Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations’ (BOCONGO) Executive Director, Bagaisi Mabilo this week quit her plum post at the organisation.
The decision to dump BOCONGO comes in the wake of a board proposal of a transformation to change the organisation’s name, constitution, mission, and mission as well as objective statements of the organisation.
It is understood that some organisation members and staff are against the transformation as they believe they were not satisfactorily consulted while on the other hand the board chairman, Oscar Motsumi, insists that they were consulted from inception of the proposed concept.
This has led to an almost irreparable relationship between the current board and the Secretariat as well as some member organisations of BOCONGO. Amid the mayhem Mabilo was suspended a fortnight ago for extending contracts of staff members against the board’s will and resolution.
WeekendPost has established that Mabilo’s current contract was to expire on the 31st March 2017 but she opted to leave before then due to the turmoil currently engulfing the umbrella organisation.
Initially she had desired to complete her contract having executed the 2015/16 financial audit and having prepared for the October 27th 2016 scheduled Annual General Meeting (AGM).
“Sadly with the recent turn of events, I have to make a painful but necessary decision to tender my resignation prior to the end of my contract,” Mabilo said in her resignation letter this week.
According to Mabilo, this will also protect her professional integrity and allow for any investigations to be carried out, and at the same token she stressed that she will always avail herself should there be anything she needs to answer.
In earnest, the outgoing Executive Director, pointed out that what motivates her resignation emanates from the July 2015 letter, which she wrote to the board stating concerns relating to the “abuse of authority by the board Chairman”.
She highlighted that there was harassment, interference in management matters which has never been addressed resulting in escalation of matters and deterioration of the working relationship.
“I have repeatedly been set up to fail in executing my mandate as the Executive Director, first by forcing me to dismiss staff, and assigning me tasks I cannot singlehandedly manage, and deliberately not given sufficient time to implement my mandate and report to the board as I should quarterly. These issues were discussed at length in my submission at the April 29th 2016 board meeting,” Mabilo asserted in her resignation letter.
She alluded to that fact that although there was a BOCONGO Governance Manual which is a policy of the organisation since 2013, and while the current board was orientated on it in 2014, and subsequently in 2016 for new members, they have disregarded it.
“The board has not complied with its policies in particular, with regards to matters of the making decisions as a collective board, restricting itself to governance functions. Prioritisation of some board member functions have not risen above management and operational directives, a serious hindrance and breach to the governance organisational development achieved over the years I have worked with BOCONGO.”
This, she said has resulted in deteriorating staff morale, violation of employee rights and poor governance of the organisation.
She further explained that she “felt victimised and threatened by the Board Chairman Mr. Motsumi, after having provided details for his lack of full declaration of conflict of interest in a matter where the chairman wanted to use his influence in a tender committee to appoint a preferred acquaintance whom he had instructed me to work with at tender conceptualisation.”
According to Mabilo, the tender committee and the board has been provided with information on the issue and this resulted in a meeting amongst the tender committee members where she learnt that the tender was immediately cancelled.
Immediately after alerting the board of the issue, she continued to point out that she then received a threatening mail from the chairman, who then organised a closed door board session whose quorum was questionable, and eventually a suspension and disciplinary hearing.
“My concern has always been that every time these closed sessions convene, there is no documentation of the legality of that meeting to make decisions that are binding to the organisation especially that issues of quorum and full participation of board members is always minimal and in most cases never form a quorum. Such actions continue to perpetuate non conducive and hostile conditions of service for me where decisions change willy-nilly.”
She said a methodical pursuit to dismiss her through a process that defeats and obstruct natural justice was deployed through the leadership of the board chairman and participation of the board. She mentioned that she had to endure a lack of procedural, unfair and intimidating disciplinary hearing where a lawyer instead of a labour practitioner services were procured on a labour matter.
“In my opinion this process is flawed as it is not clear what the terms of reference for the lawyers were, as I was never furnished with these, and the outcome of the hearing evidently did not consider evidence that I had provided and was biased to favour the chairperson.”
Mabilo also stated that she believes the desire to implement the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) seminar had ulterior moves, and therefore she unknowingly became a hindrance to achieving plans of “some comradeship members of the board” as they refer to themselves, who would stand to benefit from the seminar.
During the disciplinary hearing, Mabilo was charged with failure to organise the seminar despite the board having instructed her to do so.
With all the developments, she explained that “at the end of the day this is done at the expense of membership who has not approved the actual strategy that is sought to be implemented, proposing significant organisational and structural changes, for example, constitution and membership and secretariat structure.”
“Therefore, I find myself caught up in between implementing board instruction that go against membership authorisation,” she highlighted.
According to Mabilo, the current relationship between her and the chairman as well as the board is “irreparable” and therefore she concluded that “I would like to serve a month notice and close out my contract with BOCONGO.”
BOCONGO Chairman, Oscar Motsumi, declined to comment on the matter and only stated that, “Like I have said before in your last instalment, the Employer/Employee issues are private and confidential and cannot be discussed with third parties.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.