this challenge by implementing the National Human Resource Development Strategy, which stipulates the formulation of HRD Sector Plans, aimed at matching of skills with the labour market and the needs of the economy,” the Decent Work report reads.

Meanwhile, government has introduced Labour Market Information System that collects, analyses, monitors and captures labour market information such as labour indicators, data, labour demand and supply forecasts and any other labour market data.

In other words, it is a system that collects statistical and non-statistical information concerning labour market actors and their environment, as well as information concerning labour market institutions, policies and regulations that serves the needs of users and has been collected through the application of accepted methodologies and practice to the largest possible extent.

Government further says the labour market information is key to all players: policy makers use it for decision making purposes, students and their parents for informed career choices, researchers amongst others.

The availability of reliable, comprehensive, cost effective and up-to date labour market information is a necessary condition for effective human resource planning and its implementation. Such information is not only required by government and its agencies, but also by employers for their personnel planning decisions.

Individuals also need information on the state of the labour market to make their training and career choices. As a result of this, knowledge of how the labour market functions become integral to an understanding of the key economic issues of time.

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