Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers in parliament appear to have usurped the role of the opposition in the left of the political spectrum, going against both the grain of BDP tradition and desires of the establishment, by tabling a salvo of left leaning motions.
When parliament resumes for the third session in November, it will debate motions left behind from the previous session. Most of them, from BDP legislators such as the likes of Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata-Gweta, Polson Majaga are poised to rattle BDP establishment to the core. Majaga has tabled a motion calling for government to carry out a referendum for the direct election of the president.
Botswana uses the first-past-the-post electoral system and the sitting Vice President automatically succeeds to Presidency once the presidential seat is vacant. Majaga explained that in his eyes there seems to be a fault line in the country’s system which confers a raft of sweeping powers on an individual who is not directly elected by the people.
Majaga contends that, that is not his idea of a democratic dispensation and that the country has already been surpassed by its neighbours including Zambia, where he recently was an election observer when Edgar Lungu was elected directly by Zambians.
The next motion in parliamentary order paper, still by Majaga asks government to make provisions that will see the president of the republic appointing cabinet ministers from individuals who are not sitting parliamentarians to allow them more time to do administrative work.
In regards to disentangling MP’s from ministerial posts, Majaga said that the arrangement he proposes will stem situations where ministers’ treat visits to constituencies as favours to fellow friends in cabinet. He explained that ministers currently exchange visits to one another’s constituency, leaving ordinary MP’s out in the cold.
“MP’s should be MPs and ministers should be ministers.” said Majaga.
He further said that this will also encourage the spirit of accountability as currently ministers are either busy or claim to be busy when it comes to expediting visits to Batswana.
Majaga said that his motions have not yet passed through BDP caucus but he remains hopeful.
Another raft of ‘disloyal’ motions on the BDP is by Tati West MP, Biggie Butale.
Butale has noticed a motion calling for an introduction of other indigenous languages in the education curriculum. Butale had tabled the same motion in parliament early last year before his party went for the Mmadinare elective congress in which he was candidate for the chairmanship and the motion never saw the light of day.
The proposal to introduce other indigenous languages in the education curriculum has previously been rejected in the ruling party quarters, with BDP head honchos crushing it as a divisive, costly and impractical move.
The current Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi once described the idea as akin to the reintroduction of a Bantu form of education, as he shot down the motion then tabled by former Selibi Phikwe West MP, Gilson Saleshando.
Before the 2014 general election, the now BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane constantly waded into the contentious topic. Speaking at former party strong man, Daniel Kelagobe’s candidacy launch in Molepolole, Ntuane who described himself as a nationalist, shot down the idea, labelling it as a plot to divide the country along tribal lines. He had also spoken about it three weeks earlier at Odirile Motlhale’s candidacy launch in Ramotswa.
In Molepolole, he was quoted as saying: “We are just two years away from celebrating our golden jubilee and are we going to allow some people to divide us along tribal lines? We should identify ourselves first as Batswana and not along any ethnic grouping.”
Butale has also tabled another motion even more despised in ruling party quarters. He has tabled a motion calling for the establishment of community radio and television stations. Previously, BDP MP’s have also trashed the idea, advancing reasoning that the same have fuelled ethnic divisions in Rwanda. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi shot down the idea on that basis when she was still Minister for Communications, Science and Technology.
Butale said this week 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”
He further said that he continues to bring them up because he feels these are motions that can help the needy Batswana. He further said that he is confident that the motions will pass because BDP parliamentary caucus has already given them its blessings.
Butale further said that the motions are not in any way pro-opposition but serve to demonstrate that BDP is responsible to the needs of the larger population.
Another of his motion which will be received possibly with mixed reactions in the sluggish quarters of the ruling party concerns citizen economic empowerment.
While younger generations of Batswana appear unanimous on a citizen economic empowerment deal that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana in businesses, President Khama seem to hold a divergent view.
At BDP’s first special congress in October 2015, Khama broke ranks with party SG Botsalo Ntuane concerning a law that forces foreign joint ventures with Batswana. Ntuane advocated before the BDP faithful that there should be a law that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana as the foreigners immediately repatriate profits in chunks, offshore without leaving any major benefits for the natives.
Moments after Ntuane received a rapturous applause, Khama immediately moved to crush his argument stating that he does not want Batswana to be “cry-babies and piggy back on foreign companies.”
However, Ntuane warned this week that: “You cannot be a BDP MP only when it suits you and not when it doesn’t. In BDP we work as collective.”
He said that party policy is that all motions have to go to the caucus which will halt or green light the concerned motions.
Butale is a known liberal among conservatives who once advocated for increased media freedom, declaration of assets, closer ties with the labour movement, devolution of powers from central to local government and political party funding among others; topics that the ruling party has continuously shied away from.
He also at some point noticed a motion in parliament calling for the immortalisation of late Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi through naming one major government institution in his honour, but was stopped in his tracks by his party as the move would have amounted to an immense propaganda coup for the opposition.
Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.
This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory. Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.
The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service. “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”
According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service. It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.
“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.
The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.
“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”
The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.
The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.
“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.
“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.
It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement. The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.
It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.
In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics. “In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.
The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.
Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.
It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations. According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.
“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says. It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.
The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.
Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.” She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.
“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.
The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.
She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.
She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon. “The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.
Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.
“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.
Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section. “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”
She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”