He is currently Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s best-known political enigma. He rose to the country second most powerful position in a short space of time and many are still wondering why President Lt Gen Ian Khama picked the less decorated Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi for Vice President ahead of well-oiled political machines within the party ranks and of course ahead of his friends and or blood line.
Indeed the name Masisi has a scion of, yes, as one of the country’s most enduring, trans-generational political dynasties, but it is without a doubt that had very little to do with Khama appointing him Vice President. He trusted him not because of his name, many are yet to know why…
The Vice President made his name available for selection as chairman of the BDP last week; in political nomenclature he could be labelled a late comer in the race. Not forgetting that people contesting this position are increasing at intervals. But as things stand he is the late comer. There is ongoing debate as to whether this decision will make or break him. The verdict is out there and voices from within his party are saying, the weight of his office will help him cross the river.
He is up against seasoned campaigners like Tebelelo Seretse and determined new comers in the mould of Biggie Butale and willing party members like Ramadeluka Seretse among others. But Masisi’s handlers are confident he will romp home. He arrives when the race is already on home run.
Unlike his rivals, Masisi is already privileged; he had a team that was willing to push his agenda even before he committed to the race. It is recorded that he was being lobbied by some within the party to “take” the chairmanship. Of course there are BDP members who believe that the party constitution section 29 c entitles the Vice President to the chairmanship.
By announcing his candidacy or availability, Masisi was effectively telling the other candidates to make way for him. “It is about the office, we must respect the office of the Vice President, we have entrusted him with the responsibility of leading the country, why can’t he lead the party?” quips Mephato Reatile, Southern District Council chairman who is also BDP’s chairman for the Political Education Sub Committee.
Reatile’s view expressly conveys a general expectation as per the BDP’s culture of old. BDP members usually follow the leader although the party has experienced considerable tweaking in the past because of the changing political landscape. By extension President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to support his Vice President come rain or sunshine.
“Members of Parliament voted for Masisi in Parliament, my view is that we are bound by President Khama and Parliament decision. We are just following them and in addition to that Masisi is a capable leader,” adds Reatile. But all the people who are running for the position of chairman so far have indicated that they will not withdraw, at least for now. They have already spent resources in the campaign and many believe their campaigns have gained speed and prospects of winning are high.
Not that their decision not to withdraw will be hurting Masisi. Some may see the “defiance” as undermining Masisi and his office, but it is a big No from the likes of Ramadeluka Seretse who posted on his facebook page that he welcomed the latest entrants to the race because it attests to BDP’s respect for democracy.
“People know his name, they know about him, but they don’t know him,” says Reatile, who declares that his Southern region has a collective responsibility to support Masisi for chairman. “He’s at a perfect age to be chairman of the party. He’s running for a very powerful position in the BDP, we are grooming him for presidency.”
BDP’s position of chairman is not necessarily a powerful position. It is merely ceremonial; it is far eclipsed by that of secretary general in terms of roles and profile. But surprisingly most have picked the chairmanship as the hot spot despite the fact that the crust of the BDP soul rests with the position of secretary general.
Masisi’s supporters want him to build a big profile that befits one who is preparing to be a President. They want to win this election; to them it will be a big boost.
Masisi has already been credited with the bye-election loss in Moshupa and many believe that he supported Tshepo Wareus who was mauled by Dorcas Makgato in Lobatse last month. His supporters want to prove that he has a big temperament and he is a born winner.
If Masisi wins, he stands a better chance of fighting potential challenges ahead including in 2018. But it will not come easy albeit the scores of endorsements that have started pouring in through the social media. Dr Alfred Madigele, Assistant Minister of Health has declared his support for Masisi.
Minister of Defense Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, who is also running for deputy secretary general, has already aligned his campaign to that of the Vice President, and Botlogile Tshireletso has also indicated her intentions to push Masisi’s agenda. The Youth Wing chairman, Andy Boatile has declared his unconditional support for the Vice President.
These are public endorsements that have not been seen for other candidates. Some political commentators dismiss them as political posturing but in fact they are giving currency to Masisi’s 11th hour campaign. Khama may just work the magic on the final moments before elections at the congress.
A general chat with a political scientist reveals that Masisi as a politician is not by all accounts popular but he has proven himself; hence BDP members could be compelled by his status to accept him for chairman. “People in the south know the name, it has very positive resonance in southern region, but there is need for Masisi to demonstrate more substance so that he could appeal to the middleclass.”
Masisi could adjust his political compass a bit to accommodate other spheres such as media and non-state actors. He has in the past expressed anti-media sentiments, which some say may just not help his course of crafting a character commensurate with today’s politics.
Numbers game may well be in Masisi’s plate. Many believe that President Khama has already helped the Vice President’s course by roping in Kgotla Autlwetse and Fidelis Molao to cabinet. They should be able to reciprocate the “favour” by pushing votes for the Vice President. The Central District will be highly contested, but Masisi is expected to get a chunk. The north-south debate is not catching speed and some regions in the north seem to be swaying towards Masisi. The Vice President looks set in southern and Kweneng regions.
The Khama versus Ponatshego Kedikilwe battle in Gantsi has some fearing for Masisi. The battle was very tight despite the fact that the name Khama was involved and that Masisi is not a Khama. Victor Malete roots for the Vice President, but he foretells that this could end up as a battle between three candidates. He expects a photo finish, with Masisi emerging top.
“Its protocol, we should support our VP,” he says. But others are quick to point out that there is no Kedikilwe again in the race, young BDP members outside the Youth Wing structure have aligned themselves to Biggie Butale.
But one thing remains about this BDP race, slates will not be so pronounced this time around.
Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.
The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.
However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.
Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat. “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.
This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.
“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.
“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.
In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?
“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.
While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.
Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.
His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.
The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.
His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.
Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.
Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.
Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).
“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”
The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).
When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.
With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?
Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.
The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.
The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.
Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.
Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.
“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.
Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.
Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.
The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.
Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.
One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.
The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.
The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.
Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.
Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.
To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.
The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.
Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.
While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.
I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”
In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.
Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.
Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.
Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.