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Botswana at 50: Pastors rebuke ‘sinners’

EFB leader Master Matlhaope

As the country celebrates its golden jubilee, the Evangelist Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) which is an umbrella body of Pentecostal churches in Botswana has reflected on the country’s journey to 50 years of independence, noting achievements as well as shortfalls and concerns that the nation faces.

A Christian based organization, EFB has sensitized the nation on trends of emerging spiritual challenges, likely to undermine scriptural foundations of the gospel and to be a prophetic voice of the nation.

Never too shy to submit their voice on issues of national importance, EFB says in discharging their objectives they are guided by unshakeable values of being assertive and candor to “God mandated course.”    

EFB takes a swipe at proponents of homosexuality, prostitution, abortion

Although some weighty voices have so far called for legalization of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion like that of former President Festus Mogae, renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi, law maker representing Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso, EFB this attacked them through a statement seen by Weekend Post- for their ‘unholy’ stance.

Outspoken EFB leader Master Matlhaope stated that “as we begin another journey of fifty years, we would like to once again, register our objection to certain calls for legalization of certain social aberrances.” He asserted that the call for the legalisation of homosexuality, prostitution and abortion in the name of human rights is deviant from “our nation's foundation and would lead us into a serious moral precipice”.

According to the blunt Pastor, these so called rights go against the very core and foundation that has held this nation intact in its respect for culture, sanctity of human life and its identity as a God fearing nation.

“We as EFB believe that the infallibility of Scripture in these matters is non-negotiable. There is no right to do wrong. Batswana know what is right and wrong and have defined that in their penal code. Any change to Batswana's self-defined moral sanctions should not be left to a few individuals to decide, but should be put before the nation through a referendum,” he cautioned.  

Matlhaope reiterated that homosexuality as a practice is criminal and must remain so, and added that it is of extreme importance to note that Batswana have not condoned homosexual behaviours or tendencies as is indicated in recent Afrobarometer research. The study indicated that majority of Batswana abhor and shun it, as per “the bible and tswana customs”.

The umbrella body of ‘fire churches’ maintained that Botswana should not allow herself to be pressurized by current wave of transient trends which are perpetuated by international pressure groups. He added that these groups have organized to disadvantage and punish nations that are determined to preserve their own culture, identity and norms – and “this type of pressure is unethical and wrong and must not be tolerated”.

“Such practices despise the very foundations upon which this nation is built on,” he asserted. He highlighted that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people" (Prov 14:34), and submission to Biblical norms holds hope to our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

“We submit that civil laws should be based on what is morally right. There should be no civil right to do a moral wrong,” Matlhaope stressed.

On abortion, the EFB leader asserted that it was the mother’s right to control her body under normal circumstances, but when she is carrying another human being within her body there is a conflict of two rights: the baby's right to live and the mother's right to control her body. “We contend as EFB that the right to live is supreme.”

Abortion, Matlhaope continued, does not solve the circumstances of conception but adds more evil to it and that no problem should be solved by killing innocent babies.

He also dispelled prostitution adding that it’s abominable and degrades a woman's worth. “God has vested a high worth and dignity upon all humans, and we must not enact laws that take away the dignity and worth of women through the commercialization and commoditisation of their bodies and their God given femininity,” the maverick Pastor insisted.

The contentious “man of God” appealed to Batswana in general to be steadfast and fearless in standing for what they believe is right for them and their nation.

Meanwhile former president Festus Mogae has publicly declared that homosexuality and sex work should be decriminalized in Botswana to assist curtail the spread of HIV/AIDS, as various studies identified them as catalysts to the scourge.

In addition, Human rights attorney Uyapo Ndadi has also avowed that there be decriminalisation of homosexuality and prostitution as they are fundamental rights of a human being and also personal choices that no one including government should temper with.

More organisations including Botswana Network of Ethics, law and HIV/AIDS and Lesbians, Gays and bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) have also been categorically vocal and gigantic proponents of legalization of homosexuality and prostitution.   

Botswana comes from far, still maintains peace, political stability

The church organization has also encouraged that people of Botswana come together to give thanks to the Lord as we celebrate the  country’s independence.

“EFB would like to take this opportunity to thank the Almighty God for bringing us into a golden jubilee as an independent nation. We would also like to take this time and wish all Batswana a blessed, prosperous, peaceful, and happy 50th year anniversary. We may not have achieved all our goals and realised all our dreams but, with God Botswana has a future,” Matlhaope declared.

“The country has moved from being one of the poorest nations, to a high middle income nation, achieved reduction of illiteracy, maintained peace and political stability, developed health facilities and road networks amongst many others.”

According to the EFB leader, the nation is nevertheless faced with challenges as is common in life. Although HIV & AIDS has been contained to a large extent, he said it still poses a threat to our nation's health and prosperity. He added that drugs, alcohol and substance abuse still remain a challenge as we see many lives with potential being destroyed by the same. “We implore every Motswana to take full responsibility by making healthy choices and abiding by principles which lead to a long healthy life and prosperity,” he advised.  

Matlhaope noted with sadness the scourge of ritual murders that continue to take place in this country. “The belief that one can get rich or prosper through human sacrifice is not only inhuman, but barbaric and satanic”, he pointed out. “Perpetrators of such horrendous evil should not have any place in the current and future of this nation. We appeal to all Batswana to play the role of keepers and preservers of life and to help law enforcers curb this vice, and to ensure that we build a Botswana that is free from the crime of ritual murders.”   

Pastor Matlhaope also observed that in the times when we have seen other African nations experiencing political turmoil, anarchy, genocide, economic retrogression, xenophobia, suicide bombings, civil wars along tribal lines and political affiliations, “we are grateful to God that such vices are not found within our borders.”

At 50, EFB pays tribute to Botswana founding fathers

Meanwhile, in acknowledging the country’s heroes, and while falling short of declaring Botswana a Christian nation because of its foundation, Matlhaope mentioned that, “our hearts go out to our founding fathers that laboured and laid a good Christian foundation for this beloved country; the likes of Kgosi Khama III who was married to a Christian woman called Mma Bessie and also best known as the founder of a Christian state, Kgosi Sechele I who was not only a ruler of his tribe but a missionary among his own and other African peoples.

He added that other dikgosi such as Kgosi Bathoen I, Kgosi Mathiba and many others whose history has not yet been written, played part in the “spiritual transformation that formed our foundation as a nation.”

This brief background according to him is the preponderance of the subsequent bloodless independence which we attained in 1966, adding that when other nations surrounding us shed blood for their independence, the faith of our forefathers in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus gave us peaceful independence.

“We celebrate those who played a midwifery role to the then newly formed Republic; the likes of Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire, Dr Gaositwe Chiepe and others, the various leaders in the then opposition parties like Rre Phillip Matante and Motsamai Mpho and others, the various church denominations that existed during the time.”

According to the Pastor, “We know they prayed for the peace, and tranquillity of our nation, and God granted it, and as a result we enjoy the same today for which we are truly grateful.”

The debated EFB is an umbrella of ‘fire churches’ which are evangelical, Pentecostal and Para church organisations in the country. It boasts of a membership of denominations and organisations – which have member branches across the country, and currently EFB membership stands at 79 and the voice of EFB is collective of this membership.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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