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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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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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