Mmadinare congress was dominated by election campaign
Hardly three months after meeting at Mmadinare to painstakingly discuss issues affecting the party and ultimately government, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will yet again converge in Gaborone on the 9th-10th October this year for a special congress.
Newly elected Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane had revealed at the Mmadinare congress in July that party delegates did not have sufficient time to discuss critical issues affecting the party and government owing to the tiff over central committee positions. “We decided to call a gathering outside elections to focus on important issues and discuss them in detail,” said Ntuane.
The former Gaborone West South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) legislator said the Mmadinare Congress has however managed to pass 22 resolutions, which he said was an unprecedented number in the history of the party. “The Central Committee has instructed that the resolutions be implemented at various party structures,” he stated.
Ntuane revealed to the media this week at a press briefing that the party has decided to retain the troublesome BDP primary elections model popularly known as Bulela Ditswe. It is believed that the party’s 2014 general elections dismal performance was partly due to how the elections were conducted.
The party had tasked party veteran and former cabinet minister Peter Siele to lead a commission that would investigate the niggling primary elections and offer recommendations to the party. The report was completed and delivered to the party central committee. “The Central Committee has made a decision to retain Bulela Ditswe and it will be used again ahead of the next general elections,” said Ntuane.
It is unusual for the ruling party to convene a special congress immediately after ordinary congress, save for when the party in facing some sort of crisis that it needs to overcome. BDP had its worst elections since independence, for the first time it won elections with a less than 50 percent popular vote.
The last time BDP convened a special congress was in 1995 following the Mogoditshane congress. The special congress met amid factional skirmishing and to prepare for life without President Quett Masire who had indicated at that time that he was planning to leave office before the next elections. It was at that congress that a resolution was reached to change the constitution and introduce the presidential term limit to an aggregated 10 years. The special congress also agreed on the automatic succession of vice president to power in the event that the office of presidency becomes vacant.
This year however, BDP does not have much bone to contend on as far as factional wars are concerned but key reforms need to be discussed in order to resuscitate the party.
Ntuane himself had suggested key reforms for party to adopt during his campaign. Among them are electoral systems reform and introduction of party funding. Ntuane is of the view that reforms will revitalise BDP again, presenting it as progressive if the reforms and adopted since the opposition will also embrace them.
The special congress will also discuss some of the contents of the secretary general report of Mpho Balopi, Ntuane’s immediate predecessor, which was presented at the Mmadinare congress. Ntuane said the delegates did not have adequate time to look at it hence the need to revisit it at the special congress.
The former BDP Executive Secretary also expressed his reservations about denying or confirming reports that he is in charge of the recruitment process that would see opposition members joining the party en masse. It is reported that BDP has paid some members of opposition parties to join the party and use them to recruit more opposition activists.
Ntuane however agreed that he had met with several opposition activists, but stated that it was a norm in local politics as opposition also recruits from the ruling party. “People are not changing parties because they are bought,” he said. “Some initiate it while some are recruited.”
A leaked audio of the meeting between suspended and resigned Botswana Congress Party (BCP) activists Lotty Manyepetsa, Thato Osupile, Virginia Masole and Oganne Mazwigwila and Ntuane reveals the discussion of the secret meeting. In the audio, the quartet gives a report to Ntuane on their efforts to recruit more BCP members to BDP.
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.