The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) panellist at a roundtable organised by the University of Botswana’s Democracy Research Project, Lawrence Ookeditse was forced to be on the defensive and declared that “the current government is a victim of its own success” and it was being judged unfairly by some in the society.
Panellists were scrutinising the state of affairs of Botswana’s democracy and the level of development in the country. Ookeditse was the only soul veneering against the stance that the country is on a trance of rearward regression. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando did not show up and so was the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) representative.
The jumbled panel featuring print journalist, Spencer Mogapi; University of Botswana czar of Political Science, Professor Balesi Tsie; BDP activist, Ookeditse; as well as trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) President, Johannes Tshukudu sketched a gloomy picture of the country’s stance and prospects on a myriad topics ranging from the state of affairs in public education, national fiscal deportment, democracy as well as government control over state media, among others.
Defending the status quo, Ookeditse pointed out that Botswana is on the right path as it continues to attract favourable rankings in the region and Africa on aspects of human development, the economy, human rights and democracy. He cautioned that people should be aware that the state media’s purpose is for nation building and held firm that it is doing its job well.
He said while Khama has not addressed the UB academia and the media broadly, he has chosen a more functional approach to engage the populace. However he conceded that a lot can still be done to make Botswana more prosperous.
“The BDP government is the only government in the world that has not downsized its workforce despite advice from the International Monetary Fund,” he said. Ookeditse is convinced that the BDP will still win the 2019 general election.
UB political science lecturer, Professor Tsie poked holes on the many fronts of the country’s picture perfect façade outing it as a smokescreen concealing an increasingly dysfunctional government. He signalled to Botswana’s position as the fourth largest unequal society in the world trailing industrialising and developing BRICs economies with millions of people in population despite Botswana having a small population of just over 2 million.
Tsie also alluded to the country’s failed economic diversification drive which he contends should have long been executed when the country was still experiencing unfettered steady economic growth. He further argued the economy’s continuous hinge on minerals and mineral extraction leaves the country riskily liable to global economic unrest as circumstanced by the 2008 economic recession.
The UB Don further brought the forgotten debate of old to the fore, questioning and probing Setswana’s quasi-arbitral elevation to status of national language over other languages in a republic state, continuing to state that cultural minorities in the country are not fully recognised.
Tsie lampooned the Parliament of Botswana as a weak oversight institution, “There is a serious democratic deficit in parliament of Botswana and it is very weak, in fact far weaker than the Independent Electoral Commission.”
This, he attributed to the principle of collective responsibility as government ministers and assistant ministers are drawn from the executive wing of state concluding that for that reason parliament of Botswana finds itself not mirroring the plight and prospects of the nation.
Tsie also poured scorn on the constitutionally engrained selection of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and nominated councillors as undemocratic as it bears the hallmarks and trappings of political patronisation.
For his part, BOFEPUSU boss, Johannes Tshukudu held the viewpoint of Botswana as a regressing nation; positing that the country has a populace not well conversant with political education. He said the educated city and town dwellers represent a tiny fraction of the country’s educated and politically conscious section, a prospect he is convinced spells doom for participatory democracy and progression.
Tshukudu also observed that there is a thick air of intolerance hung in the corridors of state power as responses to national issues by the country’s political leadership is often met with fiery personalised retorts. He went on to say that while the country’s civic society lacks political consciousness, its Non-Governmental Organisations are also hamstrung by their monetary links to government thus failing to accurately execute their roles of providing oversight duty to government.
Private media journalist and columnist Spencer Mogapi attributed the country’s dwindling fortunes to being lost in the nostalgia of the national success of yester years, describing it as being “hostages of our own history.”
Mogapi who chided Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s perceived ignorance on the latest national unemployment figures said that it becomes hard for Batswana to embrace and assist the BDP in developing the nation while the popularised Ntuane reforms are aimed at saving the party and not the country.
He also ridiculed the government for glorifying poverty by shelling handouts when it could have long cut poverty when the country was experiencing unfettered economic growth adding that it is difficult to see the results of the P500 million pumped into poverty eradication.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.