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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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Government ignores nurses’ COVID-19 anxieties

4th August 2021
Nurses

Health workers are at the front line fighting the deadly, contagious COVID-19. These workers have an immense challenge of welfare and government has since turned a blind eye to dares and crushing odds throttling health officers, particularly nurses.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has once more called on government to invest in the country’s nurses and give the nursing profession dignity.

In May 2020, BONU President, Obonolo Rahube said government should, in line with the advocacy of World Health Organisation (WHO) invest more on nurses and midwives, and further advised government to address challenges that nurses are faced with. The proposal was made on International Nurses Day.

At the time, Rahube urged government to provide subsidised accommodation for nurses and midwives as it has emerged that during the fight against the Corona-virus, accommodation for nurses and midwives is very important. Rahube called on government to provide nurses and midwives with 100% medical cover.

He also called on government to introduce risk allowance for nurses and midwives, noting that as frontline workers during the pandemic, they are at high risk. Nurses also demanded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), a matter which they lost with costs in court. Also critical during the COVID-19 era for health workers, psychological support is what BONU maintains is still lacking.

In the same year (2020), the Union raised a number of other challenges they are being faced with. These challenges, they asserted, make it testing for them to undertake their duties, especially now that COVID-19 has shaken Botswana’s already weak health system.

BONU expressed disappointment at nurses’ pay, nurses who tested positive for COVID-19 at an alarming rate, violence against nurses, nurses’ contracts which were never renewed and a poorly coordinated vaccination plan for health workers.

Clearly, nurses are not only battling the COVID-19 virus, but also government who has since refused to come to the party.

This week once again, BONU tested waters and slammed government with more demands, some of which have turned into an everyday song while COVID-19 continues to kill more nurses.

At a press conference on Tuesday, BONU President Rahube said over 800 nurses have been infected with COVID-19. Of this number, 34 nurses lost their lives due to COVID-19 related infections.

WHO and other health experts say for countries to emerge victorious from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must fast-track the roll out of vaccine. In Botswana, there is no clear explanations of how the vaccination plan is going.

The situation around vaccination is chaotic, and this is evidenced by only 28% of nurses who have been vaccinated. President Mokgweetsi Masisi is also disturbed by the COVAX programme as Botswana vaccines arrive in the country missing, every time.

Debates in Parliament on which vaccine to adopt are failing to conclude, in fact, they never gained energy. Rahube told members of the media that nurses are overworked.

“Shortage of nurses puts those available at risk. Some nurses are on isolation, quarantine and some passed on. Nurses do both testing and contact tracing so they end up working stretched hours, at times from 6am to 10pm. There is no how nurses will be able to deliver while exhausted,” he said.

He further indicated that infection control practitioners are not recognised and deployed appropriately, and some regions have shortage of commodities and supplies such as water resistant gowns (nurses are forced to re-use those availed), masks, gloves, scrubs and uniforms.

Oxygen supply is said to be in shortage, something that mounts COVID-19 deaths.

“Patients lose their lives whilst still awaiting to be put on oxygen. Psychological services are in serious need as nurses continue to lose their significant others, faced with resource constraints and many of them are not vaccinated,” said Rahube.

Accommodation still remains a huge challenge for nurses. BONU President said nurses overcrowd with families and colleagues.

In Kauxwi, four nurses share a single house, in Moshaweng two nurses share a single bedroomed house together with their families, with no electricity yet the village is powered. In Kazungula, there are only two staff houses for 11 nurses and their families.

The union stressed that the Chief Nursing Officer is not coming to the party, and the expectation is that the office should be coordinating all nursing issues at the Health Ministry. Rahube indicated that transfers have been frozen, promotions stalled and they continue to lose nursing posts to other Ministries.

In a number of recommendations, BONU urged government to consider compensation and risk allowance for staff affected by COVID-19 related deaths and those infected. “COVID-19 has been declared an occupational health illness, in essence, the employer should facilitate its occupational health division, and there are lots of occupational health nurses who are wrongly deployed, who could be running such programs at the facilities.”

In regard to vaccinations, BONU underlined that there should be clear information relating to vaccines and they should be made accessible. “Local franchise manufacturing of vaccine could use Botswana Vaccines Institute (BVI) and government should be clear and transparent concerning procurement of vaccines. It should also allow stakeholders with capacities of procuring vaccines to do so.”

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Gov’t reforms public procurement

4th August 2021
-Masisi-Serame

Government is moving swiftly to completely overhaul public procurement — a new Bill has been tabled before Parliament this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame and is scheduled for debate in the coming days of the current parliament sitting. 

Through this Bill the country’s purse bearer seeks to dismantle existing public procurement pieces of legislation, transform, merge and form a new public procurement arrangement. The existing public procurement high command base — the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPDB) would cease to exist.

This organisation will transition and assume the reigns of a regulator and oversight authority; the actual procurement; floating of tenders, accepting bids, adjudicating and awarding tenders will be fully taken over by Government departments accounting officers.

Accounting officers are Permanent Secretaries and statutory organisation heads and directors or any person who is responsible for the administration and day-to-day management of the affairs of a procuring entity, and any other person, who may be designated as such by the Minister under the act.

Speaking to this Bill this week, Serame revealed that the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal arrangement will be merged with the local authority’s procurement Act.

“We will now have procurement under one roof, all overseen by accounting officers, it’s all government money coming from one port,” she said.

Minister Serame explained that PPADB will no longer be player and referee at the same time, with a view to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation and management of public procurement processes.

According to Minister Serame, the new public procurement Act will promote competition among suppliers and contractors, and also provide for the fair, equal and equitable treatment of all suppliers and contractors.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REGULATORY AUTHORITY 

Should parliament pass this bill the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will transition into a new body called Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The new Authority will be  mandated with setting standards and practices for the public procurement system, regulate and control the public procurement system, ensure the application of fair, equitable, competitive, transparent, accountable, efficient, non-discriminatory, honest, value for money and public confidence in procurement standards and practices.

Furthermore the Authority will monitor and enforce compliance with the new Act and any relevant law by a procuring entity.

For standardization and  ensuring of world class procurement best practices the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will  monitor, assess, review and report on the performance of the public procurement system to the Minister and advise on desirable changes, and further issue standardized bidding documents to all procuring entities

This oversight and procurement regulator will conduct periodic inspections of the records and proceedings of a procuring entity to ensure compliance with the Act.

The regulator will institute periodically, in respect of any procurement —a procurement audit during a tender process, a contract audit in the course of execution of an awarded tender, a performance audit after the completion of a contract, and an investigation at any stage of a procurement process.

The Authority will continue to keep and maintain an up-to-date register of contractors, known as the “Contractors’ Register”, in works, services and supplies, or any combination thereof, however classified.

The new Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will be governed by a board of nine (9) non-executive directors appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The Public Procurement Board will be charged with directing the affairs of the Authority. Day to day executive activities of the Public Procurement Authority will be run by a Chief Executive Officer who will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board.

PROCURING ENTITIES AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS 

The actual procurement will now be handled by the Accounting Officers who will lead their procuring entities. The entities will consist of the procurement oversight unit, a procurement unit, an ad hoc Evaluation Committee, the user Department; or any other appropriate structure put in place by the Government.

The Accounting Officer will be in charge of establishment of appropriate procurement structures to undertake the procurement functions under the new act, which shall be staffed at an appropriate level in line with the model structure issued by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The Accounting Officer will also be charged with establishment, as may be prescribed, of a committee within a procuring entity which will oversee procurement activities, establishment, as may be prescribed, of an oversight committee to monitor procurement activities in a procuring entity.

The primary role of the Accounting Officers will be adjudication and award of tenders, including the adjudication of a bid recommendation submitted to him/her through a procurement oversight unit.

The Accounting officer will have powers to cancel a tender process and reject a tender offer at any time prior to entering into a contract, in the manner as may be prescribed, and the Accounting Officer shall not compensate the bidder of a tender that has been cancelled.

Under this proposed Act new set of regulations and guidelines will direct procurement complaints and appeals.

COMPLAINTS & TENDER DISPUTES

A procuring entity  will, after the publication of an award decision — allow a cooling-off period of 10 days in order for the procuring entity to receive and address complaints, if any, from any contractor who is aggrieved by the award decision; and not enter into a contract relating to the award before the expiration of a cooling period.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a breach of any provision of this Act or claims to have suffered or is likely to suffer loss or damages due to a breach of a duty imposed on a procuring entity shall, at the first instance, lodge a complaint before an Accounting Officer for review.

A contractor who lodges a complaint shall have the right to participate in the review proceedings before an Accounting Officer. A contractor who fails to participate in the review proceedings shall be barred from subsequently lodging the same complaint.

Under this proposed Act an Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint after a contract has entered into force. After considering a complaint and determining that the complaint is a frivolous or vexatious complaint, Accounting Officer shall dismiss such complaint.

Notwithstanding subsection (1), an Accounting Officer may refer a complaint considered and determined to be frivolous or vexatious to the Tribunal for the Tribunal to take any appropriate action as may be prescribed.

An aggrieved person shall submit his or her complaint in writing to an Accounting Officer within 10 days from the date of the publication of an award decision by the Accounting Officer, relating to the complaint.

The Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint unless it is submitted to him/her within the period referred to under subsection.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a decision of an Accounting Officer may appeal to the Tribunal within 14 days from the date of the decision of the Accounting Officer.

Where a contract has been concluded by a procuring entity, based on an award decision of an Accounting Officer, the contract shall be irrevocable and its execution shall proceed without interruption whether the award decision by the Accounting Officer may in itself remain disputable by a contractor through the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Tribunal may suspend and subsequently revoke or terminate the execution of a contract if in the opinion of the Tribunal, sufficient evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that the execution of the contract may cause substantial loss to the public revenue or prejudicially affect public interest.

A complainant who wishes to lodge a complaint shall exhaust the dispute resolution processes provided in this Act before the complainant refers the complaint to a court.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT TRIBUNAL 

The Tribunal will be a body established independently from Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, and shall constitute retired High Court judges or practicing attorneys who qualify to appoint high court judge.

The Tribunal shall adjudicate over any matter brought before it by a complainant for a breach of any of the provisions of this Act, or any appeal brought in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

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COVID-19 hits hard on BITC

4th August 2021
BITC

The COVID-19 pandemic which weakened world economies had left a devastating impact on Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) existence in 2020. According to the group’s 2019/2020 Annual Report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was sluggish for the first two quarters at P126 million and P426.96 million respectively. They then took an upward trajectory in Q3 and 4 at P1396 million and P1456 million respectively.

The year closed with a reduced performance at 73% for Q4. According to the financial report, export earnings opened the year at 83% which is approximately P671 million, before dropping to 81% (P1299.55 million). However, Quarter 3 experienced a slight rise in performance to 82%, or P1978.42 million before a drop in performance to close Quarter 4 at P74.9%, which was P2403.91 million.

Even if that is the case, the Centre continued to promote local investors by facilitating for local entrepreneurs to produce and find markets for their products both locally and internationally. The trend for Domestic Investment/Expansions indicated a continual upward performance surge from Quarter 1 through Quarter 4.

In percentage points, performance results reflected opening of 93% performance followed by a dip in performance to 82% Quarter 2, and then an increase to 100% in Quarter 3 and closing performance of 84.2% in Quarter 4.

For this financial year under review, BITC posted solid financial results with a surplus of P872.968, representing a decline from the previous year’s surplus of P13.991.337. The Centre started on track from the beginning of the financial year with successful execution of activities planned for the year.

However, following the subsequent onset of COVID-19 in the last quarter for the financial year, a few of the activities were negatively affected resulting from restricted cross border transfers. The impact is expected to be severe in the following financial year, especially on the Centre’s financial statements, clearly reflecting the negative impact of COVID-19.

In the financial year ended March 2020, BITC received a total subvention of P96.504.860 which represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s subvention of P101.830.560. the Grant subvention received for the past 5 years has not been constant due to the financial constraints that the government has experienced over the years which prompted for alignment of financial resources to cover the Centre’s strategic imperatives.

For the year under review BITC’s annual FDI capital inflows realised stood at P1.456 billion against an annual target of P2 billion, which is largely attributable to more than expected performance from the Financial Services sector. The total Domestic Investment for the period was P875.5 million against the set stretched target of P952 million. The total number of jobs registered by the organisation during the year under review was 3329, against an annual target of 3340.

BITC ACHIEVEMENTS

Notwithstanding that, BITC realised high level achievements for the year under review. Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile said facilitated to establish the Selibe-Phikwe citrus project, which has a job creation expectation of 1000 vacancies as well as the expansion of Kromberg and Shubert Company through the allocation of land for construction of 7000 square metres factory to manufacture wire harness for Mercedes Benz, with over 800 jobs expected this year.

Further, the Centre continued to deliver improved investor facilitation services to both local and foreign investors through the Botswana one Stop service centre (BOSSC). “BOSSC houses relevant government departments under one roof to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors. The services offered by this Centre have grown from slightly above 130 applications for government authorisation in 2013 to 752 in the year under review,” said Olebile.

BITC continued to monitor Botswana’s performance in global competitiveness indicators such as the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index. “In an endeavour to improve the investor facilitation mechanism in the country, we have motivated for the drafting of a Business Facilitation Law, which will expedite the setting up and operations of businesses in Botswana.”

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION DRIVE

BITC continued to respond to government’s call to stimulate direct investment and growth of local companies by procuring goods and services from locally based manufactures and services providers. The message to promote locals to actively grow the national economy has been driven through campaigns such as ‘PushaBW’ which utilised an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. As at March 2020, local purchases constituted 84% (2019:85%) of the total procurement with foreign purchases at 16% (2019:15%).

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