The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard that the Directorate of Intelligence Security Services (DISS)’s meddling could have cost the country P4 billion worth of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
The revelations surfaced this week when PAC Member, Tati East member of Parliament, Guma Moyo said the organisation was said to be directly involved in rejecting work permits and VISAs for foreign nationals who wanted to set-up various businesses in Botswana.
DIS became the centre of debate at the PAC sitting this week when the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs appeared before the committee to account for the for use of public money for the financial year ending 31st March 2015.
It is the second time a finger is being pointed at the notorious security institution. Last week, the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism blamed the DISS for the declining numbers of tourists’ visits to Botswana in recent years.
PAC member, Guma Moyo who is also Member of Parliament for Tati East expressed concern at the unprecedented number of foreign nationals who are denied opportunity to set up businesses in Botswana without clear reasons. Moyo told the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs accounting officer that the ministry is failing the nation due to misguided immigration practices such as rejection of working permits under the guise of security threats.
Moyo revealed that he has received complaints from various stakeholders among them, Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC) and Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HAATAB) over unexplained rejection of foreign entrepreneurs and tourist VISAs and work permits.
Moyo told PAC that, reports indicate that an estimated P4 billion was lost by the country on FDI in the past year alone, and said the practice could hurt the country’s economy and reverse its gains going forward.
The Tati East MP said Botswana is quickly earning a bad name for its self as its image as a friendly and welcoming nation has started to fade away. Moyo also highlighted that countries like India, and China, who are one of the biggest investors in Botswana’s economy have been rejected in recent years, compelling them to look elsewhere.
Ndaba Gaolathe stated that there is no way a country could have promising prospects in the economy when it does not get its immigration policy right. The Gaborone Bonnington South MP noted that countries like United States, New Zealand and Australia are home to nationals from various countries and they have excelled economically.
Gaolathe said what is happening currently threatens the future of Botswana’s economy. Gaolathe had wanted to establish from the accounting officer whether the Office of the President and DIS interferes or has undue influence on the matters relating to issuing of VISAs and work permits.
Although the PS Pearl Matome could not directly answer the question, she conceded that as the accounting officer for the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs she was not aware of the reasons why some foreign nationals were placed on VISA restriction contrary to the agreement between their countries and Botswana.
Countries like South Africa, United States, and United Kingdom have a diplomatic agreement with Botswana that their nationals do not require VISAs to visit Botswana. Notwithstanding that, the department of Immigration has placed some citizens from these countries on VISA restrictions and those nationals have on several occasions been denied visiting Botswana. The PAC members have pointed out that this has created tensions between the countries implicated and therefore detrimental to the country’s foreign policy.
Evidence presented before the PAC is to the effect that DIS has been involved in all processes regarding vetting of foreign nationals who want to visit Botswana. However, Matome further revealed that of all foreigners who had been required to for VISAs before, none were in the end granted the VISAs after applying. Among those on the list of VISAs include foreign journalist, political activist and other nationals who have had views divergent from those of government.
“There is chaos at immigration regarding work permits and VISAs,” said Moyo. “It is creating a negative impact and countries like India are beginning to think Botswana is a no go area for business.”
Guma who is a former Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning said there is a serious problem to an extent that even two year-old kids are being denied VISAs. PAC also heard this week that Botswana only awards 200 foreign nationals citizenship every year. Moyo said the threshold is ridiculous and needs to be reviewed, since the accounting officer could not state with certainty whether the practice was policy or not.
But the DISS Director General, Isaac Kgosi has defended his organisation against the accusations. He clearly stated that officials who blame his organisation are told telling the truth, pointing out that they are not involved in the process of work permits applications.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.