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Masisi warns opponents

Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has come out guns blazing in the New Year and sent strong warning to his political opponents – especially those who see him as weak and label him a ‘Yes Sir’ man. The Vice President is certain that is the best bet for Batswana because no opposition party has better policies or sound leaders.  

Among other multiple toned denunciations, the Moshupa-Manyana Member of Parliament chastised the opposition, promised to win back the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s popular vote, create jobs, and win the youth as he “marches to the 2019” general elections to seek the Presidency of the country. “We are going to deliver a sucker punch and the opposition parties won’t know what hit them,” he declared, further stressing that “I know what is coming”.  

In a wide ranging interview with this publication at his residence in Gaborone, the Vice President shared his observations regarding his party, the BDP, the country, and what he intends to do during his tenure as Vice President.

“I may not have the face or the looks you want, but I have the policies of the BDP which can guarantee you a brighter future. I am not going to lie to your children and give them false hopes. I only tell them real and substantive issues,” said Masisi. He said the BDP prides itself in selling practical policies and not selfish falsehoods.

When asked a question – “Are we speaking to the future President of Botswana?” Masisi responded with a bold Yes and pointed to the Constitution, “As long as all factors remain equal, because the constitution does address the issue of incapacitation,” he said.  He said he is aware that there could be others in the party, who want to be presidents, and he cannot stop those who aspire to challenge him but he cautioned that, “it will not be easy – neither will it be wise.”

Masisi was challenged by a quartet of BDP members for the chairmanship of the party and won convincingly at the Mmadinare congress held mid last year. The Vice President declared that he has settled in well into his Vice Presidential duties, a role he has held for the past one year and two months. And he has a word of advice for those who still doubt his Vice Presidency, “They must just accept that I am the Vice President.”

Masisi is the eighth Vice President of Botswana since the colonial era ended.  He began discussing the possibility of him becoming Vice President with President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama a month before his appointment. He was initially appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development and surprisingly at the time, he was already aware that he is the Vice President elect. His appointment to the post of Vice President threw many off and even the book makers and political pundits got all their guessing game wrong about Botswana’s next Vice President. Masisi stated that the BDP culture of caucus has held the party together over the years; and caucus remains the consolidating factor for the party’s future as it prepares for the 2019 homerun. Masisi explained his undying love for the Ministry of Education and Skills development, “it has a special place in my heart as an educationist.”

SPEARHEADING BDP RECRUITMENT, BLASTS UDC FOR VOTE TRAFFICKING

The Vice President said he will interact with Batswana during his tenure, “I have a way of doing things and I am aware of our population dynamics, I know what is coming, my eyes are glued on 2019 as I recruit relentlessly because I am a loyal BDP member,” he stressed. Masisi pointed out that the BDP policies and programs are much better that those of the opposition, “whether combined or in their individual capacities.”

The BDP has indeed been hard at recruiting recently, but it has come with the tag that the ruling party is paying opposition cadres to join it. Masisi does not take kindly to the accusation: We do not buy people, he said, if the opposition thinks that we are buying people, they should tell us if the BMD members were bought to break BNF and BCP, “we do not think of them as buying people. No! It is shocking that people are alleged to have been bought only when they join the BDP,” he explained.

Instead, Masisi accuses the UDC and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), though to a lesser account, of voter trafficking in the last general elections. To drive home his allegation, he zoomed into his own constituency to demonstrate the trafficking he is talking about, “my first margin when I contested and won the Moshupa constituency was 5000, and in the last elections the UDC jumped from 1500 to 3500 votes, it is clear that there was trafficking and we have evidence from eye witness accounts. Buses brought people to Moshupa from as early as 5am and some of them did not even know where the school was so that they could cast their vote.”  

However Masisi said he is not worried by trafficking in 2019 because Government has taken a decision to address the problem. He said there will only be one date for registration while supplementary registration and transfers will be cancelled, according to a proposal that they will put before Parliament soon. He observed that the many dates for registration were opening gaps for voter trafficking. “We want people to win and lose honestly,” he said.

“I challenge the opposition to hold primaries, they are afraid of primary elections, but we at the BDP are determined to promote democracy by holding primary elections at party level. We accepted that we had a dip in our popular vote in the last election amid the voter trafficking by the UDC, but we are a work in progress and we are coming up well,” said Masisi.  He said they are on a high speed recruitment drive and they are and will be “pouncing from all angles without mercy”.

JOB CREATION IS MY BABY

On job creation, Masisi stated that:  “we have an issue with jobs because of our population dynamics and middleclass challenges. But with the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) we envisage to arrest some of these challenges.” The ESP is meant to help catch up with the national development plan and will see government finance projects that were lagging behind from the previous development plans, explained the Vice President.  While admitting that Government has experienced situations where public money was not utilised and returned to the treasury, Masisi noted that they are coming up with means of fast tracking usage of money, while also closing possible gaps of corruption and mismanagement among other things.

According to the Vice President the private sector will be involved more in the execution of ESP projects. He also stated that they will engage registered professional bodies like the Architects and Engineers Registration Boards to harness their expertise when it comes to project implementation. “We are going for mass buildings, we are going to make sure that these buildings are taken first to where they are needed most. Our teachers and health personnel will soon enjoy abundant housing as we roll out this program,” said Masisi. He further allays fears that the ESP is meant to only benefit the ruling party elite and their friends, “As the Coordinator of ESP I have to ensure that this programme is for all Batswana. As the BDP Government, we have presided over numerous decisions that needed us to put aside our party affiliation, the same spirit will prevail under the ESP,” he said.

But there are those who fear ESP will breed or influence corruption, Masisi offers himself as the shield again, “There are tenders that have been advertised already. Our ITTS are EDD compliant and any person who flaunts the EDD policy, I will make sure I come after them myself. We intend to brand all ESP tenders so that they can be distinguished from the normal tenders,” he stressed.

The Vice President is confident that jobs will be created especially through construction and maintenance, but he insisted that jobs must be spread out, “I will not want to see a situation where a company wins tenders in several places, we must share. He said there is a huge backlog of maintenance work which he feels the ESP programme will address and create thousands of jobs.  
Masisi said he is aware that the ESP has brought a lot of excitement among Batswana hence the over 900 companies registered since its announcement but he cautions that things must be done right in order to achieve the envisaged results. He also had a word of advice for Batswana, he warned them against shunning some jobs which end up being given to expatriates – he gave the example of farm work, domestic work, construction work and others.

He also commented on the issue of water and electricity. He noted that the problem is prevalent in the whole of southern Africa but he is surprised that BDP critics fail to broaden their scope and appreciate the El Niño factor as affecting the global community. “They also talk of lack of planning when it comes to water, are they not aware of the national water masterplan? For their information, they must be informed that we know where the underground water is and we are working on bringing the water to the surface, it is not a quick job as they would think,” he said. With electricity the Vice President is confident that they have communicated workable strategies to address the situation overtime.  

WE ARE SORTING WORK PERMITS, VISA ISSUES

On other issues, Masisi addressed the issue of denial of work and residence permits and visas for foreigners or expatriates. He acknowledged that as government they are aware of the issue and they are addressing it. He said there are a lot of factors that are at play when it comes to this issue. He said there is possible corruption, and faults from both sides, being applicants and government officers. He said in most cases the paper work by the applicants let them down especially when they choose to use unscrupulous consultants. “But we are definitely working on the matter because even Business Botswana has made representations to us on the same,” he said.

NOTHING WRONG WITH OUR FOREIGN POLICY

The Vice President also touched on the issue of Botswana’s foreign policy and the participation of Botswana at international meetings. He pointed out that he is the Chief Assistant to the President and he does exactly what the President instructs him to do. He noted that there are sentiments that the President never attends some of the international meetings, “people should be aware that what I share at meetings be it African Union or the United Nations is exactly what the President would have said should he have attended. Even if I am to enter into any undertaking on behalf of Botswana, I follow the script as directed by the President, where there are doubts are inquire and do not commit at all,” he explained. Masisi explained that it is an honour to represent the President at international forums.

Masisi also addressed the participation of Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba in relation to her contest for the position at the Commonwealth. He found nothing wrong with Botswana’s foreign policy and insisted that Masire-Mwamba put up a good and Africa did vote for her. He noted that Botswana’s independence and sovereignty take precedence when decisions or positions on international matters are to be taken. He acknowledged that Botswana has differences with some of her African counterparts when it comes to the issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) but it is a healthy difference of opinion.

EXPLAINS HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT KHAMA

The Vice President is aware that he has been dubbed Lelope or bootlicker because of the way he relates with the President. He relates that it is unfortunate that most people who pour scorn at his modus operandi do not understand Setswana – the language. His tag of Lelope came to prominence after one of the kgotla meeting he addressed just before elections, when he stated that “ke ngwana wa lelope”. Masisi is still shocked at the level at which some criticise his speech at that kgotla meeting.

Explaining his working relationship with the President, Masisi said his bolope resonates with Setswana culture and being fit for purpose – that is being loyal. He stressed that loyalty is a very important attribute because it shows that you are sincere. But he notes that he a completely different being when compared to President Khama because they are of different generations.

“His Excellency is my elder and I take instructions from him and I execute them sincerely and with precision,” he stated. While Khama and Masisi went to the same school at some stage, the former was way ahead of the latter, “even his twin brothers are older than me,” he said. Masisi however stresses the fact that they were both born into strong BDP principles and their loyalty stems from being loyal to the party and what the BDP stands for in terms of what is good for Batswana in general. There are times when we do not see party line and we take decisions for Batswana and not the party,” he said.

Khama has allocated a number of tasks to Vice President Masisi, he has been assigned to coordinate job creation and poverty eradication; coordinate the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD); he chairs the National AIDS Council; chairs the Rural Development Council; represents the President at various international meetings, among other assignments.  Masisi said he is working Members of Parliament, Councillors, community members, diplomats, NGOs and the business community to execute his mandate meaningfully.

But one thing remains dear to his heart, the constituency of Moshopa-Manyana and its people. “I am the MP for the area, you may take everything else away but not the constituency, I thank the good Lord for the popular vote I got from the Moshopa-Manyana constituency,” he said.

MASISI DISMISSES COMBINED OPPOSITION THREAT

The Vice President follows the ongoing postulations of a UDC that will include the BCP. But he told this publication that they opposition has the right to take whatever route it wants to take. He said it is incumbent on the BDP and its members to nullify any potential opposition threat. “ We are going to hammer them in 2019 and we are already outsmarting them,” he declared. Masisi said he is confident that the BDP popularity will go up in 2019, “we have huge plans for the youth and first time voters, I can assure you that Duma Boko won’t know what hit him.” You should be aware that we created our own opposition in Parliament, the majority of MPs are BMD and originally BDP and we know what they are thinking, they are communicating BDP policies,” he said.

According to Masisi the BMD has annihilated the Botswana National Front (BNF), “the BNF is as good as dead, you can classify it along the likes of Botswana People’s Party (BPP),” he said.
Masisi said every parent want the best for their child. “What is it in the UDC that people could risk even for just two days. We continue to ensure an unblemished children’s future and we still maintain that the future of this country is best mortgaged to the BDP.” Masisi is of the view that Botswana is doing far much better and vows to do better than past generations. The Vice President reminded this publication that President Khama came in at probably the worst time of recession but he managed to save jobs. “It was either people are fired or jobs are saved by not increasing salaries,” he said. Masisi revealed that at some point discussed the possibility of taking a pay cut to save jobs.

Masisi is not entirely dismissive of the opposition, he noted that there are bit of value especially from the likes of the BMD President Ndaba Gaolathe whom he described as “BDP through and through”. He said Ndaba got most of his underpinning and ideas while still with the BDP and more so that his late father Baledzi Gaolathe (MHSRP) was instrumental in the crafting of some of the BDP policies. “Yes his blood father constructed some of the BDP policies and it would not be surprising that Ndaba borrowed from the BDP and those in the UDC start alleging that the BDP copied ESP from them.” Masisi has little to say about UDC leader Duma Boko, “I do not fear him in an election, I will beat him fairly. His contribution to Parliament is below average, all I see is court theatrics and most of the time when I take out the stuff that Ndaba wrote for him nothing remains in his vocabulary,” Masisi. He said taking Boko out of the court room is like taking fish out of pond, “I am sorry to say Boko is failing in Parliament.” Masisi challenged Boko to release the Gomolemo Motswaledi investigation report because his party has accused the BDP of killing Motswaledi.  

POINTS TO NOTE

  • Masisi was Vice President elect before being appointed Minister of Education
  • Cabinet had looked at the possibility of taking a salary to save jobs in 2009
  • Senior Ministers had told Masisi that they wanted to be Vice Presidents
  • Masisi says it will not be wise or easy to challenge him for BDP Presidency  
  • Explains Bolope in the Setswana context  and how it connotes loyalty

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Bangwato regent speaks ‘respect for Dikgosi’

23rd May 2022
Bangwato

Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.

Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.

Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.

One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution

Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.”  Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.

She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age.  Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.

Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.

Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.

For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.

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Parliament unveils major shake-up plans & reforms

23rd May 2022
Parliament

Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.

The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare.
Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.

According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned.  It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.

“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said.  Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.

The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.

The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.

The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.”  The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana.  It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.

“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.

Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.

“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversification of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly.  It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).

“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.

Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.

The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.

“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said.  The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.

The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.

“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

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Salbany, Bareetsi threaten to sue DIS

23rd May 2022
Salbany Bareetsi

Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.

After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.

They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.

“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.

They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”

They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.

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