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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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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021

OSCAR MOTSUMI

This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi: Email:oscar.motsumi@gmail.com

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021

MELANIE WALKER

The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. www.womeninnews.org

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