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.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.