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
Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.
The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.
However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.
Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat. “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.
This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.
“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.
“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.
In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?
“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.
While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.
Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.
His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.
The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.
His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.
Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.
Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.
Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).
“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”
The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).
When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.
With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?
Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.
The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.
The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.
Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.
Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.
“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.
Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.
Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.
The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.
Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.
One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.
The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.
The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.
Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.
To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.
The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.
Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.
While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.
I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”
In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.
Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.
Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.
Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.