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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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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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