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BCA’s P160 million makeover on slippery grounds

The government’s move to transform the beleaguered Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) into a sound, fully-fledged new university is said to be marred with mismanagement of resources and generally poor management.


It is understood that although the transformation agenda will cost the new institution a whooping 160 million pula to make it become an agricultural university of international repute, there are strong rumours doing the rounds inside the corridors of the BCA that the money is being spent willy-nilly. The transformation exercise, sources say, is treading on thin ice.


Of the 160 million pula earmarked for the university, 70% of the total is from government coffers, while BCA will contribute 30% which will be generated from student fees and revenue from the farm produce. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has also allocated the College a substantial 10 million pula as part of the transformation exercise.  


When explaining the plump budget of the transformation, BCA Acting Principal Dr. Mataba Tapela, who also oversees the massive project, told Weekend Post that the budget in part will be used for recruitment of principal officials i.e. Vice Chancellor and the Deputies, Consultancies to develop the structure, Conditions of Service, Development of Faculties, Consultations, Benchmarking and Rebranding and Marketing.


This publication has gathered that there is growing animosity between the BCA management and employees with regard to the hefty transformation budget and the way it’s being spent. “So much is happening in the College: there is mismanagement of resources and generally poor management which has been going on for some time now,” an inside source, who preferred anonymity for fear of victimisation pointed out to this publication.


“As for the transformation money, part of the management is running around retreats with their chosen few and having cocktails and after parties at every opportunity,” he lamented.

    
According to the insider, he believes the BCA Executive management is made up of people who lack the understanding of the basic principles of management.


“There are so many unresolved issues, some basic, which they continually fail to address. If things are left as they are, the college will never reach its goal of transforming to a reputable university. The government is losing money already, and this can be addressed by engaging experienced consultants to assist us to transform.”


Weekend Post has established that currently there is an ongoing benchmarking exercise that saw the College spending close to an astonishing 1 million pula (only for benchmarking) and, this did not go down well with some staff members at the agricultural college.


It is understood that a union representative who went to enquire on what was happening was also given a slot to join the team to America and has since kept quiet. It is said that this has in turn divided the union committee members and  meetings are no longer convened as the representative now says members are now ‘jealous’ of him.


The inside source also asserted that more shocking is the terms of reference for the benchmarking teams: “how do you benchmark records management in America. And worst of all is that, no records management unit employee is involved in the exercise.” Conversely Dr. Tapela said that the Records Management employee who is among the Benchmarking team is a member nominated by the Union to represent the Staff Union.


More information turned up by Weekend Post suggests that the team is mostly made up of staff members who are not even performing at their respective offices and the criteria used is not known.


“Even the composition of the transformation team is shocking as the team is made up of people who are not and have never been exposed to such a huge project, but are loyal of the Acting Principal. The Governing Council is never given detailed information, and ends up making un-informed decisions that do not help the college,” he maintained.


Some BCA employees are said to be generally not happy with the transformation exercise and believe they are being neglected on the process.


Information reaching this publication further indicates that: “the Acting Principal has divided the employees and taken a leading hand in transforming the college on his own. No consultation was ever done with staff, except one or so general meetings in which staff members were told about the bill, but never had an opportunity to be consulted during the development of the draft.”


In justifying the costly benchmarking, Dr. Tapela said that there was the first phase which was benchmarking desktop to understand the best practices across the world, and then there was the second phase which consisted of regional travel to universities in Malawi, South Africa, Namibia. The third phase is travel to top universities in America, Europe and Australia, he added.


The international benchmarking team, he said consists of representatives from the Governing Council, Executive management, Academic Division, Administrative Division, and the Staff Union. The international benchmarking trips are on-going and will be completed at the end of October 2015.


The Acting principal emphasized that the objectives of the benchmarking exercise are to undertake: functional benchmarking – which focus on functional areas in the benchmarked university such as Human Resources, Finance, Information and Communication Technology, and Institutional Planning, and secondly, Process Benchmarking – which focuses on improving specific critical processes and operations especially in Academic Affairs and Student Services.


“These are critical areas that are core to smooth function of the new university and therefore have been given priority,” he stressed.


However, according to Dr. Tapela, the transformation team is at different levels being the Core Team, the Reference Committee, the Governing Council Transformation Sub-Committee and the Governing Council. “These are the people who drive the Vision and have professional expertise in Academic, Human Resource, Finance, Information Technology, Student Affairs etc.”


He pointed out that where expertise lacks, Consultants are engaged, for example, in the development of the schemes of service and conditions of service. Benchmarking also plays an important role to guide on the best practices across the world, he said.


However the Acting Principal insisted that there was a thorough consultation with all stakeholders. He asserted that the Transformation Plan was developed through a process of upward and downward consultation of staff representatives, student representatives, the Governing Council and the public.


“The structure of the development team consisted of a Core Team which did the drafting and reported to a Reference Committee of more than 50 people composed of representatives from Academic Staff, Support staff, the Staff Union and Students.”  


He also said that the general staff was periodically updated during staff meetings. The most recent consultation and update was from the 10th-12th September, 2015 when workshops were conducted for different groups of staff in Setswana on the first day, and English on the second day, he recalled.


The third day, he said was dedicated to student consultations and the program included transformation updates, consultations, change management and motivational presentations.


“These platforms provided opportunity for staff and students to express their concerns, suggestions and recommendations. The proceedings were recorded and recommendations duly considered. Other platforms include departmental boards, and open fora.”


Dr. Tapela said other consultation with concerned stakeholders (including University of Botswana) and planning for the new Faculties is on-going, and four Faculty conveners have been appointed to facilitate establishment of new faculties and rationalization of academic staff.


The BCA Acting Principal also revealed that a consultancy to review the proposed University structure, develop job profiles, grade positions and propose a remuneration structure will be completed next year (2016) in January.


The transformation will see the new institution operating as an independent entity from the University of Botswana. BCA currently enrolls around 1 000 students and the number is anticipated to heighten to an estimated 5 000 at the new BUAN. It is anticipated that a full rollout of the Transition will commence at the beginning of the 2016/17 financial year.


The (BUAN) Bill establishing the new university was passed by parliament on 16 July 2015, and this publication has gathered that President Ian Khama has since assented to the Bill and the College expects the new BUAN Act to commence on 1st December 2015.


BCA was established on 31st May 1991 through Act no. 9 of the Parliament of Botswana. The Act abolished the then Botswana Agricultural College (BAC) which had existed since 1967.


The new university is also believed it will address the national development priorities of food security, rural development, economic diversification, youth empowerment and sustainable use of natural resources.

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Opposition talks: Conveners ditched, experts engaged

13th October 2021

The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.

According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.

BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.

BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.

Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.

However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.

BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.

AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.

AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.

AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024.
To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.

“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.

UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.

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‘Dingake’ name spoils Botswana’s interest in ILO top post

13th October 2021

When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.

It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.

In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.

The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body.
This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.

When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.

“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.

Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.

Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”

Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.

It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.

But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.

Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.

The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.

ILO Director-General elections events lineup…

At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:

1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures
1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures
A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session
14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings
25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General
1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.

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Botswana, EU clash over human rights issues 

13th October 2021
human-rights

Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues. 

This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”

“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.

The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.

“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.

The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.

The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.

“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.

In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.

“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.

The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.

“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.

It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.

But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.

“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says.  Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.

 

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