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Job creation priority number One

MOKGWEETSI MASISI
VICE PRESIDENT

Botswana currently has an unemployment rate of 19.8% and we are confronted with a socio-economic challenge of great proportions as the largest demography in our society, who also represent the majority of them unemployed; are the most affected, as is reflected by a 28.7% Youth (15-35 years) unemployment rate (Botswana AIDS Impact Survey IV, 2013).

This has proven to be a challenge that reminds us that our past achievements give us no room for complacency; a challenge that confirms the need for a more sustainable development model, where all actors in the economy facilitate growth. Together we can transform the state of affairs.

His Excellency the President has tasked me with leading the employment creation drive and I invite you all to become partners in this endeavour. A cross section of captains of industry are represented here and our main aim is to seek sustainable solutions to employment creation.

This is a challenge that requires both short and long term remedies, it requires brevity and conviction. Government does not have a monopoly of ideas in resolving this challenge. With that said, we are gathered here this morning expecting diverse, innovative ideas which will be appealing to their intended recipients, from people who routinely think out of the box. We are expecting no less than exceptional!

As I hope you are aware, this government has pronounced the following areas as priorities for urgent attention through His Excellency the President's Pledge Card during the run up to the 2014 elections. That is the mandate that we have, to:
a. Make job creation priority number 1
b. Take Batswana out of poverty
c. Increase resources for education
d. Eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV e. Fight corruption in all its manifestations

What is required are successful businesses which generate sustainable employment and I am certain that you all have given the matter due consideration and that our meeting will lay foundation from which we will be able to develop, going forward. I look forward to your contributions towards achieving these goals, for posterity.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, youth unemployment in particular is a global challenge. Like the rest of the world, Botswana government and businesses face a conundrum: high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of job seekers with requisite critical skills. It is from this correlation that the government has identified employment creation as one of the key priorities.

Needless to say, government alone cannot create jobs, that era passed post independence. The best that government can and must do is to effectively facilitate the private sector to foster successful businesses which would generate economic growth and create employment. Put simply, Government is an enabler, not a job creator.

Director of ceremonies, allow me to emphasise that Government acknowledges that in the broader framework of things, there is urgent need to develop alternative sources of economic growth. I must underscore that such sources must also generate substantial employment, in order to ensure equal access to economic opportunities by the majority of our population.

You would have found in your information packages, a verbatim transcript of a presentation by Professor Michael E. Porter of the Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard University. The presentation was delivered to the Economic Committee of Cabinet just over two years ago. Professor Porter's recommendations were discussed & adopted by Government as pronounced in the Budget Speech (February, 2015). Our focus is on a diversified export-led economy derived from Diamonds, Tourism, Cattle, Mining, Financial and other service sectors. These will be based on the development of Clusters representing the value chain of the different sectors.

The Clusters will be facilitated by the Hub activities of Transport, Education, Health, Innovation and Communication. We are already seeing green shoots in these cluster areas not to mention other export generating home brands such as Choppies, Flotek and Letshego etc. All of you play a vital role in the value chain of the above areas of economic activity.

His Excellency the President has previously requested BOCCIM through the High Level Consultative structures to formulate concrete proposals to eliminate Government Red Tape which hampers the growth of the Private Sector. The proposals were enhanced by turning to the World Bank who through a consultancy involving the Private Sector has made recommendations resulting in a recent Cabinet Decision on the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business Reforms. I am happy to announce that implementation of the reform programme has commenced, and is expected to address the many impediments the private sector is currently ceased with.

Some of the adopted reforms include: abolishing pre-permit inspection of premises; limiting the number of licenses and permits; adopting a Unique Identification Number for business; decoupling of tax issues from other activities like Construction Permit Procedures, property registration; liberalisation of services and works for power production and supply; outsourcing some state functions to the private sector; improving efficiency in the distribution of power thus decentralising the management of the process by allowing the clients/applicants to contract the service provider directly; and privatising state owned companies as a source of transferring industrial, technological and managerial know-how into the country. I am certain that there are other areas which need improvement such as accelerating the turnaround time for processing work and resident permits and efficiency of so doing, to meet your needs. We welcome not just your complaints but concrete proposals for solutions which would improve the Ease of Doing Business.

Over and above policy pronouncements, Government continues to invest in projects that offer vast opportunities for meaningful private sector participation and a potential for job creation. For example, several dams were constructed during the current planning period such as Letsibogo, Lotsane and Thune dams, with potential for irrigated agriculture and tourism development. We concede that such opportunities also challenge us as Government to be open minded as the facilitator. I know you all have other examples of where you can play a significant role, and we welcome your ideas as we develop the roadmap.

We have implemented other initiatives such as the current Internship Programme and we have observed that the majority of these interns are with government. I appeal to you, the private sector, to enrol a significant number of our graduates and give them meaningful challenges and tasks. Please do your part in giving these young people their first, requisite experience for future employment, which will make them more marketable. Make time to mentor them in workplace decorum so that they become highly sought after players in the local and global economies.

BOCCIM and your private sector membership have been participating in the Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) which have been considering the Vision Beyond 2016 Framework document, in preparation for public consultations anchored on work done by Professor Porter. I am reliably informed that Employment Creation is one of the priorities in the Vision Framework document. Your recommendations for Employment Creation need to be captured in these processes to ensure appropriate resource allocation towards employment creation, in the National Development Plan 11, which will also be developed in the near future. The latter consultations through the TWGs will also commence shortly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I draw to conclusion, I wish to emphasize that it is not just your challenges that we wish to hear. We look forward to your innovative ideas and creative solutions for growth of the economy and employment in particular. Please feel free to express your thoughts today as well as by engaging the National Strategy Office which will involve you in reviewing your much anticipated creative solutions and escalate the proposals to my office.

I once again wish to thank you most heartily for making time to be here this morning. Your continued ownership for the development of our country has not gone unnoticed. As we interact, let us broaden our horizons to identify mutually beneficial policies and programmes that will promote sustainable employment for development and put Batswana to work. Our collective efforts driven by and anchored on our common goal will be achieved with your active participation. I look forward to a prolific meeting which will facilitate long lasting solutions going forward. I thank you most sincerely for your kind attention.

Remarks by Vice President Mokgweetsi E. Masisi at thursday’s  job creation meeting with the private sector

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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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