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Gov’t ordered to create Fund for Sinohydro claims

TROUBLED SSKA: Government has been ordered to deposit money into a fund that will be used to settle claims.

Judge Michael Leburu of the Lobatse High Court on Wednesday ordered the Government to deposit a sum of P43 319 326.29 into an Escrow account agreed by both parties that would be solely used to reimburse the government for any claims against Sinohydro in the construction of a new terminal building at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone.


The Chinese contractor was employed to render services for the expansion and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport but the contractor and the Government of Botswana agreement of contract fell off the rails unceremoniously last year over shoddy workmanship and delay in the project.


When passing the judgment, Judge Leburu relied mostly on the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) Sub – Clauses agreement that were mutually created by the Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology (MIST) and Sinohydro to settle disputes between the parties that the government did not abide by as per the applicants’ filing.


“In terms of clause 20.4, if a dispute arises between the parties in connection with, or arising out of the contract or the execution of the works, including any dispute as to any certificate, determination, instruction, opinion or valuation of the engineer, either party may refer the dispute in writing to the DAB for its decision with copies to the other party and the engineer,” said Judge Leburu.


The Judge also observed that if any party was dissatisfied with the decision of the DAB, such a party was entitled to provide a notice of dissatisfaction within 28 days of the decision, failing which the decision would be final and binding.


“It is common cause that the respondent (MIST) did not issue a notice of dissatisfaction with the DAB’s decision with regard to the opening of and depositing of the funds into an escrow account with a financial institution,” Judge Leburu clarified.


The Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology (MIST) through its attorney, Mr. C. Gulubane in their response to the application indicated that Sinohydro had failed to exhaust the contractual dispute resolution mechanism available to it before going to court, and that there was a dispute pending before the ICC that incorporates performance bond that was brought before the Lobatse High Court.


On dismissing these submissions, Judge Leburu said, “On the basis of the aforegoing, it was therefore open for the applicant to invoke other rights it had by approaching this court to seek redress and enforce an arbitral award.”


It was also brought before court that Sinohydro was dissatisfied with certain portions of the DAB’s decision that the termination of contract by MIST was valid, thus giving such notice of dissatisfaction to DAB. The matter was referred for international arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the said arbitration is still pending.

 
P527 MILLION WAS PAID TO SINOHYDRO

The Chinese construction company-Sinohydro was contracted to build a state of the art terminal and expand the airport’s runway in compliance with IATA standards. At the time, the government’s plan was for the airport to accommodate more passengers especially towards the World Cup in 2010.


The tender was fast tracked and Sinohydro was given from June 10, 2008 to May 11, 2010 to complete the expansion of the P433-million project. But the completion of the project was halted as the Ministry led by Minister Johnnie Swartz terminated Sinohydro’s contract in July 2011 as there had been major faults identified in the project and failure to meet the targeted deadline despite several extensions.


At the time of termination of the contract, Sinohydro had completed approximately 90 percent of the project and had been paid about P527 million. MIST Permanent Secretary, Dikagiso Mokotedi had told the Public Accounts Committee that Government’s rushed tendering process for the expansion of the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKI) was the major factor that led to poor management of the project and its subsequent delays. 


He revealed that the project was started even before the design was complete in a rush to finish it before the 2010 Soccer World Cup.


BOTSWANA/CHINA BILATERAL RELATIONS
According to a report authored in 2009 on China’s Role in Infrastructure Development in Botswana, bilateral trade between the two countries surged from nearly zero 30 years ago to $52.4 million in 2004, $69 million in 2006 and $149 million in 2007.

With China becoming the second largest luxury diamond consumer in the world, importing $1.66 billion worth of diamonds in 2004, trade volumes between the two countries would surely increase should China be allowed to import diamonds directly from Botswana.

China’s total imports from Botswana surged from $8.1 million in 2006 to $26 million in 2007, while China’s export to Botswana increased from $61 million in 2006 to $118 million in 2007. Although no detailed trade breakdowns can be sourced, the upward import trend and the surging figures correspond with Chinese construction companies’ footprint in Botswana.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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