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BOCONGO is bankrupt

BOCONGO board members, affi liates, friends and donours at organisation Biennial conference last year.


The future of the non-governmental organisations’ umbrella body, the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisation (BOCONGO) looks bleak – the organisation could run out of funds before the end of this year.


As things stand, a number of international donors have pulled out and more are expected to follow suit, WeekendPost can reveal.


A sizable number of BOCONGO staff members lost jobs as a result of lack of funding of projects and programmes within BOCONGO. As a member driven organisation, BOCONGO which was formed in 1995 – to create an enabling environment for NGO’s in Botswana, boasts of more than 100 affiliates.


WeekendPost has established that most funders for the various programmes at BOCONGO have already pulled out. Some of the programmes that are no longer available at the organisation include Local Governance Capacity Development Support Project which was funded by the Institute of Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) – which later expanded throughout Africa.


The programme focused on improving the quality of local governance in Botswana by deepening democratic processes at the local level and as well as improving local government service delivery. IDASA partnered with BOCONGO, Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in implementing the project. The project contract reached its completion in 2012/13 and was not extended.


Another collapsed BOCONGO project which was funded by the Ministry of Health through the proceeds of the notorious Alcohol levy, known as the Alcohol project was also terminated during 2013/14 financial year. The project was aimed at empowering and educating communities on responsible drinking and the dangers of alcohol abuse across the country. It is not clear why the project was removed from BOCONGO as the national Alcohol levy continues to rake in millions of Pula from alcohol consumers.


However there were earlier reports of unsatisfactory annotations by affiliates of the umbrella body who claimed the project could have been implemented elsewhere and not by the mother body. Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) and other NGO’s focused on alcohol abuse were said to have been the rightful beneficiaries of the project and vigorously advocated for the project take over.


WeekendPost could not however establish whether the members were subsequently given the project as a result of the development.


Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has also thrown in the towel after sponsoring BOCONGO since 2006 to implement a National Budget Analysis project which basically brought Civil Society actors together to analyse and comment on the national budget speech as presented before parliament by the minister of Finance and Development Planning.

Through the programme, CSO’s assessed its responsiveness to the needs of the majority of the people of Botswana – especially the marginalized and vulnerable members of the community. It was funded by African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) which pulled off midway and later FES followed suit in 2011/12.


In combating HIV/AIDS scourge, BOCONGO was also funded by Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT) which has long ceased their two year partnership. The project was aimed at contributing to efforts of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The project enhanced the ability of NGO’s and staff to anticipate, minimize and cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS. Like others, the project’s funding was never renewed years back when it ended.


This publication has established that the only project currently running at BOCONGO is the Family Health International (FHI) 360 which partnered with the umbrella body under ‘Maatla – Botswana Civil Society Strengthening Program.’ FHI 360 programs help build the capacity of local civil society organizations to respond to HIV and AIDS in Botswana.

It is understood that previous programs have enhanced the quality of voluntary counseling and testing centers, increased services that prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and improved knowledge of HIV prevention among youth ages 10–17.


According to sources who spoke to the Weekend Post on condition of anonymity, “FHI 360 partnership with BOCONGO is also expected to come to a close before end of the year”.


All the projects and programmes at BOCONGO had and/or have a battalion of employees including Project Coordinators as well as complementing staff members whom if projects collapse – would lose jobs instantly as well. Many have lost jobs at BOCONGO and others are tipped to be cut later this year as well.


The Alcohol Project, for example had a Project Coordinator, 2 Assistant Project coordinators and close to 100 Peer Educators and Counsellors who all lost their jobs following the closure of the project. With the Local Government’s IDASA project, the Coordinator too suffered a job loss following the ceasing of funds for the project.


Information reaching WeekendPost suggests that going forward, the FHI 360 project could also lay off some few staff members left at the organization including Accounts Assistant, and formerly HIV/AIDS project Coordinator and Administration Assistant.

Only skeletal staff is expected to remain, including Executive Secretary and Office Assistant – whose salaries are funded by government through the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA). By the time of going to print, BOCONGO Executive Secretary, Bagaisi Mabilo had not responded to Weekend Post email inquiries on the matter.


However MLHA funds are said to be diverted from BOCONGO as previously has been the case to newly established NGO Council. There is a growing division between the two bodies especially with relation to NGO funds as some say NGO Council’s role is virtually a duplicate of BOCONGO.


An immaculate source at BOCONGO confirmed that they have not yet received NGO funds and it is not clear whether they will get funding from government as the money now goes to the NGO Council. “It is still difficult here, we are not sure whether MLHA will still fund us this year and the only funder who has been with us, being FHI 360 is pulling out end of September, go thata (It’s a challenging time)!” a source at BOCONGO offices told this publication.  


BOCONGO may face the fate encountered by many other NGO’s which had to close down as result of donors pulling out, especially after categorization of Botswana as a middle income country.

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Botswana confirms new COVID-19 variant

17th May 2021
covid19

Botswana health officials have confirmed the new COVOD-19 variant, which was first found in India. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has through a press statement informed members of the public that a new COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), first discovered in India. The Indian variant was confirmed in Botswana on 13 May 2021.

According to Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson at the Ministry, this followed a case investigation within Greater Gaborone, involving people of Indian origin who arrived in the country on the 24th April 2021.

“As at 16 May 2021, the B. 1. 617 variant was confirmed in two (2) people. The clients are currently receiving medical care and remain stable with no life-threatening symptoms. The two (2) cases were part of 383 people (both Batswana and some Indian nationals) who were tested for COVID-19. From this number, 43 tested positive, with two (2) showing the B. 1. 617 variant as already alluded to. Contact tracing has been expanded in line with COVID-19 protocols. All contacts and confirmed cases have been evacuated to facility based quarantine and isolation respectively, for close monitoring,” Nyanga narrated.

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Indian Covid-19 variant was a global concern, with some data suggesting the variant has “increased transmissibility” compared with other strains.

Meanwhile in the wake of Botswana’s confirmation of the Indian variant, Nyanga reminded the public of the government intervention to control the introduction of new variants of public health concern into the country. He stated that all those who have travelled or transited through areas of high risk as previously communicated on 3rd May 2021 upon return shall immediately quarantine in a central area to be identified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness for a period not exceeding ten (10) days; Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test after seven (7) days of quarantine and be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

He said the requirements are complementary to the mandatory requirements of producing on arrival a negative PCR test not older than 72hrs from the time the sample was collected

“The public is advised to remain vigilant and minimize the spread of COVID-19 by following the already outlined preventative measures such as washing of hands with soap or use of a hand sanitizer, wearing of face masks, avoiding crowded places/social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement,” Nyanga said.

The India variant – officially called B.1.617.2 – is one of four mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by transitional public health bodies, with others first being identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.

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Khama lawyers dismiss BDP’s MacD

17th May 2021
former President Lt Gen Ian Khama

The lawyers representing former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, Ramalepa Attorneys have come forth dismissing a response letter penned down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activist MacDonald Peloetletse after he was slapped with a P1.5 million lawsuit for defamation of their client.

Tebogo Tladi, an attorney at Ramalepa, said last week Thursday Peloetletse took to social media to publish a substantively false, wrongful and unlawful statement about Khama. MacDonald Peloetletse’s commentary which was posted on Gabz FM News page reads, “I am a former soldier. Everything former President SKI Khama said here is a LIE. In fact, soldiers suffered more under Khama than under his predecessors.

He actually stole money that the UN had paid to the soldiers who went for the operations and paid them less than a quarter of what was actually due to them.  “Unhappy soldiers took the BDF to court and won, the BDF is still struggling to pay the debts! Khama can fool some people, but not all the people and not all the time.

“In fact many soldiers, serving, retired and those that resigned and were in the operations during Khama’s time get even more annoyed to such disrespectful statements by Ian Khama.” Khama’s lawyer says the impugned statement was published with the intention to injure his client (Khama) in his personality rights, good name and dignity, further indicating that the statement has damaged his good reputation.

“We have therefore been instructed by Client to demand, as we hereby do, that you publish on the same forum a retraction and a full and unconditional apology to Client within three days of receipt of this letter- and that you deliver such apology in a formal letter to the Office of the Former President, Dr Khama. In the event that you have not compiled with this demand by close of business on Monday 10th May 2021, our Client will assume that you have refused to comply with this demand.”

To top it all off, Khama demands that Peloetletse pay him P1.5 million in damages for defamation. “Furthermore, we hold instructions to demand as we hereby do, that you pay our Client damages for defamation in the sum of P1, 500,000.00 within seven days of receipt of this letter.” In the event that Peloetletse fails to pay the amount of damages demanded by Khama, Tladi says they will institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the aforesaid damages.

In his response letter addressed to Ramalepa Attorneys, Peloetletse said that he requests enlightenment and clarification that he be provided with proof that the allegations and comments which they attribute to him were indeed authored by him and that the platform which the comments were placed was not hacked.

“Please also advise if whether your clients has been endowed with a “special particular privilege status” that restricts the citizens of this country from commenting or responding to public statements made by your client in the course of political discourse especially when made on public forum and relate to matters of general public concern. (I trust that your brilliant legal mind is well informed with respect to the jurisprudence in such matters)”.

Peloetletse also said he would like to share with the attorneys a video which was posted on a public forum. “Please listen carefully to the conversations and discussion herein and advice if possibly such discussions form a reasonable basis for a justifiably rebuttal by any Motswana Citizen to the public pronouncements and defamatory statements made by your client about our government (bearing in mind of course a citizens constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression).’’

Consulted for further comment on the matter on Thursday after receiving Peloetletse’s response, Khama’s attorney Tebogo Tladi said the letter doesn’t hold any water. “The only way out for him is to prove the truth of the allegations on his comment or deny publication. He does not answer substantively to the defamation and does not respond to the demand of an apology or payment of damages.

So his letter really contains largely matters irrelevant to the substance of the letter of demand. His response in fact presents no legally cognizable defence at all- it would appear he responded without the benefit of legal advice, which would not be prudent for such an important case. So we will proceed to issue summons and wait to see what defences he will plead in court.’’

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Inside the multi-million Dollar Kazungula Bridge business

17th May 2021
kazungula bridge

Botswana and Zambia this week celebrated the opening of a multi-million Dollar infrastructural project, the Kazungula Bridge, projected to contribute around P100 million annually for Botswana. This project comes after the signing of the 2012 Agreement between the two countries to construct a bridge that would ease movement of goods.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in both countries. Further, the Bridge will significantly accelerate Southern African Development Committee (SADC) regional integration agenda which Botswana and Zambia are vigorously pursuing.

“By growing our strategic partnerships through this project, we have improved the development and competitiveness of our economies to attract more private sector investment, thereby, supporting our efforts to create employment, especially for the burgeoning youth,” Masisi said at the opening ceremony in Kazungula on Monday.

The Kazungula Bridge comprises a road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River, directly linking Botswana and Zambia. It has One-Stop-Border Post facilities on both sides, which will enhance the operational efficiency at entry points, replicated on both sides of the boarder.

The Bridge was originally conceived as a critical link in the African North-South Corridor under the African Union’s New Partnership (NEPAD) for Africa’s Development programme. It has since evolved to encompass a multimodal transport plan under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

The PIDA programme, which encompasses liberalisation of air travel, rail links, road, water and all other modes of transport has only one objective: to unite the States of Africa in order to foster trade on the continent

“Connectivity of our nations will in no small measure, promote people to people interactions and uplifts their standard of living. I am pleased to state that the completion of this project is a clear demonstration of our commitment to PIDA.”

The 260 million US Dollar Kazungula Bridge was commissioned by Zambian President, Edgar Lungu and President Masisi. President Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.

“I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible and you the technocrats must not play ping-pong with us after making these public procurements,” Lungu said at the official opening in Kazungula.

For his part, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi said the project was tandem with the Africa Union (AU) goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063 which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

KAZUNGULA FERRY

The new Kazungula Bridge replaces the Kazungula Ferry, a pontoon ferry across the 400-metre-wide Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia. It was one of the largest ferries in South-Central Africa, having a capacity of 70 tonnes.

In 2003 the ferry was the site of a disaster when a severely overloaded Zambian truck capsized one of the pontoons and 18 people drowned. The accident was blamed on the lack of weighbridges in Zambia to check the weight of trucks.

In August 2007, the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to construct a bridge at the site to replace the ferry. The existence of a short boundary of about 150 meters between Zambia and Botswana was apparently agreed to during various meetings involving Heads of State and officials from all four States in the 2006-2010 period.

The route for this new bridge crosses the boundary without entering Zimbabwe and Namibia. Zimbabwe already has a bridge into Zambia at Victoria Falls, 70KM from Kazungula. Namibia on the other hand has a bridge into Zambia at Katima Mulilo about 150KM upriver.

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