BOCONGO’s confidential proposals have ignited boardroom wars
Board wants to change BOCONGO name, constitution, vision, mission
Changes face resistance from some of the BOCONGO members
Existing staff members to be wiped out in the transformation agenda
NGO Council not immediately featured in the organisation change plan
Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has compiled a strategy paper proposing drastic changes to the organisation’s constitution. The changes call for a new name, vision, mission and objective statements.
The changes are capsulated in the confidential report leaked to this publication titled “BOCONGO Moving forward 2016 – 2019” which is also referred to as “a new strategy for a membership driven network delivering change in Botswana.”
It is understood that the new vision will be “NGO’s working together for a more just, equal and integrated Botswana” and has been revised to be “BOCONGO members working effectively with other actors for inclusive development.”
This publication has gathered that imaginable names dropped around to be considered for replacement of BOCONGO in the new change-plan. Some of the suggested names include, NGO Forum Botswana (NGOFB), Alliance of Botswana NGO’s (ABNGO), Botswana NGO’s Bongos (BNGOB) and Botswana Coalition of NGO’s (BOCONGO).
WeekendPost can safely reveal that the new change implications for BOCONGO will include a change in membership representation on the board; revision to BOCONGO Secretariat’s support to members; and new framework for member collaboration and active engagement.
However, the new proposal by the board has been met with resistance from BOCONGO members who are questioning the motive of the amendments while emphasising that as members they have not initiated such change – particularly since BOCONGO’s mandate and agenda is membership driven.
According to some members of BOCONGO who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, “there was a meeting on Thursday (last week) in Gaborone that have put together member representation organisations of BOCONGO and we out rightly spoke against the change-plan because we don’t really understand this concept and we believe we were not satisfactorily consulted. The board just want to impose,” a member stated.
BOCONGO Secretariat also confirmed such a meeting.
According to the report, there will be not only a revised vision, mission but also a new strategic goals and thematic grouping of members that will require significant change in the way that BOCONGO operates.
“The main changes required are a new membership commitment and criteria as well as a new name and new logo to represent these changes,” states the classified report.
It is understood that the changes, once agreed upon after further consultations, will have to necessitate and be reflected in the constitutional revisions or amendments as BOCONGO is governed by a constitution.
The report acknowledges that the 81 currently active BOCONGO members are of critical importance to the changes proposed by the new strategy. In the strategy it is understood that NGO’s will be the main members and membership should include only NGO’s across the country.
It is said a significant change in the “new BOCONGO” will shift from sectors to thematic group (communities of interest) and more decentralised collaboration at regional level (communities of place).
Even as unemployment has ballooned in the country reaching approximately 22%, it is anticipated that the Secretariat may lay down some of the existing staff members who include Administration Assistant, Accounts Assistant, Desk Officer and others in their transformation agenda – as they are also ‘seen’ as resistant to the new change.
It is said that the Secretariat will require only new Executive Secretary, Finance and Administration Manager, and two administration staff. They will also need two project officers responsible for research and advocacy and the other one in Communication and Information and Technology.
The challenges and risks faced by the transformation entailed in the report indicate that there was acknowledgement that there may be opposition to the new plan: “the board and Secretariat will have to ensure clear communication of the way forward and accept that some NGO’s will not support the shift.”
It was earnestly, however, highlighted that “in this context, it was agreed that the current board would continue in order to guide the first year of the strategy. The Secretariat will work on the supporting change and identifying areas in the constitution which will need to be changed.”
According to the report, member ownership of the new strategy and the fundamental changes to way of working and structure of BOCONGO, are essential if the change process is to succeed.
The newly introduced NGO Council derived from the NGO Policy, which is to some extent seen as a duplicate of BOCONGO is not represented or featured in the new arrangement proposal. The report indicated that “the board and Executive Secretary may request a meeting with the NGO Council to clarify the new direction and implications for the relationship.”
“As expectation of the board throughout was that the strategic process would clarify the respective roles of BOCONGO and the NGO Council. The new strategic framework should help the board and the NGO Council clarify their respective roles in relation to the NGO’s in Botswana.”
What prompted the transformation?
When reached for comment to explain what necessitated the need to change direction, BOCONGO Chairperson, Oscar Motsumi told Weekend Post that throughout the years BOCONGO had experienced operational constraints, “Therefore, there was a need to take stock of our organisations and re-position them for the current and future needs.”
With the new Strategy, he said members will increase their role and active engagement in policy dialogue organised through the four thematic groups that is led by NGO members and supported by the BOCONGO Secretariat. He added that NGOs will receive greater recognition for the contributions they make as development partners in Botswana.
According to Motsumi there were extensive consultation where members throughout the country identified changes that needed to be made. He added that the Board then presented the proposed Strategy at the last Annual General Meeting which members endorsed and adopted, subject to a few changes.
On staff resistance…
The BOCONGO Chairman stated that 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 labour laws and that any anxieties or concerns by Staff are managed in the best manner possible through the structures they have set up.
“So, this is still very much an internal process whose detail cannot be divulged. In doing so, we are also taking into account that our Staff Contracts are tied to various donors/development partners who have also set their own terms and conditions. Ultimately, however, BOCONGO’s objective is to ensure that as many jobs as possible are preserved.”
Financial standing of BOCONGO
Although some donors have pulled out of late, Motsumi said BOCONGO is in a stable financial position.
“We still need to attract more partners to ensure that our member activities are implemented without any interruptions,” he said.
He further explained that the organisation’s financial standing has improved greatly from the time the current Board came into office.
“When we took over, the organisation was in a lot of debt. However, the board worked very closely with the Secretariat to manage costs. During the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organizational sustainability,” Motsumi added.
Way forward for BOCONGO
According to the board chair, the current board was mandated by the General Assembly in 2013 to review the Strategic Positioning for BOCONGO.
“The strategic review has become an absolute priority at this point in time because of the need to produce tangible benefits for BOCONGO Members and the NGO sector as a whole.”
Motsumi said that they want to ensure that BOCONGO is put in a position of being able to address any future challenges in an effective manner as is expected by its Members.
“To achieve this, BOCONGO members will continue to be encouraged to work collaboratively. The organization’s processes and systems, as well as human resources, will also be streamlined for better focus.”
According to Motsumi, these are challenging but exciting times at BOCONGO as “we chart a new vision and articulate a new future for the Civil Society movement. This watershed moment requires all to pull together for our goals to be achieved.”
Out of the estimated130 (active and inactive) member organisations, the BOCONGO board members are derived from 11 sectors which include Agriculture and Environment; Arts and Culture; Development arm of the Church; Disability; Gender and Development; Health and HIV and AIDS; Human Rights; Media; Microfinance; Credit and Empowerment; Science, Technology and Training, Youth and Children.
WeekendPost has established that the proposal changes are the hobbyhorse of the new board composed of current Chairman Oscar Motsumi who is deputised by Olebile Machete and with Jerry Moloko serving as its Treasurer.
Motsumi is from Botswana Network for AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO) while Machete from Child line Botswana and with Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA) represented at BOCONGO by Moloko.
Some additional members in the board include outspoken Alice Mogwe of Ditshwanelo, Idah Mokreitane from Emang Basadi, Douglas Thamage standing in for Cheetah Conservation, while Bible Life is represented by Gabriel Tsuaneng and Arnold Kepaletswe in lieu of House of Men and others on behalf of other BOCONGO member organisations.
The Motsumi-led board which was nominated to office on 2013 is currently serving its second and last term destined to end in 2017.
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.