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UDC leader must be popularly elected – BCPYL

Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare

The Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare has broken ranks with the rest of opposition politicians and spoken highly about the country’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

In a candid interview this week with FRANCINAH BAAITSE at his residence in Gaborone, Rakgare revealed that Masisi is a clean man who would give opposition a serious contest ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Rakgare further revealed that as BCP engages the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over unity talks, the Presidents of the Coalition parties must contests for the leadership positions and be directly elected by the masses.

Rakgare wants BNF to come out clean and account for the saga surrounding the forensic report of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader who died in a car crush a few months before the last general elections. Below is how the interview was captured.

The BCP is readying to join opposition unity ahead of 2019 general elections. Tell us about it. Are you prepared for it?

I have not been mandated by the youth league to share my views on this matter. I have my personal views. However there is always a thin line between views of leaders on personal capacity and that of the position they hold.

There has to be some form of criterion between the coalition parties.  Most of the time coalitions do not work out because parties do not understand each other in terms of culture and structures. You talk of behaviour of the general membership of the BCP; how we relate among ourselves, how does the leadership operate; how are decisions taken! For instance BCP uses the “bottom up” policy whereby the leadership implements decisions made by the general membership. That has been a culture in our party. I would not want that to die. I would not want Dumelang to take decisions on behalf of the general BCP membership without prior consultation. I do not want him to act like the former BNF leader, Dr Kenneth Koma who would say, “I am BNF and BNF is me,”

So you do not support the coalition?

I want the cooperation and almost everybody in the BCP wants it, but there are certain outstanding issues that still need to be ironed out. You will recall that when we went for the BCP youth congress last year I was clear that the UDC must come out and tell us the truth.

What truth?

Remember the Motswaledi report? We need accountability. We submitted a proposal on the Memorandum of Understanding in regards to by-elections to the UDC. We have written to the UDC and it has not responded. Like I was saying to you these issues stands unresolved. We need accountability because we are a government in waiting. Another issue is about what happened in 2011. When the cooperation talks collapsed, Gomolemo Motswaledi, may his soul rest in peace, then representing BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) signed, Dumelang Saleshando representing BCP signed and Duma Boko representing BNF (Botswana National Front) also signed. They all agreed that the talks have collapsed and so it was not good when the BNF membership went around accusing Saleshando of betrayal and that he pulled out from the talks.

Saleshando is going back to the negotiation table with UDC over unity talks, what should we expect?

We are going into fresh negotiations and we are going to thoroughly debate the issue and the youth league has already started. Their thinking as well as mine is that in a progressive democracy there has to be a contest. There has to be primary elections in every constituency. The people should be allowed to select their favoured candidate.

So you are not in favour of constituency allocation as per the old umbrella model?

Personally I think constituency allocation is fine but I disagree where primary elections are prohibited. Remember general membership would not participate or have a direct say on the kind of cooperation model to be adopted, but they can take part in voting for their preferred representatives. People should be allowed to directly elect the President, a person who would lead the coalition government. The BDP is going to fight hard to retain power and we need somebody who is very strong to combat their efforts.

Among the four opposition leaders, Boko of BNF, Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana People’s Party (BPP), Ndaba Gaolathe of BMD and Saleshando of BCP who would you want to lead the combined opposition to the 2019 general elections?

Personally I do not care who takes the party to the general elections. I do not think any elections would be as interesting as those of 2019. Let us put aside party affiliation and understand that this is about regime change. There are capable people who should be allowed the chance to contest and lead the coalition to victory. This project belongs to Batswana. Let us not worry much about individuals but rather about the structure. The Presidency is a very powerful position. The President controls almost all arms of government including the Judiciary, Parliament and even has powers to hang people to death.

Hahahahaa! (Laughing)

We need to have an agreement in place that whoever takes over the Presidency in 2019 would support constitution amendment because the Presidential powers have to be reduced. We need an independent Parliament, independent Judiciary and independent oversight bodies.

What do you think of the current Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi whom the Opposition would have to contend with ahead of the 2019 polls? Is he a potentially strong Presidential Candidate?

Masisi is a nice man. He is a bit cleaner in as far as corruption is involved. He has a very strong character. We need somebody who can match him. If we do not have somebody who is grounded like him, who relates well with the people, we will kiss government goodbye. Masisi connects well with the poor, the ordinary Motswana out there. That alone is a threat to the opposition; that is why we need a character that will match him.

Surely, the opposition is not going to be happy with this statement!

I do not care. This is the truth. This man would pose a serious threat to the opposition should the BDP elect him to lead it into the 2019 general elections. If we fail to oppose him with a strong opposition leader, then we will be in serious trouble.

Do you think Saleshando stands a chance in leading the cooperation?

BCP membership has shown great support for him. They demonstrated that he remains their trusted leader when they re-elected him the party President during the last congress even though he had not achieved all he had wanted to achieve during the 2014 general elections. Dumelang will always be my best ever MP (member of Parliament). As a young person in Parliament he represented me, spoke a lot on things that affect the youth. For tax to be exempted for first home owners, it was because of him. Some of the commodities we buy are excluded from VAT because Saleshando spoke for the people. He has done his best. The party membership believes in him, they trust his leadership skills. They see him as the next President of the country and he must accede to that. If he is to relegate himself to something else, then he would have wronged them. The people should be given a chance to vote him as the leader of the coalition. If many people believe that Boko should lead the coalition, then let the people decide and vote who they believe is the best.

Now about your political future, are you still interested in taking another chance in contesting for a Parliamentary seat in the next general elections?

I am not so sure because we are now talking coalition and possible constituency allocations. Mogoditshane could end up being allocated to another party other than mine. Besides I am very broke at the moment. Campaign is expensive. Politics do not have a thank you when you lose. You struggle on your own. I used family money for campaigns and when you lose nobody gives you back that money. When I was fired from my old job at Duma FM I cared less because I thought, when I win, I would have little money to feed my family and survive. But I lost and I have been sitting home for the past 2 years without a job. I have a wife, a son and extended family to support. Back home in Thamage they look up to me for financial support. I am the bread winner and now that I am in opposition politics it is close to impossible to get my proposals looked at by even the private sector. I have sent out business proposals, but none of them have been successful. I know I had good ideas, but I am being punished because I am an opposition politician.

Is it that bad?

Yes, truth has to be told. Some officers have told me that they cannot help me because “elders” are watching. I am struggling financially. I know some would say I am shaming my family, but my wife has been supporting me through all these difficult times. She even gives me fuel money so that I can attend party meetings.

You are the youth leader, why can’t the party finance official trips?

We are broke, BCP is broke and it always have been broke!

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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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