Botswana Development corporation (BDC)’s affinity for cash hit a brick wall last week after a Parliamentary Committee rejected a request for funding of P1 billion.
What is however interesting with the request is that the Corporation revealed that it intended to create 1000 jobs with the P1 billion, a declaration that shocked most of the Members of Parliament who deliberated on the request.
It is clear that Cabinet had Okayed the BDC’s request that government guarantees the P1 billion loan from African Development Bank.
The Member of Parliament for Mmadinare, Kefentse Mzwinila had asked a simple question as to how many jobs BDC intended to generate with the P1 billion request, the answer was 1000 openings. Phenyo Butale of Gaborone Central and Guma Moyo of Tati East were not convinced either.
From a deductive perspective this meant that BDC wants P1 million for every single job it intends to create. Members of the Parliamentary committee punched holes on the quality of the projects earmarked for this P1 billion based on the failure to demonstrate quality jobs commensurate with the money requested.
BDC through the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo asked Government to guarantee the African Development Bank (ADB) loan, as the investment arm seeks to expand its investment regionally and internationally. But the Parliamentary Committee shot down the proposed investments as a sign of lack of seriousness on the part of those who came u[p with them.
The Committee also wanted to understand the reason for acquiring the loan through AFD instead of local banks.
A history of failure
BDC has a very dark history when it comes to implementation. The Corporation blew away P1 billion of taxpayers’ money on a briefcase company it had engaged to develop the Palapye Glass Project. The company properties were later auctioned by a South African company to the lowest bidder, and only P10 million was recovered.
Efforts by the BDC to sell the Fengyue Glass Plant at a much high value hit a snag recently as it failed to sell at a P58 million tag price. The highest bidder even failed to pay and the engaged auctioneer, KPMG had to run around searching for the best among under bidders to take over the failed plant’s equipment. Rudy Schuhardt of Makoro Bricks was awarded the bid at P10 million after the highest bidders failed to pay.
Lack of citizen empowerment
In addition the BDC has always been accused of failing to empower citizens comprehensibly because most of their projects are either headed by foreigners, or owned by foreigners. The current Managing Director of the BDC, Bashi Gaetsaloe had promised to transform BDC and improve on its investments, but his latest proposal of P1 billion sliced among private companies including Letshego and Baisago University College left many disappointed.
Two years into office, Gaetsaloe has returned BDC to profitability after three consecutive years of it making losses. In December last year, BDC announced a P110 million profit before tax, and P247 million profit before tax at Group level (inclusive of subsidiaries). But his recent investment decisions could dent his somewhat positive start.
Upon his arrival, he announced that the new BDC model will come with a new requirement of skills and his intention is to build a new BDC operating under an appropriate and relevant mandate and business model with the right set of skills – but this is yet to show.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.