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Khama powers Cabinet more

Members of the executive have increased by four after President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama promoted a couple of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators from the backbench – a move that some say literally seals cabinet’s power over the other arms of government.

Following the elevation of the four backbenchers namely Ngami Member of Parliament, Thato Kwerepe; Boteti East Legislator, Itumeleng Moipisi; Tati West Member of Parliament, Biggie Butale; and Mmadinare law maker, Kefentse Mzwinila to cabinet, the third arm of government’s grip on power is expected to bolden further.

Kwerepe has been appointed assistant minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration which headed by former permanent secretary to the president, Eric Molale; while Butale is Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry which is led by Vincent Seretse. The decision to promote Butale automatically sends his litany of proposed motions to the gutter. Butale was intending to challenge establishment with some of his motions, calling for introduction of mother tongue language in schools, among other controversial subjects. 

Itumeleng Moipisi is the new assistant minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. He will be under the supervision of Prince Maele. The newly renamed Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development respectively has a new assistant Minister in Kefentse Mzwinila, the most educated Member of Parliament who boosts several degrees, some at masters level.

Observers believe that the level of quality of debates is likely to decrease since the ruling party back bench has been weakened. In particular maverick law makers such as Biggie Butale will be silenced because of the collective responsibility approach of the executive. The pointed debates from the Tati West legislator will be a thing of yesterday as he will be expected to toe the line.

The controversial ‘opposition motions’ such as the introduction of indigenous languages to the curriculum and establishment of community radio and television stations will not see the light of day, at least in 2016 as their most energetic champion, Biggie Butale has been silenced by a cabinet appointment.

Butale appropriated the motions which in previous years were raised by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and noticed them in parliament for re-debate. But it is likely that the motions will be picked up by another Member of Parliament most likely from the opposition benches. 

Butale told this publication two weeks ago, with gusto, that he was confident his motions would be debated in parliament when it reconvenes in October. But now President Khama has rewarded him with a cabinet position.

He further argued that it does not mean that if the ruling party rejected similar motions in the past, it will continue to do the same at other times. “Times change, it doesn’t mean that they will continue to reject them,” said Butale a fortnight ago.

Butale, who is also a pastor, further said that he continues to resurrect them because he feels they can be of assistance to the most vulnerable of society. He expressed optimism that the motions will pass because BDP parliamentary caucus had already given them its blessings.

Butale also stated that the motions are not in any way pro-opposition but in actual fact will serve to demonstrate that BDP is answerable to the needs of the larger populace.

The initial motion to introduce other indigenous languages in the education curriculum has previously been rejected in the ruling party quarters as “divisive and impractical” and further described as “some new form of Bantu style education”

It was introduced by former Botswana Congress Party (BCP) politician and Selibe Phikwe Member of Parliament (MP) Gilson Saleshando.

His motion calling for the establishment of community radio and television station has also in the past been trashed by ruling party MP’s reasoning that the same have fueled ethnic divisions in Rwanda.

Previously when the motions were tabled by opposition parties’, current cabinet big wigs such as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Defence Minister Shaw Kgathi dismissed them with a passion.

A single motion by Thato Kwerepe calling for the introduction of a law for people with disabilities will also fall by the wayside.

BDP MPs who spoke to this publication reason that the reason they supported the addition of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament was in recognition of the latest development where President Khama recruited four backbenchers. “The back bench was going to be bankrupt, we just hope that the President’s two nominees for SEMPs will add value to the debates in Parliament,” said one of the BDP MPs. He pointed out that opposition did not have foresight to realis that the impending reshuffle had the potential to cripple Parliament because Cabinet will be too strong and weigh on the backbench and combined opposition.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Shoshong Member of Parliament, Dikgang Makgalemele has been redeployed from Office of the President to the Ministry of Health and Wellness as Assistant Minister. Observers are of the view that he is not happy with this move but he will take it anyway. He is an ambitious politician and he would have loved a promotion instead.

Kitso Mokaila has been given the Ministry of Transport and Communications following reports that he did not want the Minsitry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. It is evident that his latest portfolio was a compromise.

Dr Unity Dow has been named the minister of the newly created Ministry of Basic Education. She will be assisted by Master Goya. Others are of the view that she would have wanted to be at Tertiary level.

Nkage Member of Parliament Edwin Batshu will take care of the newly created Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs ministry.

Dr Alfred Madigela has been promoted to senior minister at Tertiary Education,Research,Science & Technology and he is assisted by Fidelis Molao. Sadique Kebonanghas also been promoted to head the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security. He was assistant minister at Trade under Vincent Seretse.

FULL LIST OF MINISTERS

Mr Eric Molale is the minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration assisted by Mr Thato Kwerepe.

Mr Shaw Kgathi remains Minister of Defence, Justice and Security.

Mr Patrick Ralotsia is Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security assisted by Mr Kgotla Autlwetse.

Mr Nonofho Molefhi is Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development.

Dr Unity Dow is Minister of Basic Education, assisted by Mr Moiseraele Goya.

Mr Tshekedi Khama is Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.

Mr Kenneth Matambo is Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi is Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation.

Ms Dorcas Makgato is Minister of Health and Wellness assisted by Mr Dikgang Makgalemele

Mr Tshenolo Mabeo is Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development.

Mr Prince Maele is Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services assisted by Mr Itumeleng Moipisi.

Mr Slumber Tsogwane remains Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and still assisted by Ms Botlogile Tshireletso and Mr Frans Van Der Westhuizen.

Advocate Sadique Kebonang is Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.

Mr Vincent Seretse remains Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, assisted by Mr Biggie Butale.

Mr Kitso Mokaila is Minister of Transport and Communications.

Mr Thapelo Olopeng is Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development assisted by Mr Kefentse Mzwinila.

Dr Alfred Madigele is Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, assisted by Mr Fidelis Molao.

Mr Edwin Batshu is Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.

The Cabinet appointments take effect from October 1.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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