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PAC: Suspend ‘cash cow’ Youth Fund

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has told the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to consider suspending the Youth Development Fund (YDF) in order to develop essential frameworks necessary for the success of the programme.

It came to the attention of the PAC members this week that the YDF programme is now a cash cow and projects are financed in a haphazard manner without clearly outlined objectives.

Appearing before the committee, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Kago Ramokate acknowledged that government has no investment and monitoring framework that guides the fund; neither do they monitor successful beneficiaries. He had no idea of how much beneficiaries owed government through the same programme.

PAC member, Ndaba Gaolathe, who is also Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, indicated that the status quo regarding the operations of YDF needs serious intervention.

“There is a serious problem here, and we cannot continue year after year putting out money under the current circumstances. We need to re-look it first and put in place necessary frameworks,” he said.

Notwithstanding that, when questioned on whether to suspend the YDF, Ramokate said suspending the programme would have a devastating impact on the beneficiaries.

However, Tati East MP, Guma Moyo, vehemently disagreed with the accounting officer, as he contended that prudent management of public resources should always take precedence.

“We cannot run government on policy of appeasement by continuing to pump up money and not knowing where it is going. Otherwise we are going to collapse government,’ he said.

“If it was your money which is being spent by government, were you going to continue doing it even when it’s clear that you are not getting return on your investments?” he asked the accounting officer.  

Moyo said suspending the programme would not mean stopping it for good, but for some time while necessary measures that will ensure that government gets value for its money are being put in place.

Biggie Butale, MP for Tati West warned that while YDF is a good initiative, it is however going to kill a whole generation of entrepreneurs because of the beneficiaries’ attitudes towards the financing.

He said beneficiaries are not taking it as a serious obligation for them to repay the money which is due to government even when their projects are doing well.

“We need to teach young people that there is an obligation to pay, just like when they go to borrow at commercial banks, and they should know this,” he said.

The Tati West legislator highlighted the need for government to instil a sense of responsibility on those who are funded to help in grooming young entrepreneurs with business acumen.

Butale also mentioned that in the past when people did not want to pay back the government, Former president Festus Mogae decisively responded by compelling the National Development Bank (NDB) to dispossess assets of those who owed the bank.

YDF was established during Mogae’s tenure as president as an empowerment programme aimed at promoting active participation of youth in the socio-economic development of the country.

It also sought to encourage the out-of-school, marginalised and unemployed youth to venture into sustainable and viable income generating projects.

Ramokate conceded to the PAC that his Ministry currently does not know the exact amount being owed to government by beneficiaries. He blamed poor records keeping especially with regards to projects funded in earlier years.

“We also did not have enough capacity to properly monitor the funded projects countrywide but there has been a great improvement in recent years,” said Ramokate.

PAC has established that since the initiative came into operation government has been failing to recover money owed by those who benefited from the fund. They also noted that most of the YDF projects were not doing and a sizeable number has collapse.

PAC also leant that some beneficiaries, dump their projects immediately after acquiring funding and spend the money elsewhere.  This came to light when the accounting officer revealed that one beneficiary, who was funded with P100 000, abandoned the project to pursue scholarship commitments.

The PAC members also raised concern over the fund’s lack of strategic direction and not knowing which niche sectors to tap from; and how the programme intends to address problems faced by the country.

Recently, the Ministry of Youth increased threshold of the Fund to P450 000 from the initial P100 000.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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