The three year Botswana government Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) has started in earnest, the ESP Coordinator from the Office of the President; Goitsemang Morekisi told a seminar room full of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprise (SMME) owners in Gaborone on Thursday. Morekisi was facilitating a seminar to unpack the famed programme for SMMEs at the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) Pitso and Seminar.
Among the major highlights of the programme to date, Morekisi said most of the projects that are locked in for the programme have begun. “Land servicing projects have started. Contractors are on site for classrooms and teachers’ quarters backlog eradication projects. Tenders have been awarded for roads and the road that links Phakalane and Gaborone has been launched. All the other roads slated under the programme are at design phase,” she explained.
The ESP was formulated after the country’s pace of economic activity slowed down in 2015 owing to a weakened global demand for diamonds. “The decline in mining receipts, coupled with a decline in revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), has led to a fiscal deficit of about 1.4 percent of GDP and a lower external current account surplus,” a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visiting Botswana in December 2015 observed. The programme targets the tourism, agriculture and construction sectors which are touted to have a domino effect on all the other sectors of the economy. The programme was devised to stimulate economic activity, diversify the economy and accelerate job creation.
According to Morekisi, various government revenue inflows are used to finance the programme. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Solomon Sekwakwa had explained to this reporter soon after the ESP was launched in October 2015 that the programme would be funded through options which give the most value to government. “It could be treasury bills, bonds, external borrowing, or raising taxes,” he had suggested. Moatlhodi Sebabole, an economic analyst, had at the time corroborated Sekwakwa that there were many funding options available to government.
“Given our low debt to GDP ratio, we still have room to borrow. At 17 percent against the maximum debt threshold we have set ourselves of 40 percent, we can still borrow, either domestically or externally. Our friends in the SADC have their maximum debt to GDP ratio threshold hold of 60 percent,” he had explained. Sebabole had further suggested that given the low interest environment, government could issue bonds to finance the stimulus package. “They could re-issue one of the bonds, worth P1.6 billion, that’s maturing soon,” he had quipped.
This reporter had asked Sebabole if the slated sectors of the ESP could indeed sustain long term economic development and he was matter of fact in his response: “For the stimulus program to churn sustainable growth, it should be government facilitated, private sector led, export orientated, and it should create jobs,” he had said.
According to the Morekisi, close to P4 billion has already been allocated for the projects under the ESP with P1.4 billion released at the program inception, and P2.4 billion budgeted in the 2016/17 government budget. However, the ESP Coordinator could not readily say what the job creation target for the programme was. “We have target figures for ancillary jobs, the immediate ones that will be created during construction. GICO [Government Implementation and Coordination Office] and Statistics Botswana are working to establish baseline data for later evaluation,” she responded to a question from this reporter.
Quizzed on how they are tapping into massive financial resources under the care of pension funds, whose fund managers have often decried lack on investible projects in Botswana, Morekisi said the idea had crossed their mind. She said they as government were open to proposals from investors, both local and foreign, for partnerships using the Public Private Partnerships model. “Then the private sector can tap into those financial resources, not us as government. We have other ways of raising money, but we want the private sector to lead the way,” she said.
Botswana government has a weak project management capacity as demonstrated by many projects that were delivered late, with huge cost overruns and in some instances to poor quality standards. Quizzed how government was delivering an accelerated infrastructure development programme while it has been failing in recent times, Morekisi responded that government organs with a mandate to supervise project implementation like the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and Department of Buildings and Engineering Services (DBES) were capacitated to deliver.
The ESP Coordinator encouraged SMME owners not to judge the programme, but rather find out how they can make it work. She further challenged the private sector to deliver, apportioning some of the blame of failed projects on them.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).