The Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) is laying plans for the downfall of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi in the run up to the ruling party congress due in two Months’ time.
In a bitter raw over the government’s u-turn on the outsourcing of the Public Service employees motor vehicle loan scheme, GEMVAS, the senior leaders of the union say they would do anything within their power to make sure that Masisi does not become the next chairperson of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
‘’If we let Masisi win the chairmanship of the BDP, he would become a problem for all of us. We have to launch a battle to get rid of him,” pointed out BOFEPUSU’s secretary for Labour affairs, Johnson Motshwarakgole.
The beef, according to Motshwarakgole is that Masisi is the man behind the government’s decision to take away GEMVAS from Unigem, a company whose shareholding includes that of BOFEPUSU union members. BOPEU is the only union members that sold its Unigem shares sometime last year before the government decided to take control of the loan scheme, GEMVAS.
The union alleges that Masisi is influencing the government to take over the scheme because he believes that UNIGEM is making a lot of money and has been sponsoring a series of court cases which BOFEPUSU previously launched against government.
The government has announced that it would be taking over the scheme by the beginning of next month just a few months after Unigem purchased a million Pula system to improve the running of the scheme. By Friday afternoon, the Union Lawyers were drafting a statutory notice and planning to file an urgent application before the High court in an attempt to stop the government’s in its tracks.
According to the Federation’s Deputy Secretary General, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, the scheme has been running smoothly under Unigem and therefore there cannot be any professional or administrative reason for the government to take over the scheme as it lacks capacity and skills to run it and the only logical explanation to the takeover is politically motivated.
Motshegwa’s take is that the government is unleashing an economic unholy war against unions.
“We are engaged in a terrain where there is violence against civil rights. The only valid reason is that as a country we are sliding towards autocratic tendencies and we need a vibrant civil society to rise against these ills,” Motshegwa spoke out.
The most immediate solution to this problem according to the unionists, is to go to court and challenge government on this matter and influence the BDP members not to vote for Masisi.
“He (Masisi) is the one spearheading the GEMVAS in-sourcing such that by the 1st of June, 2015, it would be totally under the control of government …We disqualify Masisi because if he succeeds Khama as the next President he would be a much worse dictator than him,” Motshwarakgole further added before saying that as such he wants Masisi not to become the country’s President.
Speaking at a media briefing in Gaborone on Friday this week Motshwarakgole further explained that Masisi was an enemy of labour movements and a threat to the country’s tranquil.
Political comments have landed the union Secretary generals in trouble with the employer in the past but the federations’s Secretary General Tobokani Rari maintains that it is the right of the civil society to participate in selecting its leaders because at the end of it all, the elected rules over everybody.
BOFEPUSU’s plan remains to be tested though as they have failed to bring Masisi down in two occasions, that is, during the primary elections preceding the 2014 general elections and during the general elections last October.
However the0020union maintains that they would have brought him down hadn’t he stopped the civil service employees from voting in the primary elections.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.