The autonomy of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) will be tested in the High Court on August 27th this year. Seven members of the National Executive Committee of the BNYC want the court to determine whether the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture has powers to dissolve the youth structure, and they have asked Gaborone based attorney, Uyapo Ndadi to ventilate their grievances.
A few weeks after the Law Society of Botswana lodged a legal suit against the President’s decision to refuse to appoint a High Court Judge following recommendations by the Judicial Service Commission, seven members of the Botswana National Youth Council’s Executive Committee are challenging the same Presidential power which was recently used to dissolve some structures of their Council, threatening jobs of many young people in the country.
In their notice of motion filed before the Lobatse High court this week, the youth expressed their intention to request Justice Letsididi to restrain and interdict President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama and his Cabinet Minister, Thapelo Olopeng of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture from implementing the dissolution of the BNYC organs as they believe it was unprocedural.
“On the 11th July, 2015 the resolution was not to dissolve the BNYC structures but rather to allow for dialogue on the vision by the Ministry. The young people simply did not want to blindly lead the movement to an unknown path. To our surprise and shock we heard on Radio and Botswana Television that that the BNYC structures have been dissolved and our resolutions meant nothing as they have been set aside,” the affidavit explained in part, in reference to the resolution of the BNYSC special general meeting which was forced to take place by the powers that be.
At some point according to the youth, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary is alleged to have threatened the whole committee members that they will, “vanish from the surface of earth,” if they did not do as they were instructed.
Sometimes last year the government approached the BNYC National Executive Committee (NEC) board and informed it of its intention to restructure the BNYC. According to the NEC, they assured the government of their commitment to the process provided they knew what it entailed.
The government, around June 2015 changed from restructuring to dissolution of structures and the Permanent Secretary (P.S) requested the Council to have a Special General meeting to move to dissolve some of the structures as per constitutional provisions. The Ministry then sponsored the congress which usually costs around P450 000.00 according to NEC.
“We impressed on the PS to tell us what the new BNYC would look like if we were to dissolve the current structures. This is important to us and still is because we would not blindly follow a process that we had no idea what it would culminate into. We in fact had heated arguments with the P.S a day before the scheduled SGM (Special General Meeting),” the youth explained further.
It was during the heated debate that the P.S allegedly threatened that the NEC members would vanish from the surface of the earth.
The youth further assert that they got to learn about the draft resolutions of the meeting on that same day, 10 July 2015. The draft resolution essentially provided that the BNYC structures, being the General Assembly, National Executive Committee, The District Youth Council, the village youth Councils and the Secretariat are dissolved and replaced with organs created by Presidential Directive No Cab 10 B/2015.
Nonetheless, during the special general meeting, the youth defiled the draft resolution and agreed that the Ministry should instead debate the matter further and engage other stakeholders.
“As the Executive Committee we had passed resolutions to the effect that should the restructuring process be effected and should there be job losses then concerned employees should be paid for the balance of their contracts with BNYC,” the youth affidavit further revealed their stand.
The youth want the President to replace the BNYC organs that he dissolved through the said Directive. Their contention is that, the President had no right to make such decision on a body which had been declared by the High Court to be independent and autonomous. The High Court made the ruling during a previous lawsuit in regards to debts owed to a former employee by the BNYC. Although the government was a direct sponsor of BNYC, then, it refused to take responsibility of the debt.
However the government has already made clear its intention to oppose the suit. The Minister in the MYSC, Thapelo Olopeng has averred that, “clearly the BNYC is under the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture and nothing has been mentioned to outlaw the restructuring of the organs of the Council by way of a Presidential Directive.”
Olopeng through the papers filed before court has also denied knowledge of any threats made by the P.S to the BNYC youth.
“I aver that it was never the intention to dissolve BNYC. In fact BNYC has not been dissolved as a matter of fact. The SGM was therefore concerned with a matter which I never concerned myself with. Government concerned itself with dissolution of existing organs of BNYC and replacing them with organs spelt by guidelines to Presidential Directive Cab 10 (B) 2015. It was the same way the Council was created that it was now restructured. This is an Executive power which the President is empowered to exercise without the advice of anybody,” Olopeng had stated.
Lately against the backdrop of allegations of corruption activities at the BNYC the government who is the primary financial donor of the BNYC took the decision through the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) who is also a BNYC board member that they will counter sign all financial transactions emanating from the BNYC in order to curb any financial impropriety and had since moved to replace existing structures with new once.
The seven complainants, Boniface Disho, Lydia Manthe, Nonofo Mmatli, Onkemetse Mokone, Meshack Ralephurwana, Alec Fela Monyake and Lawrence Kokole are represented by Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi law firm.
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.