ON A WORKING VISIT: SADC Chairman Robert Mugabe was in Botswana for two days this week on a working visit to the SADC headquarters in Gaborone. Mugabe used the platform of a press conference to indicate that there is no bad blood between him and President Lt Gen Ian Khama of Botswana. Mugabe also spoke about the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, announcing that South Africa needs a second liberation.
The President of Zimbabwe, who is also the Chairperson of Southern African Development Community (SADC), Robert Mugabe has come out hard on Basarwa community accusing them of among other things, resisting integration with neighbouring communities, and rebuffing civilization.
Mugabe remarked at a Press Conference this week at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) that no African government should be blamed for Basarwa‘s slow or no integration into mainstream society. Mugabe’s deep seated reservations about Basarwa were exposed when he was challenged about the usually unfair elections in Zimbabwe.
“I do not know what the Botswana government saw and they are entitled to their opinion. Our minds are different. For instance the Basarwa people in some parts of Botswana don't participate in the general elections, but would you say that the results of the elections mean that they are not free and fair," he charged. Mugabe turned the swords to Basarwa saying Basarwa shun education, integration and developments ‘and no government should be blamed for their underdevelopment.’
Basarwa activist, Roy Sesana and Basarwa youth forum leader, Xukuri Xukuri expressed shock at Mugabe’s onslaught choosing to label Mugabe an old age man who should not be taken seriously.
Sesana said Mugabe was a senile man who has no conscience, heart and thus cannot and should not be taken seriously. He referred to Mugabe as “seganana sese padileng sese tlhogo le pelo tse di omeletseng” (a stubborn man with no conscience).
“Who is he to judge us? The only people he can judge are the Zimbabweans who have unwillingly invaded the African continent as economic refugees as a result of his failure to govern. We are not shunning developments, what we are saying is that let the developments or services come to us as is the case with other communities or citizens,” Sesana said.
His words were echoed by the Basarwa youth forum leader, Xukuri Xukuri who accused Mugabe of misleading people and leaders. He said they have established several organizations to respond to Basarwa challenges. “Such words coming from the leaders of SADC are unfortunate and worrying,” he said.
It was not the first time the controversial Zimbabwean president attacked Basarwa. Speaking at a memorial service for the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who succumbed to cancer in January 2013, Mugabe according to Zimbabwean press, said the Landa John Nkomo High School still had little appeal among the Basarwa who are in Zimbabwe referred to as the San.
“I used to ask John: ‘How are you treating them?’ He would say: ‘They look after my cattle, but we have tried to get them to the culture of going to school and getting more civilised, but some of them continue to resist’,” he said.
“When he formulated the idea of the secondary school, I still asked: ‘Will you have room for the Bushmen?’ He said: ‘Yes, yes, yes of course’.” Mugabe added that the community still liked the “bush and meat more than we do”.
“But last night (Saturday) when I met Jabu (Nkomo’s son), he was telling me that they are facing challenges in getting some children from the Bushmen to attend school. It is still a difficult exercise,” he said.
“He (Jabulani) said the number is four or five. So they still want to just look after cattle and be in the bush. They have a culture which is very resistant to change.” Mugabe said the government had a responsibility of treating the Bushmen equally with other tribes before he cited other countries with the same tribesmen.
“We know in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa they have a similar problem of the Bushmen, but they are trying,” Mugabe said.
“John used to talk much about them. When they are together, they like slaughtering cattle and like meat more than we do and we should make sure we acculturate them.”
The San people, also known as the Bushmen or Basarwa, inhabit remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The san in these countries have a Council called the working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) which strives to develop the political voice of the San Africa and member countries.
Together with First People of the Kalahari, WIMSA tries to promote support in Botswana and internationally for the plight of the San, marginalised by the system and the move towards a cash economy. WIMSA Botswana works on issues of land loss, education, representation and human rights and has formed a network of San organisations and groups in Botswana, striving to get even the smallest language groups amongst the San to join this network.
State president, Lt.Gen Ian Khama has blamed Basarwa’s struggles and tussles with the state on the international Human rights organisation, Survival international saying they continue to mislead Basarwa in the name of fighting for their rights.He said there is need for Basarwa to engage with the governement towards their development.
There is uproar and confusion at Gaborone City Council (GCC) caused by the municipality’s decision to reject cheaper bids and instead award a contract of Asphalt overlay, resealing and road marking works of 10km in Gaborone to a more expensive contractor.
The tender was posted on December 8th last year with TRI VENTURES (PTY) LTD awarded the tender after being the best evaluated bidder. The company, to do the job, quoted P14 707 454.78 as the total bid price and P12 501 336.56 as the total contract price of the award.
The awarding of the job to this company has rubbed other bidders the wrong way and even suspecting the tender adjudicating body of having hidden interests. The arguments from the tenderpreneurs is that the common methodology for awarding the jobs is always hinged on the least expensive taking the job. This, they support further by saying the government has been decrying lack of funds but GCC continues to splash the funds without being logical and prudent.
From the tendering companies, a number of them were below TRI VENTURES’ quote. Trench Plant Hire quoted P12 million, with Costain Services praying for P13 million, Conconet PTY LTD asked for P12,9 million and Clanfield PTY LTD also quoted P12.9 million for the 10 km job in the capital city.
The latter, Clanfield PTY LTD which according to CIPA records is owned by Tlholego Ntebele, approached High Court this week Thursday seeking interdict which will pave way for the review of the tender. The company had initially filed an appeal and the Appeals Board dismissed it.
“In this regard you are hereby informed that, if you are aggrieved by the decision by the Appeals Board you may seek remedy from the high court in accordance with section 24(6) of the LAPAD act,” appeal dismissal letter read. The Appeals Board’s main contention was that the company quoted the money which is lower than the council minimum cut off point of P14 511 798 76.
In their heads of argument at the court, the company through their attorneys argued that by being inexpensive, it was enough to grant them the job. In fact they argued that the winning bid of TRI VENTURE owned by Lebogang Dikole reached the GCC budget ceiling and therefore Clanfield Pty Ltd were the best placed to be awarded.
The request for the interdict was nonetheless dismissed by Justice Radijeng but the company is still adamant that they will appeal. Delivering the speech on Legal year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane implored the courts to adjudicate on urgency basis matters of tenders as they stall progress on national developments.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which came into effect at the beginning of 2021 with a market of 1.2 billion and combined GDP of $3 trillion, could contribute $76 billion to the world economy, according to World Bank.
To harness this potential, African countries would have to address the infrastructural challenge — which means dishing out or augmenting existing infrastructure funding models in favour of new funding models. ACFTA — the biggest trade agreement since World Trade Organization — fundamentally seeks to scrap out tariffs in 90 percent of goods, subsequently improving trade by at least 15 percent by 2024.
However, trade between African countries will most likely to be hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure key in facilitating business. Africa, particularly the Sub-Saharan region has been grappling with the question of funding its infrastructure, and lags behind other regions in the world in meeting infrastructural needs.
As highlighted by African Development Bank in its 2018 economic outlook, one of the key factors retarding industrialization has been the insufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power, water, and transport services that would allow firms to thrive in industries with strong comparative advantages.
The continent’s infrastructure needs an amount of $130–170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range $68–$108 billion, according to African Development Bank. Africa’s infrastructure deficiency is well-documented, and has been subject of interrogation by development partners for decades.
The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, produced by World Bank in 2010, collected comprehensive data on the infrastructure sectors in Africa—covering power, transport, irrigation, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology (ICT) as well as providing an integrated analysis of the challenges they face.
While the report noted that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s improving growth performance and has the potential to contribute even more in the future, it also discovered that Africa’s infrastructure networks increasingly lags behind those of other developing countries and are characterized by missing regional links and stagnant household access.
These deficiencies, cause African firms to suffer production costs, therefore making goods not only expensive but also lowering competition in the economy to the consumer’s disadvantage. African countries continues to fare badly in the annual Global Competitiveness Report — published by World Economic Forum — in the infrastructure pillar, with only South Africa being an exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, though still having power problems.
The infrastructure pillar looks at the quality and extension of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water and air) and utility infrastructure. This is so because better-connected geographic areas have generally been more prosperous and well-developed infrastructure lowers transportation and transaction costs, and facilitates the movement of goods and people and the transfer of information within a country and across borders.
It also ensures access to power and water—both necessary conditions for modern economic activity. Power is listed among Africa’s biggest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries facing regular power shortages and many paying high premiums for emergency power, according to World Bank which indicated that to address Africa’s infrastructure needs it will cost around $93 billion a year, but African Development Bank puts the figure at $130–170 billion a year, after its recent study.
The infrastructure challenge cut across all countries, from fragile economies to resource-rich countries such as Botswana mainly because a large share of Africa’s infrastructure is domestically financed, with the central government budget being the main driver of infrastructure investment.
In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the continent does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs.
Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.
“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance in Botswana. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi could find himself ensnared in controversy, as contentious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov this week emerged as the likely investor in the water desalination worth approximately P3 billion.
News of a possible water desalination project resurfaced after President Mokgweetsi Masisi made his second State visit to Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob in a space of less than a month. President Masisi and his entourage travelled to Namibia to explore the possibility of collaborating on a water project, according to government officials.
Reports in Namibia indicate that talks are already underway with Geingob and an investor who is offering desalination water from the Atlantic Ocean. “Being a good neighbour and alive to Botswana’s water challenges, Geingob invited him to come and meet the investor to share thoughts on the project”, Masisi announced on his official social media pages.
“We are happy with the prospects because we need the water. However, our ministers and technocrats have to determine what is best for us bearing in mind our governance procedures,” Masisi wrote. Tautona Times, an Office of the President (OP) publication, reports that funds and other technical considerations permitting Botswana to partner with Namibia in a water desalination project which could address the current water shortages that the two countries are facing are being sourced.
Namibia has been working on a project to treat water from the Atlantic Ocean and use it for drinking purposes. Last Thursday, an investor willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Heads of State and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete.
Botswana however is still part of Botswana- Lesotho water transfer project. The L-BWT scheme will supply water to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a 700 km water conveyance pipeline from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana.
In August 2018, Botswana was tasked with an investment request of €3.42 million grant funding for outstanding feasibility studies related to the dam and conveyancing pipeline. “We are still part of the Lesotho- Botswana water transfer project where Botswana was tasked by the three countries to approach the African Development Bank to fund the feasibility study which they did and it’s been done. The technical team for the three countries even toured the pipeline site to determine what’s on the way which may require moving”, said impeccable sources.
After the trip, Tautona Times reported that an investor who was willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Presidents and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The said investor is Rashid Sardarov, according to the Namibian press.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) Panama Papers have linked Russian billionaire and Namibian land baron, Rashid Sardarov, to a number of unscrupulous offshore companies. Sardarov, who is believed to be a person of interest between the two Heads of State, owns large tracts of land in Namibia, and is a long-term client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers data leak, which was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
ICIJ reports that absentee landlord Sardarov is a 60-year-old flamboyant Russian oligarch with an interest in energy businesses, property, aviation, hospitality and wildlife hunting. In 2013 he bought several farms in Namibia, measuring 28,000 hectares (the equivalent of about 34,000 football fields), through his Switzerland-based company, Comsar Properties SA. Sardarov also apparently intends to build a game ranch 70 km outside Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek.
One of the main purposes of creating an offshore company is to hide the names of the real owners. Even though creating these kind of companies is not illegal, the Panama Papers once again showed that some of these shell companies, masked in secrecy provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.
Rashid Sardarov is unapologetic about his riches, and was quoted by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo as saying: “I’ve been a billionaire for years, and I’m not ashamed to say so”. He received Bosnian citizenship in 2011 because he was a major investor there.
In addition to his 2013 land purchases in Namibia, at the end of 2014, Sardarov wanted to buy an additional 18,000 hectares of land for expansion. It is not yet clear whether Sardarov acquired the extra land he wanted. But he is building a state-of-the-art game ranch, Marula Game Lodge, in the region.
Botswana and Namibia recently signed a Bi- National Commission and the two Heads of State emphasized the unique responsibility they have to their nations. They agreed to constantly engage each other in communication and other ventures that will yield benefits to the people of the two countries. President Masisi and Geingob acknowledged the common challenges that Botswana and Namibia have adding that the time for working in silos is over.