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Masisi’s VP tag weigh on other candidates

Vice President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi

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.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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