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.
Botswana’s efforts to accelerate key economic reforms got a boost following the approval of a $250 million loan by the World Bank today. The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.
This DPL is also designed to support reforms to strengthen private sector development and promote green recovery. It is the first-ever World Bank budget support operation for Botswana and the first of two planned operations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a great burden on the country’s economy, its people, and firms. With this operation, the World Bank will support the government’s reforms to ensure social spending reaches the poorest and assists Batswana who are most affected by the Covid-19,” says World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly.
“This operation will also support reforms to attract private sector investments, contribute to diversification of exports, and increase job opportunities towards a green economy”. The operation provides both financial and technical support for government reforms to implement a Single Social Registry and to improve targeting of social spending on the most vulnerable while strengthening systems for future shocks.
It will also help strengthen the business environment for increased SME-led job creation and economic diversification through improved access to finance for individuals and small and micro enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the program will help Botswana to build the foundations for sustainable, “green” growth by supporting reforms to increase production of renewable energy by independent power producers, promoting and regulating rooftop solar energy generation, and embedding climate change considerations in environmental assessments.
DPLs are used by the World Bank to support a country’s policy and institutional reform agenda to help accelerate inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9 percent in Botswana in 2020 – the largest in the country’s history.
This has also led to a depletion of existing fiscal buffers and has constrained revenue collection, reduced Government’s capacity and resources needed to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms and threatened to reverse progress in poverty reduction.
World Bank Group COVID-19 Response Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has committed over $125 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.
The financing is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump start a climate-friendly recovery. The Bank is also providing $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
University of Botswana Vice Chancellor, Professor David Norris, has lost support of the university staff, with four unions joining forces to demand his removal from office.
When he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana in December 2017, by the then Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Dr Alfred Madigele, Professor Norris was hailed as an angel sent from heaven.
Professor Norris succeeded Professor Thabo Fako, after the latter led the University during turbulent times — with the university experiencing financial challenges and dwindling enrolment numbers.
Four years down the line, Professor Norris’ presence at the University nauseates many. Academic staff together with manual workers want Norris shown the door as soon as yesterday.
University of Botswana Academic Senior Support Staff Union, (UBASSSU), University of Botswana Staff Union (UBSU) and University of Botswana Manual Workers Union, in a petition submitted to Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Douglas Letsholathebe, called for the dismissal of Norris. The unions said that under the leadership of the Professor, UB staff members suffered immeasurable pain, agony and frustration, and their welfare is entirely overlooked.
The unions petition Professor Norris on a number of issues: blurred roadmap, inflationary adjustments of salaries, security services, corporate governance, teaching and learning resources, deteriorating infrastructure, staff victimization as well as appointment of staff undemocratically.
In their entreaty, staff members say that Vice Chancellor has failed to provide a clear roadmap to guide a wide range of operations within the University. Prior to Norris’ arrival, they say, UB had developed a strategy using its own scholars, led by Prof Thapisa and Prof Moahi respectively.
“They executed the assignment efficiently with intricate insider knowledge of the institution and a global academic outlook. The result of the process was later subjected to external review by consultants, even though the process was later abandoned at huge cost to the University. The Vice Chancellor is three years into this post, but he has done nothing to show, and always blames staff or his predecessors for the problems at UB,” the unions said in their petition.
The petition signed by UBASSSU President, Motsomi Marobela, acting on behalf of Manual Workers Union President, Oneile Mpulubusi and Ghadzani Mhotsha (Staff Union President), argue that Norris relishes grand standing and cheap rhetoric to project a positive image of the University to outsiders while the institution faces monumental challenges.
“Even the so-called new strategy was imposed on the staff, since unions were never consulted. Staff in faculties were threatened and bullied into submission whenever they revealed flaws in the strategy. In short, this strategy lacks the critical ‘buy in’ from those charged with implementation, something which is crucial for any new strategy to succeed.”
Professor Norris, a renowned scholar, has been fingered in being reluctant to advance staff salaries, something which has been done four years ago. Unions claim that despite several shots to alter this status quo, efforts proved vain.
“The Vice Chancellor has dismally failed to bring about any meaningful action to ascertain that staff remunerations are adjusted to mitigate the effects of inflation, despite his attention being drawn to the erosion of the buying power of University staff. UB staff salaries have not been adjusted for a duration of four years, despite numerous attempts by the trade unions (UBASSSU, UBSU and Manual Workers Union) to appeal on behalf of the constituents for his intervention,” reads part of the petition.
University management are said to be relaxed when it comes to the security of the organization, petitioners claim. They stress that this has happened several times in recent years whereby management has allowed private security contracts, which augment the in-house UB security, to lapse before they can float a new tender.
The loan schemes that the University gets into on behalf of employees, is said to be another dare giving staff workers grief, perpetuated by Vice Chancellor Norris.
“It has happened several times that the contract between the financiers and the University lapses before anything is put in place for employees to continue getting financial assistance. Quite recently, it was communicated by a memo from Staff Welfare and Benefits Office that the loan scheme with FNB is coming to an end on the 30th April 2021 and this communication was made on the 29th, just a day before the end of such contract. This again shows lack of proactiveness on the part of management which is led by the VC,” said the petition.
The Vice Chancellor is said to be overreaching in UB administrative structures. Professor Norris, who chairs the Staff Appointment and Promotion Committee (SAPC), hosts illegal Pre-SAPC meetings, which are usually attended by Human Resources and Executive Management, and make decisions on who to appoint, promote or whose contract to renew before the substantive meeting of SAPC.
The Vice Chancellor, disgruntled petitioners say, uses SAPC to rubber stamp the executive decision – this amounts to corruption. “Three years in the institution he has virtually run the university alone. The core and critical Deputy Vice Chancellor posts of Academic Affairs; Finance and Administration; and Student Affairs, have not been filled. Instead he has appointed people on acting positions and he is shuffling them around as he pleases. Those he prefers have been acting for over two years, which is contrary to the Employment Act.”
Professor Norris is a researcher and lecturer, having served in different capacities in Botswana, the United States of America and South Africa.
Prior to joining UB, he was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BUIST), a position he held since 2016. He is the sixth Vice Chancellor of UB.
Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development has announced the return of the Youth Development Fund (YDF), after it was put on suspension by Government last year.
The fund however, has been slashed from P120 million to P104 million with the total number of projects expected to shrink. The YDF programme was temporarily suspended last year due to shortage of funds.
The programme introduced in 2009 by government, was a way of improving the lives of the youth as well as helping to fight unemployment.
When addressing the media, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare said the ministry has resolved to start receiving applications for 2021/2022 Youth Development Fund from 09 June 2021 to 10 August 2021.
Rakgare said government was worried about the high numbers of unemployment hence the resolve to restart the YDF programme even in the midst of the pandemic.
He however revealed that due to budget challenges and the continued restrictive environment imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, there would be some modifications to the implementation of YDF.
“Due to budget challenges the allocation for the fund in the current financial year has been reduced from P120 million to P104 million. Constituencies will thus be allocated less than the usual P2 million, which means that the number of funded projects will be significantly reduced,” he said.
He further said priority for funding shall be for businesses with the potential to create a higher number of jobs and those that address key government priorities.
The sectors to be prioritized include; Manufacturing, Agriculture, Tourism, Technology, Digitization and Innovation. Moreover, the threshold for YDF financing remains at P100 000.00 for individuals and P450 000.00 for youth industries or co-operatives.
In addition to funding youth projects, the Minister said P14, 393,066.77 will be reserved for completion and implementation of Special Projects such as development of Land-banks, mentorship partnerships and trainings.
All changes to the YDF programme are to apply only for this year while a comprehensive review is undertaken. The target is to have the revised programme implemented in the next financial year.