The Botswana National Front (BNF) has rubbished the appointment of Swaziland’s King Mswati III as the Southern African Development Community Chairperson.
The Swazi king was appointed SADC chair at the recent SADC 36th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government held in his country.
BNF, which is a senior partner in the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, bemoaned the restrictions on democratic ideals in the HIV and Aids ravaged Kingdom.
A statement released by BNF read in part: “Currently, there is no constitutional democracy in Swaziland. Political parties remain banned in that country. King Mswati and his Queen mother Ntombi have absolute authority over the judiciary, legislature and cabinet.”
It further continued to state, “several trade unionists, journalists and other civil society activists have been harassed, tortured, beaten, arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned and some without trial and worse some killed under mysterious circumstances with no action being taken against the known security agents.”
BNF continued to state that it condemns the handover of the chairmanship to a leader who has poor and embarrassing human rights credentials and “calls on local progressive trade unions, media houses and the general civil society to join it in condemning the handing over of the SADC Chairpersonship to Swaziland.”
The continent’s last absolute monarch took over the SADC chairmanship from Khama, whose one year term had come to an end. Khama himself inherited the chairmanship from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
At the beginning of Khama’s term, continental pundits were analysing that his tenure at SADC was signaling the time when the bloc was being gifted “some long-sought teeth to reject dictatorships, rights abuses and electoral fraud in the sub-region.”
But, however, in his time as chairman of the regional bloc, Khama will mostly be remembered for coaxing Lesotho’s Prime Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili in a closed door discussion, to receive a damning report on the assassination of Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Brigadier General Maaparankoe Mahao.
Mosisili was refusing to receive the SADC commissioned report on the basis that there was a case before the courts back at home against the appointed commission led by Justice Mpaphi Phumaphi. Ironically, it had been Mosisili who had sought SADC intervention amidst the uncertainty that engulfed his nation after General Mahao’s shock assassination.
Mahao was shot and killed on the way from his farm mid last year by a crack team of fellow army comrades, allegedly on basis of the allegation that he was ring leader of a plot to oust LDF command.
Mswati, whose country has for so long been reliant on donor funding reportedly remarked in his acceptance speech that: "SADC and the African continent as a whole had relied too much on donors and some of the projects had failed to take off when partners had no money. This calls for the region to remain united and to speak with one voice at all times,"
He has further reportedly pledged that his kingdom will start a SADC university.
"The kingdom of Swaziland wishes to dedicate the establishment of a SADC University of Transformation, which will be our next milestone in our journey which started in 1990. The university will deliver in education and training terms, using the technical vocational training model of delivery," Mswati was quoted as saying
The socialist and republican Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has been the most vocal anti-Swazi monarchy since its formation in 1983 at University of Swaziland (UNISWA).
The party was banned in 2008 after the enactment of The Suppression of Terrorism Act and some of its leadership has largely been based in neighbouring South Africa ever since.
When PUDEMO Vice President, Gabriel Nkhumane was killed in 2008, suspicion was flying thick and fast that he had been victim of Swazi security apparatus. Nkhumane had been at the time one of the key organisers of the annual blockade of goods to Swaziland from South Africa,an annual blockade aimed at choking Mswati’s economy.
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.