President Lt Gen Ian Khama has condemned leaders who refuse to leave power by trying to manipulate an entire elections process which results in countries being plunged into conflicts.
Khama revealed this when officially opening the 18TH Annual General Conference of Electoral Conference Forum- Southern African Development Committee (ECF-SADC) this week, in Gaborone. Khama who is the Chairman of SADC said countries should be committed to the rule of law and democratic ideals.
“Elections should build a nation and not break it. Elections must promote the citizenry’s right to freely choose their leaders guided by Electoral Management Bodies (EMBSs) that serve them without favour, fear or prejudice,” he said and added that, “Elections have to be conducted in a manner that adheres to the legal framework and also have to, of necessity be accompanied by unquestionable integrity of those who manage and conduct them.”
Khama said the focus of the forum on challenges that might besiege SADC countries and threaten democracy is commendable and must be transformed into a culture of protecting electoral democracy to ensure peace and stability. Khama remarked that it is important for any successful election to be accompanied by serious political adherence for the sake of social, political and economic progress, peace and stability.
“It is common that election related conflicts in many parts of Africa including SADC are self-inflicted,” he said.
This he said, is more often than not “the result of attempts to manipulate constitutions to extend otherwise expired terms of office or alterations to electoral calendars and at worst influence elections outcomes and also not conforming to our own guidelines for conduct of elections.”
Botswana is known for their uncompromising position when it comes to condemning stated leaders who refuse to leave power or extend their tenure in office.
At his inauguration as chairperson of SADC last year, Khama spoke against the violence in Burundi which were instigated by the country’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza, who was seeking a third term albeit unconstitutionally.
In 2008, Botswana boycotted South African Development Committee (SADC) summit, owing to the fact that ‘illegitimate’ Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe was invited to be part of the summit. Botswana had publicly announced that it did not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe following his victory in an election that was widely condemned as a sham.
Botswana would later change her stance and embraced Mugabe after a compromise deal allowed both Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to form government of national unity.
Africa has a reputation of being a conflict riddled continent which has been labelled as the top reason for hindering progress economically and politically. Khama has however expressed optimism that the continent is moving away from government established through unconstitutional means to those guided by principles of democratic elections.
He said this transformation is faced by serious challenges which call for absolute commitment of political and electoral actors to the electoral process.
Khama has already assured the nation and the continent that he will leave office at the end of term. Khama who took over from Festus Mogae in 2008, will see his presidential tenure closing at the end of March in 2018, and will join a rarefied list of African presidents who left their seats gladly.
If Khama leaves office he will be in a pole position to win the coveted Ibrahim Prize, an award sponsored by Mo Ibrahim Foundation and given to former democratically elected African president who have served within constitutionally mandated term.
His predecessor, Mogae, won the award in 2008 after leaving office. The Mo Ibrahim Prize carries $5 million (P53 million) over 10 years period and $200,000 (2.1 million) per year for life thereafter.
Khama’s words also come in the wake of the controversial electoral amendment bill which was passed by parliament recently and awaiting president’s signature to come into operation. The bill brings among others; introduction of electronic voting, single vote registration period and increment of fees needed to run for parliamentary and council seats.
There are fears however, that introduction for single vote registration period will disenfranchise eligible voters and make running for elections the preserve of the well-off with the 1000 percent increment of fees for elections candidates.
Opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are threatening to challenge the bill in court should Khama sign it into law. UDC is of the opinion that the bill violates section 32 of the constitution, which states that voting should be done through a “given ballot.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.