Minister of Education, Skills Development, Dr Unity Dow
Partial investigations on the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector have unearthed wasteful expenditure running into millions of pula, cronyism and mediocrity at the Ministry of Education Skills Development (MoESD).
Early last year, the Ministry was said to have launched a committee of inquiry to self-probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education in the country.
The investigation came at a time when President Lt Gen Ian Khama decided to send cabinet ministers, including him, permanent secretaries and their deputies across the country to compile an audit on the state of schools.
However, last year, partial investigations of the then Deputy Permanent Secretary Mr. Montshiwa assigned at the ministry as part of measures to improve efficiency is said to have unearthed serious irregularities affecting the overall operations of the Ministry.
The Ministry is said to have lost millions of pula through book publishing companies operating in collusion with headmasters, ministry officials and Tender Committees at the Ministry. Some Ministry staff are said to have been on the payrolls of some unscrupulous publishers while some actually being shadowy book writers themselves creating a serious conflict of interest which went undetected for years.
Sources familiar to the work of the Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) say some headmasters were allegedly creating artificial shortages of some text books in schools in order to create business for book publishers who in turn paid them kickbacks. Last year a lot of books that were deliberately hidden in some schools, were recovered by the Montshiwa led team saving the ministry millions of pula.
The work of the deputy permanent secretary is said to have unsettled textbook “tenderpreneurs” who are now threatened with bankruptcy as a result of tightened measures in book orders implemented late last year.
Other areas that the DPS was yet to investigate were allegations in the photocopying/printing system in schools. Reports state that companies in cohorts with some senior staff in the ministry were overcharging in maintenance services on the copier machines.
These charges were passed for payment to the Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) without detection and the scales of losses are not yet ascertained but run into millions of pula. The Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) is currently investigating allegations of inappropriate procurement of heavy duty machines at the Ministry.
A hushed campaign calling for “#@bring back Montshiwa” is said to be gaining traction at the ministry as concerned staff feel he represents the only hope to fix the problem.
Some senior management staff spoken to, by the Weekend Post say Mr. Montshiwa was slowly getting to the bottom of these problems but his withdrawal has worsened the ministry’s situation
The ministry’s woes have been further compounded by a new Minister and a new Permanent Secretary who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Ministry, but unfortunately are dependent on the guidance of the same old staff that are part of greedy cohorts operating at the ministry.
The opposition leader Duma Boko recently said in a statement to parliament that the declining performance of the education system has far reaching implications for the country. Beyond the obvious fact that the poor performance means that the country may not be able to produce the human resources robust enough to drive economic development, therefore, national security implications for the position of education as the greatest equalizer.
The 2014 Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education Examination results released by the Botswana Examinations Council, (BEC) indicate there were 37, 384 candidates who sat for the examination. Candidates in full time attendance in Government schools numbered 25, 186 while 2, 936 were in full time attendance at privately owned schools.
The remaining 9, 266 were private candidates, (i.e. independent learners and students from BOCODOL as well as back-to-school candidates.) Overly, these figures represented a 9.73% increase in the number of candidates compared to the previous year. Of the total students who sat the 2014 examination, only 5, 796 obtained Grade C or better. This represents only 25.75% pass rate.
The rest of the candidates obtained Grade D or below. The overall results have been declining since 2006. For instance, in 2013, the performance for Government schools at Grade C or better had declined by 2.02%. In terms of overall school performance, the story emerging from government owned schools is rather alarming. Schools in major cities and towns perform better than those in rural and remote areas.
For example, St. Joseph’s College tops the list at 38% pass rate for 2014.
The same school was on top again in 2013 at a somewhat similar pass rate. Shakawe Senior Secondary School a government school, in the far North West District, once again sat at the bottom of the ladder with a pass rate of just 7% as was the case last year. Its pass rate has not improved in any significant way at all.
A committee of inquiry to probe the declining pass rates at primary, junior and secondary schools and the state of affairs in the education sector was supposed to have been established to investigate the Ministry’s problems.
WeekendPost established that a committee of inquiry tasked with drafting the terms of reference was supposed to have been headed by University of Botswana academic, Professor Bagele Chilisa. Stakeholders to sit on the committee were to include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and members from public service unions.
It was understood then that after completion of the terms of reference the Ministry was supposed to float an advert inviting Consultancy Company to conduct an inquiry into the decline of the pass rate in schools and other challenges currently facing the ministry. The consultancy company was going to be reporting to Chilisa’s committee.
The consults was going to investigate the core of the problems as they varied between vacant teaching posts, syllabus and the standard of classrooms, teachers’ welfare among others things. The Ministry of Education has, in the 2014 national budget, been given a lion’s share – 29 percent – of overall public expenditure during the forthcoming, 2014-15, financial year, with the Ministry alone being allocated P 9.26 billion in recurrent expenditure.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.