Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha is not happy with the treatment she got from President Lt Gen Ian Khama ahead of Parliament’s election of Speaker, a position she lost to Gladys Kokorwe on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Press conference at Gaborone sun hotel in the capital city on Thursday morning, Nasha who lost the Speaker race to Gladys Kokorwe the previous day, testified that the ruling party members of Parliament were held at ransom and left with no option but to vote for the President’s desired candidate.
“Their actions at least to me were a clear indication of the insignificant length and breaths that the BDP leadership will go, to hold democratically elected Members of Parliament (MP) at ransom. This ladies and gentlemen is a red flag. Make no mistake about it. I am very much aware that the BDP MPs who had previously vouched to support my candidacy found themselves in a very difficult situation,” Nasha pointed out.
President Ian Khama Seretse Khama, who was sworn in for his second term in office a fortnight ago, is alleged to have this week held the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members of Parliament at ransom and demanded that they vote for his choice of Speaker or he calls for fresh elections.
The MPs who are mostly new comers to the house and have won the October 24th general elections with very slim margins could therefore not risk a re-run and allegedly had to do what was demanded from them. “I was thoroughly disappointed to learn that my party the BDP went to extreme measures to undermine the merits of a secret ballot by intimidating and whipping their members of Parliament into submission, to vote in a prescribed manner,” Nasha pointed out.
Khama is said to have made the move, after he lost a court case in which his party and the Attorney general attempted to manipulate the standing orders. According to Nasha, the BDP legal counsel, Collins and Newman sent her a letter on the eve of elections in which she was requested to bend the Parliament standing orders. According to Nasha, the letter threatened a legal suit in case Nasha refused to manipulate the standing orders.
During the eleventh parliament which ended last Month, Nasha advocated for the independence of Parliament and even facilitated the drafting of the bills which sought to reduce the Presidential powers in as far as the control of Parliament is concerned.
The bills which are yet to be tabled seek Parliament to be responsible for recruitment and dismissal of its staff including the clerk and deputy clerk. The bill would further require the clerk to directly report to the Speaker not the President as it is the case to date.
The standing orders which were challenged in court this week were introduced to Parliament last year as part of the process of delivering Parliament from the control and the manipulation of the President and Nasha admits that, were they successful in tabling the bills which were blocked by the Executive towards the closure of the tenth Parliament, her mission in Parliament would have been accomplished.
“We needed to bring bills to Parliament. We have prepared the bills. They are there in the shelves of Parliament and they were to go to the eleventh Parliament. That was the last brick before the roofing was completed,” Nasha pointed out. Her hope is however that some of the backbenchers who were in the previous Parliament would carry on the baton.
“Let it be known that it is the duty of Parliament to hold the Executive to account. And our Parliament should not be an exception to this rule,” Nasha added.
But most MPs who backed Nasha on her quests to make Parliament Independent of the Office of the Presidents were defeated during the general elections and the few that remained have now been absorbed into Cabinet positions which would make it very difficult for them to make a move that could offend the President.
“If the eleventh Parliament changes the standing orders, I would not be there, but it would come as a shock. What bothered me was that decisions taken under my leadership were under threat,” Nasha explained further. Her last hope is that her successor, Gladys Kokorwe who had been a deputy Speaker before would see to it that the spirit of making Parliament totally independent is realised.
“I hope that she will do all that is best for the nation in keeping Parliament free from intimidation and the grasp of the Executive who during the tenth Parliament have shown resentment to the philosophy of the independence of Parliament viewing it as obstructive and interfering with their mandate,” Nasha could only hope.
Meanwhile it appears President Khama still has steep hills to climb as he need to restore public confidence following all this drama. He also faces stronger opposition and resentment from some ousted party grassroots who are currently in Nashal’s camp.
Nasha who joined the BDP in 1979 says she has no intention of contesting for party positions at the next congress but promises to “fixing things” from within.
“As you know when one door closes many other doors open so I am going to new doors. I have many things to do. When I joined the BDP I did so voluntarily and I was not recruited by anybody. I joined the BDP of my own volition in 1979 and there is nothing that would make me desert the party for now. I believe in fixing things from inside. You never know what the future holds,” Nasha maintained.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.