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Botswana civil society Umbrella body faces closure

The umbrella of NGO’s, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental organisations (BOCONGO) is facing closure, Weekend Post has learnt.  

Following a recent resignation of Executive Director, Bagaisi Mabilo, this publication has established that the organisation is currently facing a “leadership vacuum.”

In addition, as it stands, all four currently remaining staff members including Communications Officer, Administration Assistant, Accounts Assistant as well as Front-desk Officer have been counselled to also “exit” BOCONGO at any-time.

In fact the board has resolved not to extend their staff contracts. It is the reason why the board went on to suspend the then Executive Director, Mabilo – who defied the resolution – although she later resigned citing professional integrity. The staff is at the mercy of the board which is determined to release them as the organisation board and Secretariat have reached “irreparable differences.”

The turn of events have compelled some members of the umbrella organisation to pour their hearts out by registering their concerns at the debacle currently engulfing the organisation they call “theirs” as its “membership driven.”

Director of Peddys Widows Forum, a member organisation of BOCONGO, Pednah Mogomotsi stated in a communication to other members that she “can confirm that for the last four months Peddy’s Widows Forum (PWF) has been providing counselling to the staff of BOCONGO. This counselling came as a result of board’s decision to dismiss and not renew contracts of staff members.”

The resolution not to renew BOCONGO Secretariat staffs’ contracts was taken at a board retreat of March this year in Maun.

According to Mogomotsi, the secretariat staff had expressed quite a number of abnormalities that were transpiring at the Secretariat and felt they were being displaced with ulterior motives of creating jobs for some of the board members.

The BOCONGO member continued, “I am equally concerned with the manner in which the Secretariat is being governed. There is lot of interference from the board members in particular the chairperson.”

It is said that this interference has resulted in abuse of power and verbal harassment.

“Fellow members we need to speak against misgoverning of BOCONGO. We cannot allow this organisation to function in a manner that will disgrace us as members, and this nation. We have a responsibility as members and therefore I agree with Mr Kingston Mmolawa that a special meeting of members be called,” Mogomotse pleaded.

Mmolawa who is Executive Director of Food Bank Botswana (FBB), another BOCONGO member, had earlier written in a letter to colleagues that they should rise and save good reputation of the organisation and advised that “the current state of affairs warrants a special/extraordinary general meeting.”

As a member he also cautioned that he is worried that if it is allowed to continue then it will set a bad precedence. Under the headline “warning!! Our BOCONGO under siege” he cautioned, “we cannot have a situation where Directors are chased willy-nilly.”

Mmolawa said the board need to account to them and he wondered if any of them as BOCONGO members have given them the mandate to the drastic decisions that are clearly leading to the “collapse of the organisation.”

He then asked: “this state of affairs then jeopardises the entire planned change process and raises more questions than answers. Do we really need to change BOCONGO or we need change of mind set in leadership.”

This comes at a time when BOCONGO board has proposed to change BOCONGO constitution, name, missions and visions, objective statements and current structures of the umbrella body of the NGO’s, an action which is shunned by some members. They cite no enough consultation to the far-reaching changes.

The FBB Director said he learnt that the staff at the Secretariat live under constant fear as some board members would routinely come and remind them that as far as they are aware there is no staff at the Secretariat.

“The staff morale has visibly gone down as they are no longer focusing on their core mandate but battling for their survival,” Mmolawa explained.  

What has led to the deteriorated relationship?

BOCONGO staff members have also stated in a letter directed to board members that the Secretariat has become extremely hostile and had asked that measures be taken to address the situation.

“We feel we have needlessly been subjected to a systematic campaign of harassment, bullying and humiliation, due to the board’s failure to undertake any preventive measures to ensure a working environment, free from such at a time the E.D Ms Mabilo first reported her ordeal to the board in her letter dated 9 July 2016,” the staff members stated in a collaborative letter that broke the camel’s back. Since the letter was written, it is said that no action was taken.

Therefore the employees said it can accordingly be argued that what is happening now between the board Chairperson and E.D (and by extension the whole Secretariat) is a direct result of inaction by the board.

“It is our contention that Mr Motsumi’s leadership and his defiance to observe basic principles of governance pose a profound danger to the image of the civil society and its capacity to attract donor funding in future,” further reads the letter and added that, “We have observed that, that boardroom bullying and abuse of Executive Directors, particularly female ED’s, by board members in the civil society is on the rise and Ms Mabilo is just one of the victims of this evil phenomenon.”

One of the employees who has worked with BOCONGO for more than 10 years, Maitio Setlhake highlighted that the current board is the most secretive and controversial he has ever worked for. He defended the notion that the staff is resistant to change.

“We are not resistant to change as reported in the newspapers. We like change and we embrace it. Change is good. Nonetheless, if it is rushed, concealed and driven by hatred and anger, change can come handy with devastating consequences which includes manipulation by partisan political agendas, loss of membership and a “sure collapse of the organisation.”

According to the president and Chief Executive Officer of GovernanceMatters.Com Les Stahlke who was a consultant who also drafted BOCONGO constitution and the board’s governance manual as well as facilitating the board’s strategic plan between 2012 and 2015, BOCONGO has gone too far now, he said.

“From this great distance, it seems that this conflict has gone on far too long it threatens to do great harm to the vital mission of BOCONGO. The hole that is being dug by this conflict is not a diamond mine or a refreshing water well. It is a grave. BOCONGO must not be allowed to come to harm over this.”

He said he supports the call for a special meeting of the BOCONGO members, and that special meeting must be chaired by a neutral person, a lawyer or judge whom they respect, not any board member or chairperson who is a party in the conflict.  

“You elected this board including the chairperson, and you can un-elect them, if your examination of them determines they should be replaced, clearly, there must be an investigation from outside,” Stahlke said.

He also mentioned that this is a rare time in the history of BOCONGO, one that cannot be wished away.

“When a board can no longer hold itself or its chairperson accountable, fairly and firmly, the members must step in to save the organisation from conflict that, if you do nothing, will take many years to recover,” the President and CEO of GovernanceMatters.com pointed out.

BOCONGO flouted tendering processes?

According to a classified letter from the then Executive Director Ms Mabilo, which she wrote to the board’s tender committee, there was a concern and a conflict from the chairperson, Mr Motsumi regarding the tendering for the BOCONGO change management consultancy.

When justifying the concern, the E.D said EXCENTRE is a company owned by Mr April, an acquaintance to Mr Motsumi and she said this was declared at the tender committee meeting of the 29th June 2016 by Motsumi.

Bagaisi revealed that at the drafting stage of the terms of reference, she was referred to Mr April (a would be bidder at the time) by Mr Motsumi, to have a debriefing with him inter alia on what BOCONGO intended to do in respect of the change management consultancy, where BOCONGO needed to go, what components would be ideal for change and what the cost implications would be.

As a result of interaction with Mr April, she said certain information was availed to her which she then used to draft the terms of reference for the change management consultancy.

“At all times, my interactions with Mr April were monitored by Mr Motsumi to a point where he would call me and ask me if I thought he could be the right candidate for the job. My response was that ‘I am not an expert in the area but it seemed as though he had knowledge of what should happen.’”

She added that the BOCONGO chairperson further said to her that he wanted them to agree on whether Mr April could do the job.

Mabilo continued: “I mentioned to him that the procurement regulations require for a tender process to take place and therefore Mr April could not be handpicked and given the job. In response Mr Motsumi said he was aware of this,” She further explained.

The BOCONGO Secretariat boss pointed out that, in declaring his interest to the Tender Committee, the Chairperson did not disclose that he had recommended Mr April to provide administrative information to the Secretariat regarding the drafting of the terms of reference and cost of the change process.

“He knowingly withheld information that he (Mr Motsumi) referred EXCENTRE to the Secretariat for administrative purposes. An arrangement that could be interpreted as having given EXCENTRE an unfair advantage over other bidders who also demonstrated a high level of technical expertise in the field.”

She reminded the chairperson that, mind you, we are being monitored by European Union (EU)/ Non State Actors (NSA) every quarter for the funds that we received from them, and this may arise as a red flag in the tender process that may even result in expense being disallowed.

Mabilo stated further: “as a licensed governance trainer, failing to inform you of this and to let this happen under my watch would be a serious betrayal of my conscious and professional aptitude.”

It is understood that Mr Motsumi further volunteered himself to be in the board tender committee at the last board meeting of 26th May 2016. She added: “though he excused himself from the scoring, Mr Motsumi maintained the role of chairperson in the committee, which is my view is a highly influential position, more so that he rejected some of the recommendations coming from one committee member, including my advice to re-advertise the change management consultancy tender.”

According to the former BOCONGO Executive Director, she felt Motsumi had substantial influence to the outcome of selecting EXCENTRE, and in her view, did not declare all the information as he should have done as a conflicted member and chairperson of the tender committee.   

“I also believe that having declared his interest, and knowing the trails of events as they unfolded, it would be prudent for Mr Motsumi to have completely recused himself from the entire tendering process both as chairman and member of the tender committee.”

“I would like to indicate to you once again,” she said, “that there is a need for vigilance in handling a matter such as this one, where donor money is involved, and therefore you as the tender committee must have all the information prior to making a final decision on the tender.”

When reached for comment the BOCONGO Chairperson, Motsumi had not responded to inquiries on the matter at the time of press.

However recently in an interview with Weekend Post, Motsumi indicated that there was extensive consultation where members throughout the country identified changes that needed to be made.

“The Board then presented the proposed Strategy at the last Annual General Meeting which members endorsed and adopted subject to a few changes.”

He said matters of organisational transformation and their impact on Staff will be discussed internally and with other relevant bodies such as the Labour Department to ensure that they are implemented in a fair manner, according to our laws and that any anxieties or concerns by Staff are managed in the best manner possible through the structures we have set up. So, this is still very much an internal process whose detail cannot be divulged,” he said.

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Opposition Will Never Achieve Anything- Nkaigwa

8th April 2021
Haskins Nkaigwa

Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms.  “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.

“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.

“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.

“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”

Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner.  He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.

Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.

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Botswana benefits over P100 million in grants from Japan

7th April 2021
Ambassador HOSHIYAMA

Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.

The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).

“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.

“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”

Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.

From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.

“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.

“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”

In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.

TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.

“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.

“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”

Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.

“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.

“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”

Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.

Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.

According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.

“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.

The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.

According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).

“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.

“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”

The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.

 

“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.

“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”

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Magosi pushes for Cabinet reshuffle

6th April 2021
President Masisi

Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.

The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.

This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.

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