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BDC starts chopping ‘worthless’ investors


Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) Managing Director, Bashi Gaetsaloe’s drive to push the Corporation to profitability and eliminate unworthy investments may come down hard on small investors in the BDC portfolio.  


Government’s investment arm is said to be on mission to push out its partnering company at Talana Farms with the view of establishing new partnership with a new partner who has financial muscle.


WeekendPost has been availed with information indicating that Botalana Farms, which jointly operates Talana Farms with BDC has had a troublesome relationship with BDC as the horticultural project continues to struggle. Despite the project showing a promising sign, heavy rains in the past few years soured the relationship between BDC and Botalana Ventures, as the farm suffered financial difficulties.  


BDC has been operating Talana Farms jointly with Botalana Ventures since 2006 and the two entities had enjoyed what looked like a breakthrough for Botswana’s horticultural produce sufficiency. Talana Farms’ General Manager, Jan Willemse, revealed in the past that for future growth the farm was targeting the South African and Namibian market for their produce.


The bone of contention however in the last few years has been the BDC’s unwillingness to put more capital into the project to increase production and even rescue the business from unforeseen fates like the floods which occasionally destroy crops and other produce.  


Close sources at BDC have revealed to this publication that, occasionally when BDC puts in capital to rescue the project, it demands Botalana Ventures, as its partner to repay part of what it put towards the projects, regardless of whether the farm  recovered the money or not. But observers say as business, BDC has every right to make such demands because it has invested.


Sources also revealed that in the last few years, BDC has been sceptical about pumping more money into the project, and if it offers incentive, it does so with “unrealistic demands” on the conditions put on offer.

Informants inside BDC indicate that, the government owned entity holds the view that it has not benefited from the partnership, as it is forced to pump money onto projects, while the farm is struggling to raise the money.


In April 2014, BDC announced the appointment of Bashi Gaetsaloe as the new Managing Director, taking over from Maria Nthebolan, who had resigned a year earlier. The appointment of the new Managing Director saw BDC adopting transformations under the new BDC business model which places more focus on minimizing risks. The arrival of Gaetsaloe has however not changed the perception of the corporation towards the feasibility of Talana Farms under the current partnership.


According to sources, the major concern with regard to Talana Farms’ produce is inability to sell in Botswana as local retailers prefers cheaper produce from neighbouring South Africa which are not necessarily of good quality when compared to Talana Farms produce. Retailers are the biggest buyers of horticultural produce in Botswana.


This publication has also been furnished with information to the effect that, one of the leading local retail giants is said to have expressed desires to take over Talana Farms, and operate it either jointly with BDC, or solely.


BDC Head of Marketing Communications Boitswarelo Lebang could not divulge information to the publication regarding the current relationship between BDC and Botalana Venutres. “This information is confidential between BDC and our joint venture partner,” she said.


“What we can confirm is that BDC insists that all its projects and joint venture companies operate on a sustainable and commercially viable basis,” she added.


The BDC spokesperson could also not confirm nor deny that BDC is courting Choppies Group to establish a new partnership to operate the farm and noted that the information around discussion of such matters is strictly confidential.

“BDC insists that all its projects and joint venture companies operate on a sustainable and commercially viable basis.  If achieving this goals means that the project / JV Company seeks assistance financial or technical from third parties then this is welcome as long as it is done within the scope of our agreement with our JV partner,” she explained.


Lebang said Botalana Ventures is an important and major producer of fresh produce to the local market.  She noted that the fact that Botswana is still importing up to 80% of horticultural produce from South Africa presents a significant opportunity for both Botalana and other local Batswana farmers to step up and fill this demand.


Botalana Ventures Managing Director, who is based fulltime at the farm, could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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