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Project Implementation! Where have we gone wrong?

The current government persistent failure to implement projects on time and within budget is not only embarrassing to Batswana but is also making our country a laughing stork internationally. These failures are not only draining the national coffers but are making Botswana very unattractive to both locals and foreigners. 

When these late projects are eventually delivered the quality is without doubt badly compromised. What has gone wrong with our project procurement and implementation?

It is not an exaggeration when we say that all government sponsored projects are not completed on time and have cost over runs that go into millions of pula and cumulatively over the years the over runs go into billions of pula of tax payer’s money.

When this happens, it is time the nation must wake up, take stork and demand answers from our government. When a project is completed 5/6 years after the due date, the loss cannot only be measured in terms of cost over runs. The significant business opportunity loss during this period must be estimated and any economist will tell you that the opportunity cost is huge.

The loss of use and associated hardships by intended users when assessed will be humongous. The emotional trauma the project owners and implementers have to endure during this period when considered must be mind boggling. The legal battles that have to be fought if taken into consideration must be more than torturous.

Finding the innocent scapegoats to be punished for sins committed by others will most certainly be unpleasant to both the perpetrators and the victims alike. All these are traumatic experiences that can be avoided by applying good project procurement and implementation processes.

The biggest problem we have is apparent lack of ownership by the project owners, which in this case is our government. The government has been given the mandate to run the country and Batswana expect them to manage all government sponsored projects and deliver them on time and within budget.

Failure of any government sponsored project is failure by the government, period. The government ought to take responsibility, own up, apologise to the nation and take corrective actions. Government must desist from calling the nation ignorant and immature when they complain and demand answers.

These projects ultimately belong to the nation; the government has been mandated to implement these projects on behalf of the nation. As much as the government must take credit for any successful project, government must equally accept and take the blame for any project failure.

It is quite disappointing and disheartening to hear the government including the president and his ministers disowning failed projects and blaming contractors.  I am not aware of any government project implemented since around 2008 that has been completed as scheduled and within budget despite the promising 5D road map that was delivered then.

The Lobatse and the Gaborone stadia that were to be competed before 2010 for the world cup missed the world cup. The government when quizzed about the delays blamed the contractors and told the nation that ‘as government we do not build stadiums’ this was said by the person occupying the highest office in the land.

The Morupule B was supposed to be completed before 2012, up to now we do not know for sure whether the project is complete or will ever be completed. The leadership was again quoted as having said that ‘government does not build power stations’ and put all the blame on the Chinese contractors. How convenient!

The Francistown stadium that was due for completion before the 2010 world cup was only recently completed and handed over to the minister of sports. This was 5-6 years over due.  The cost over runs were reported to be over P150 million.

The minister at the handover ceremony said the government did all it could and furiously blamed the contractors for all the failures. He went to the extent of demanding apology from the contractors for the nation. It is disingenuous when we want to pass the buck that surely must stop at our door step.  I am sure Batswana are happy that the stadium is final complete but Government must learn to take responsibility for its ineptitudes.


The Gaborone International Airport upgrade was also to be competed before the 2010 world cup. It was only handed over to the minister of transport last month also 5-6 years later with a cost over run of over P250 million.  The minister was again at it blaming the contractors profusely.

The Tonota Francistown high way construction is not surprisingly late. No one talks about it these days, but it is late and causing unnecessary head aches for users. The fact that people have stopped complaining is not that they are ignorant.  One wonders why the construction of the spaghetti junction in Francistown was not started when the construction of the road started as this is a natural extension to the high way. Does our planning also not leave much to be desired?

The Dikgatlhong dam was long completed (2011) and filled up before the transfer infrastructure was built. The same thing happened with Ntimbale dam where the dam was completed and filled up but there was no infrastructure to transfer the water to the people. 

We have the same situation with Dikgatlhong dam; people are thirsty in Gaborone and surroundings when water is wasting away at the dam because the transfer system is still under construction. We do not seem to only have a huge project implementation challenge but we seem to also have a serious planning challenge as well.

When our president was vice president, he was given the sole responsibility of overseeing and managing government project implementation. As president one of his 5 Ds was delivery.  I believe all of us assumed that this was delivery of projects and government services on time and within budget.  If that was the case the president has clearly failed the nation and need to revise his delivery strategies.

Let me attempt to offer some solution that may help our government. The reasons why government projects fail is because there is no accountability by the project owners, our government.  The project owners must have their own technical team that is entrusted with monitoring and managing each project and reporting to the project owner regularly.

The owner’s team must have technical and commercial ‘gates’ which they control and they are the only people who can allow the project to go through these gates.

The project can only go thought these gates if they have met all documented requirements known and accepted by all concerned.  Without the owner’s team and these specific gates the project is on auto pilot; failure, delays and cost over runs are consequently inevitable.

If the owner’s team allows the project to go through a given ‘gate’ they take responsibility for the consequences. They can no longer blame the project team and take the project team back without bearing the consequences of the delay and associated costs. If the owner’s team stops the project at the gate, then the project team must take responsibility for all the delays and costs associated with that delay. If the owners team stop the project and the project owners instructs the owner’s team to allow the project to go through that ‘gate’ then the project owner takes responsibility for any consequential delays and losses.

If our government was transparent and allowed independent investigations on all the government failed projects, the real truth will come out and only then can we begin to correct ourselves and plan future successful projects. But without even an investigation,  there are only two possible causes of our current project challenges; either there is no owners team to talk about or the owners team is always over ruled by the project owner….the government.

The government has also made a serious error in trusting Chinese companies to take on almost all major and minor projects at the exclusion of local and regional companies. Since independence, we have used local and South African companies to carry out all our projects. I am not aware of any major failures we experienced. The Chinese companies have introduced something peculiar in our project procurement and implementation processes!

I believe they must be major challenges in managing a Chinese company by locals and government. The language barrier, the way of doing things will be very different and could lead to misunderstanding and poor project implementation. I also suspect that serious corrupt practices are at play with these Chinese companies. It is interesting that almost all these failed projects by the Chinese companies were eventually completed by our own local and regional companies. Let us learn to trust our own….bosabosele!!

Bernard Busani
E mail; bernard.busani@gmail.com; Tel; 71751440

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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