Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration (MOPAPA), Phillip Makgalemele is expected to table a bill in Parliament giving President Ian Khama a 30 percent gratuity, among a raft of other generous rewards.
The bill was first published on the 24th of March 2016 and it will be the last bill argued by legislators in the current session.
If passed, it will repeal the previous presidents (Pensions and Retirement benefits) and is so flexible that instead of a presidential palace and an office, a former states person may choose to be given an office and residential allowance and contrary to the current Act, the President’s house or office may be constructed outside Gaborone.
It states that, “a retired President is given the option to choose between having an office, where he or she prefers,of the standard and size specified by the President or receiving office accommodation allowance using the prevailing Gaborone market rental rates.”
In the planned Act, there is also a new provision to construct palaces for former presidents outside the capital.
A further clause states, “a retired President is given the option to choose between having a residential house of the standard and size specified by the President or receiving a housing allowance in lieu of the house. A restriction to having the official residence in Gaborone has been removed.”
“The President shall upon dissolution of Parliament, or immediately ceasing to hold office as such, be entitled to receive a gratuity equal to 30 percent of his or current monthly basic salary multiplied by the number of months completed by him or her as President,” it further provides.
According to the bill, any person who has been President shall, immediately upon ceasing to hold office as such be entitled to receive a tax free monthly pension equivalent to the monthly basic salary attached to the office of President the time that he or she ceases to hold office, or 80 percent of the incumbent President’s salary, whichever is greater.
The mooted Act is equally generous to spouses of former Presidents.
It states that a surviving spouse of a person who has held the office of President, who dies in office, shall be paid a tax free monthly pension at 50 per cent of the pension that the former President would have been entitled to receive if they had retired at the date the occurrence of the death.
It further states that the spouse of a former President who dies after ceasing to hold office shall be paid a tax free monthly salary pension at the rate of 50 percent of the pension that the former President would have received but for the occurrence of such death.
Any surviving spouse shall also be paid a tax free annual pension of P182, 316.00 provided that the President may, by order, amend the provision by increasing the amount of pension payable. If there is no surviving spouse or the spouse subsequently dies, the 50 per cent will be payable to any dependent children less than 21 years of age.
The entire president’s gratuity, pensions and other benefits shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund,which is the most important of all government accounts.
The bill states, however, that the benefits will not be paid should the former leader of state pay allegiance to a foreign power or State. When they are sentenced to death or to serve a prison term and the sentence has not been wholly suspended, a sitting President may withhold the benefits if he sees it fit.
The gratuity, pension and all other benefits will be stopped in case the former President dies, or in case of marriage of the surviving spouse or when their dependent child reaches the age of 21 years.
The bill also states that when the former President, spouse or their offspring is ruled to be bankrupt, the pension, other benefits and their value shall not form part of the assets of their insolvent estate.
The former President is also entitled to a number of security officers as determined by the sitting President, two drivers, one private secretary, one secretary and one office attendant.
They are also entitled to office accommodation of the standard and size specified by the President in a location where the former President may prefer, or a monthly office accommodation allowance based on the prevailing Gaborone market rental rates. It includes a telephone, computer/word processor, office furniture and other office equipment as may be determined by a sitting President.
They are also entitled to a furnished residential house of the standard and size specified by the President, or a monthly housing allowance based on prevailing Gaborone market rental rates,two maids and one gardener.
The former President and spouse are also entitled to State sponsored medical aid and he or she will also be a beneficiary of first class air and rail travel within Botswana.
First class air travel will also extend to international trips up to a maximum of 4 trips per annum(including a spouse if accompanying)and per diem for each trip as may be determined by a sitting President.
For his transport need he or she will also be a recipient of one sedan (Mercedes Benz or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle), one 4 wheel drive station wagon and one pick-up van and they will be replaced as and when necessary, like other government vehicles, albeit being in the permanent disposal of the former President.
He will also receive entertainment allowance determined by a sitting President, telephone expenses as well as water and electricity expenses for the office and residence.
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.