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Saleshando’s warning to umbrella supporters

He now pushes his party agenda and his business consortiums

After being defeated in the 2014 general elections by the Umbrella for Democartic Change (UDC) candidate, Dr Phenyo Butale in the race for Gaborone Central constituency, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando is quickly adjusting to life outside Parliament. He tells WeekendPost Staffer, TEFO PHEAGE that he has more time to deal with party issues, dedicated reasonable time to his family and ofcourse, his business interests.


Saleshando is adamant that his party, has been at the forefront of opposition cooperation and still finds it laughable that there are voices accusing the BCP of shunning opposition cooperation. In fact he warns Umbrella Party model supporters that the widely held view that a combination of BCP and the UDC will automatically usher a new government could turn out to be a falacy in politics.


In an hour long interview this week, the BCP leader took time to explain his party’s position on opposition cooperation and his personal relations with proponents of the Umbrella model and his personality in politics. Saleshando is of the view that from the last elections, for every five people who voted for the opposition, two cast a vote for the BCP. “We are very much a factor in the country’s politics especially opposition politics, rule us out at your own peril,” he says.  
Saleshando says they will not be bullied into submitting to the Umbrella. He says they are strengthening their organisation, because in the case of a negotiation, they must bring a solid proposal to the table.


The BCP leader agrees that there are two options, the BCP and the UDC participating in elections as one entity or each party msinding its own business and a natural process will take place to make one of the parties irrelevant. He strongly believes the BCP has solid policies that people can identify with, hence their persistant resistance to a total close shop of their movement.


On discussing the Umbrella politics, the BCP leader is of the view that there will always be two sides to any argument. “Such a topic will obviously divide people, both within the UDC and the BCP as you would have realised. Movements that always make unanimous decisions without any divergence are to me dead movements,” he explains. According to Saleshando the BCP has cadres who are willing to deliberate on the subject of the Umbrella and he is confident that it will be put to rest this year after the party conference and elective congress.


The BCP leader stresses that one biggest mistake Umbrella model supporters make is that they automatically assume that the BCP joining the umbrella will translate to automatic state power. That according to him is a simplistic and rudimentary view of politics.

“Look here, one plus one is not necesarily two in politics. While we are mindful to the fact that we will have large numbers as a result, we must also be mindful of the fact that we will also lose some who are not for the model. Their frustrations may mean a lot of things, joining the BDP, forming own parties, abstaining and so forth. A typical example is where we cooperated with other opposition parties, especially the Botswana National Front (BNF) during Bye elections where our numbers combined were more than thpose of the BDP but we went on to lose to the BDP despite merging efforts,” he said.


The BCP is going foe an elective congress in July and some say it is the most challenging the party has ever convened, Saleshando doesn’t necesarily agree as he posits that ‘at the end of the day the party decides and when the party decides no man can say no’. But what is the role of a leader in a congress confronted by such issues? “A leader should guide, provide foresight and pave the way. You are the only one who is given a full hour to speak. My view is that I should do what I have to do and the members should decide for or against the Umbrella,” responds Saleshando.


The BCP leader leader says he has been accused of not using his executive powers in the past, but adds that  internal party democracy is at the core of the existence of the BCP as a party. “I will not lower the party standards to accomodate anyone, I will not be tempted to make uniliteral decisions and divide the party as I often see with other parties,” he said.


Saleshando agrees that the party did not perform well, “against our target yes. But we must understand that every five voters who voted for the opposition, two voted for the BCP. These numbers matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I pride myself from the fact that we are the only party whose message was clearly heard and understood by the electorates. But the escalated propaganda and lies which I admit we took lightly worked against us. We have a durable message,” he says.


He charges that his aim has always been to build a party that deals with core issues beyond fashion statements. Saleshando does not expect Batswana to give the opposition mandate just because it has announced a BCP and UDC merger or cooperation. He says there are other variables that will determine the 2019 outcomes, including what the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) does between now and 2015.  


SMEAR CAMPAIGN WORRIES SALESHANDO
In the run up to the 2014 general elections, Saleshando and his family were a target of ferocious attacks linking them to doing businesses with BDP kingpins. Saleshando at some point was accused, throcugh his wife, of trying to own a banck together with BDP members, while his father was castigated for being a shareholder in Wilderness Safaris, a company associated with President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his close associates. Although the BCP and Saleshando failed to deal with the smear at the relevant time, he is adamant that “i was always aware that lies have short legs and it is evident to many that it was all hogwash.”


He explained that his father bought shares in Wilderness Safaris through the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) like any other Motswana will do, probably, the company’s prospectus informed may dad, he said. He said Wilderness Safaris is no different from the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) where Batswana are encouraged to buy shares as soon as the company is ready.

“Do you want to tell me these guys are going to tell their members not to buy BTCL shares just because some BDP people bought shares there, this is ridiculous and misleading to the nation. We should encourage Batswana to buy shares in this companies. My dad is not a director or anyhting in Wilderness, whatever he owns is not even worth half a percent of the company’s worth,” he says.  


The BCP leader says he will not even honour the bank license ‘nonsense’ with a response, because it is a non-event. Saleshando admits that these are some of the reports that dented his party’s performances, especially among middle class voters.


On his personal businesses, Saleshando says: “I belong to some cosortiums with old friends and none of them is BDP or belongs to any political party. We normally make bids for property that is being sold and our company is doing very well. At the moment I am looking for additional investments, more so that I am not in Parliament anymore” he said. He adds that he is also currently focusing on his family to compensate for the lost time when he was a legislator. Saleshando is not apologetic about his business ventures and interests because they are all “clean and responsible”.


Asked about his first impression about the the first sitting of parliament, he says it is still early days but his greatest wish is that the opposition should not be misled into thinking that quantity will ever surpass quality.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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