Fako warns lawmakers against creating new institutions
The University of Botswana (UB) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Thabo Fako has warned that the creation of Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) if not properly managed will prove to be counterproductive as it will destroy the existing University of Botswana as a result of unnecessary competition.
Fako expressed his concern on Thursday this week in a briefing with leaders of different political parties in Botswana to update them on the achievements and the challenges facing the leading highest learning institution in Botswana. Fako observed that if recent developments are anything to go by, BIUST may prove to be an ill-advised move as its arrival will suddenly lead to the demise of UB.
Ever since BIUST started operating, University of Botswana has lost a considerable number of academic staff to BIUST especially in the faculty of engineering and other science related programmes of study. Not only is University of Botswana losing its academic staff to BIUST but a considerable number of talented students at the UB are also considering pursuing their studies at BIUST instead.
Fako is of the view that BIUST and UB should not have been made to compete but instead to complement each other. Fako is also worried that of late, BIUST has received favourable funding from government while UB has been denied similar support.
In his view this on its own will literally lead to prosperity on one institution while the other one (UB) will not enjoy similar privilege. “Government should be careful with the creations of these new institutions because they will destroy UB,” warned Fako.
The Vice Chancellor also warned government about “prohibiting” immigration laws which he said compromise the quality of academic work at the institution if UB is not allowed to hire foreign academics who are highly qualified and could add value to the university teaching. “Immigration laws should not have requirements that will deter us from attracting the best talents from elsewhere,” he said.
Fako’s concerns are backed by government’s decision to declare former University of Botswana Political Science academic Professor Kenneth Good a prohibited immigrant following his critical publications on the government of Botswana.
The UB Vice Chancellor also requested government to consider more funding for UB in order to make the university competitive so that it can compare with other international universities. “Without finance you cannot attract the best talent,” he asserted, also adding, “Integrity should be at the forefront of recruitment and we should look for competent and skilful academic staff and UB should avoid this coming crisis.”
He pleaded with political parties to consider forming a united political parties’ forum where they would discuss the UB state and challenges it is faced with. He lamented that in the past UB used to receive 100% funding from government but it was no longer the case.
Fako also warned political parties against politicising their debate when it comes to University of Botswana matters because the university was not necessarily meant for government but for imparting knowledge internationally.
For her part, Deputy Vice Chancellor responsible for student affairs, Professor Lydia Nyathi-Saleshando said they are worried by new developments where they are unable to take action against students who break the university rules. Nyathi-Saleshando said laid down disciplinary procedures are not practical since students choose to run to the courts to seek intervention and more often than not the court rules in their favour. The University of Botswana has over time had a discordant relationship with its student representative body, resulting in strikes, suspensions and court cases.
Saleshando challenged lawmakers to consider an alternative way of restoring order in the institution by enabling it to take action against misbehaving students. She noted that currently they have lost their powers to the courts since the students resort to the courts every time they go against the university procedures.
Dr Phenyo Butale, of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Member of Parliament for the area conceded that BIUST could pose danger to the UB if the process was not properly managed. He also said UB should consider the challenges faced by graduating students who study Biological Sciences as they are not accredited to practice in their profession, saying the arrangement should be similar to students who were study nursing who are not facing any trouble with practising as nurses after completion of their studies.
Dr Kesitigile Gobotswang, the Secretary General for Botswana Congress Party (BCP), who is also a former UB academic says the crisis facing the University of Botswana is the politicisation of the institution by the government and lack of tolerance for ideas from the opposition parties. Gobotswang says they are worried by the composition of the University of Botswana council which he alleged is predominantly made up of members of the ruling party.
Meanwhile Mpho Balopi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) said he was shocked by the revelations made by Fako on the challenges faced by the university and its relationship with the new BIUST. Balopi told the gathering that he will compile a report and give it to the party leadership in the view of deliberating on the issues raised by the Vice Chancellor.
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.”
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.