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BDP split over ESP projects distribution

Cabinet Ministers, Edwin Batshu


An intense battle which had been simmering among ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members over the much touted Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), played itself out last week at their Christmas session held at Party Chairman Mokgweetsi Masisi’s palace.

The get-together, which was punctuated with discussions of some of the party issues, got off to an ugly start with the ESP being at the heart of the controversy. The hot potato was the distribution of ESP projects of which ministers are accused of awarding their respective constituencies more than a lion’s share, leaving ordinary MPs with nothing, something the Backbenchers characterized as a vote-winning gimmick.

“Cabinet meets every Wednesday and indications are they took the decision at their weekly meeting. But it is unfair for them to give their constituencies bigger projects at the expense of others especially those held by Backbenchers. This is plainly their plan to win the hearts of voters so that by 2019 they can get re-elected,” a source told Weekendspost.

It is said some Cabinet Ministers like Shashe West MP Fidelis Molao and his Nkange counterpart, Edwin Batshu have already awarded themselves huge projects, with Batshu allegedly planning to develop the Tutume Primary hospital and some internal roads while others are not given a share.

The backbenchers, who learnt about this ‘covert operation’ before the meeting cried foul, especially that some of their places, are still underdeveloped almost 50  years after the country’s independence from Britain in 1966.

“They want this to be rectified and the distribution be done equitably looking at the needs of the various constituencies”, the source who attended the event said. It is said that some of the ‘ordinary’ legislatures even confronted Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo so he could intervene.

Upon seeing the situation was taking an ugly turn, Vice President and party Chairman, Mokgweetsi Masisi calmed the disgruntled legislators by coming up with a reconciliation plan to appease both parties.

“Masisi advised each MP to write down their needs so next year at the party caucus they can see how the developments could be fairly distributed, and this was given the thumbs-up by the members,” the Weekendpost source said.

The plan however – just like the ESP – was announced at the party meeting in October and is expected to be deliberated upon during a party closed-door convention.
Since this will be deliberated upon in a party setting what about the opposition held constituencies, will they get something?

“This is simply a party initiative; the BDP owns this programme and the chances of the opposition held constituencies getting something are very slim. The party will use this ESP thing to win the hearts of Batswana going into the next elections; people are being fooled about this whole developmental drive, and this is a BDP project,” an impeccable source told this publication.

However, it remains to be seen whether only the constituencies of MPs under the BDP will benefit, as the government has vehemently rubbished such allegations. Molepolole North and Gaborone Central, which are under the opposition MPs, have already had their share of developments planned.

President Dr Lt gen Ian Khama announced at a BDP Special Congress that Botswana will use some of its foreign currency reserves to fund an economic stimulus program.
He said the objective is “to stimulate the economy for accelerated employment creation and diversification.”

Botswana has foreign reserves of 88.1 billion pula ($8.55 billion) as of July, according to the Bank of Botswana. The stimulus plan will target tourism, farming, the construction of buildings and roads and manufacturing, Khama said.

Botswana forecasts that its budget will swing to a shortfall of 4.03 billion pula in the year ending March 2016 from a surplus of P3.67 billion in the previous year, due largely to slower sales of rough diamonds and lower metals prices.

“We have now seen that if we cut projects, our economy is going to stagnate. We have built up sufficient reserves and the time has come to use these reserves.”

The country will be “bringing back part of our funds which are managed in other countries for use here at home,” Khama said.

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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Unions brace for showdown as demands for 15% pay hike intensify

15th April 2024

As tensions mount between public service unions and the government, the prospect of a major strike looms large. The unions, representing hundreds of thousands of workers across the country, are demanding a 15% pay increase, arguing that public sector employees have been undercompensated for years. The government, however, has so far refused to accede to the unions’ demands, setting the stage for a potential confrontation that could have far-reaching implications for both public services and the broader economy.

There are fears that public service unions may embark on industrial action should their members give the leadership of the unions the greenlight to do so as they push for a 15 percent salary hike. This comes amid reports that pressure is mounting on government to increase salaries for five Cooperating Unions (BLLAHWU, BOPEU, BONU, BOSETU, BTU). The latest development is likely to escalate tensions between the two parties.

According to the coordinator of the five unions, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, the leadership of the unions would hold country wide mass workers rallies/meetings on the 22nd – 24th April 2024, to update and consult public servants on adjourned salary negotiations with Government through Directorate of  Public Service Management (DPSM).

The rallies come after the unions had proposed 15% salary increment to cushion workers against purchasing power but could failed to reach a positive outcome with the government.

“Believing that workers as creators of wealth, deserve a stake in redistribution of benefits the economy, the   Unions in their proposal are pushing for equity,” said Motshegwa.

He said a key objective of compensation administration is to ensure internal & external equity in the payment of salary & other benefits. “Internal equity refers to the payment of equal compensation for jobs of similar nature and worth within the organisation. The Employer Party’s Position Paper is silent on this key principle despite recent developments that violate it,” he said.  Another issue, Motshegwa explained is relates to protection of workers welfare.

“As a matter of human rights, wages should be sufficient to accord the worker and his/her household an acceptable standard of living. Further, wage adjustments should protect workers’ welfare. This means protecting real wages from erosion by inflation. The Employer party does not address this most critical of issues even though the Union Party explicitly raised it,” he said. Regarding motivation and staff morale, Motshegwa said wage setting is also fundamentally about motivating workers.

“It matters not only what workers are offered but also how internal relativities are affected. Workers can be demotivated not only by low salary adjustments but also by discriminatory treatment,” said Motshegwa.

PERSPECTIVE

At the heart of the dispute is a fundamental question: do public sector workers deserve a significantly higher wage than they currently receive? Unions argue that public servants are essential to the functioning of society, and that they have been systematically undermined by years of austerity measures. They point to recent pay increases in the private sector, which have significantly outpaced public sector wages, as evidence of a growing disparity that needs to be addressed.

The government, for its part, has historically been reluctant to grant substantial pay increases to public sector workers, citing concerns about fiscal sustainability and the need to balance budgets. In its view, the current wage demands represent an unsustainable burden that could jeopardize the provision of essential public services.

The stakes could not be higher for both sides. For the unions, a successful wage campaign could be a transformative moment, reaffirming the power of collective bargaining and the essential role of public sector workers. It could also strengthen the hand of labor movements across the country, emboldening workers to demand better wages and working conditions in other sectors.

For the government, a major strike would be a political and economic nightmare, disrupting vital services and potentially triggering a broader crisis of confidence in its ability to govern. It would also put enormous pressure on the government to find a way to resolve the dispute, potentially leading to concessions that could set a precedent for future wage demands in the public sector.

As the deadline for the current round of negotiations approaches, the tension is palpable. Unions are stepping up their efforts to mobilize support among their members and the public at large, painting a stark picture of the consequences of further wage stagnation. They are organizing mass rallies and strike votes, aiming to put maximum pressure on the government to back down.

The government, for its part, is digging in its heels, issuing stern warnings about the economic and political fallout of a major strike. It is exploring options for maintaining essential services in the event of a strike, such as bringing in temporary workers or invoking emergency powers.

As the nation preplies for the momentous decision that lies ahead, one thing is certain: the public sector unions are not backing down. They have made their demands clear, and they are prepared to fight for what they believe is their rightful due. The government, for its part, is equally resolved, ready to defend its position at all costs. The stage is set for a showdown that will determine the fate of public sector workers, the labor movement, and the very future of our society.

The question remains: will the government’s austerity agenda prevail, or will the demands of the workers ultimately carry the day? The answer will shape the course of history, and the world will be watching as this epic battle unfolds. The stakes could not be higher, and the nation holds its breath in anticipation of the momentous decision that lies ahead.

The public sector unions know that their fight is not just about themselves. It is about the millions of people they serve, the patients they care for, the students they teach, and the infrastructure they maintain. It is about the dignity and respect of every public servant, and the fundamental right of workers to a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

The government, for its part, is well aware of the potential consequences of a major strike. It knows that a disruption of public services would erode confidence in its ability to govern, and that a prolonged battle with the unions would be a political and economic nightmare. It is therefore unlikely to back down without a fight.

The stage is set for a confrontation that will test the mettle of both sides. The unions will push for everything they can get, knowing that their bargaining power is at its peak. The government, meanwhile, will dig in its heels, determined to defend its position at all costs. The outcome of this battle will determine the future of public services, the labor movement, and perhaps even the direction of the country itself.

 

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