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Political meddling kills parastatals – Gaolathe

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Deputy President, Ndaba Gaolathe has warned that undue political interference in the governing affairs of public institution which has gained unprecedented momentum in recent years will ultimately lead to their collapse.

Speaking to this publication in an exclusive interview this week following his response to President Ian Khama’s State of Nation Address (SONA), Gaolathe said there is a worrying trend in which excessive interference in the running affairs of quasi-government institutions is compromising their quality of governance.

Gaolathe said it is not by mistake that public institutions like Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), and lately Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) have experienced some sort of scandals relating to corruption and maladministration.

Gaolathe pointed out that the root cause of poor governance and performance in public institutions is the government itself through appointment of CEOs and boards based on personal relationship and political affiliation, and with high disregard for competence and excellence.

“It is not a mistake that these public institutions are collapsing , government is floating high governance standards and fails to give a clear leadership,” he said.

“We appoint not just loyalists but friends who are not considered the best within their professional fraternities. This is a fact, and is all in the open, we are a small country were citizens know who among them are more hardworking, more accountable or more qualified.”

Where the government hires the right executives, with all the credentials, it tends to interfere in the operation of the institutions, leading to disarray in running the instructions and sometimes resignations, Gaolathe further observed.  

He said recently, BIUST has been hit by mass resignations as a result of political interference. Among those who resigned is the university vice chancellor, Professor Hilary Inyang, “After investing billions into the promising science and technology institution of our time, BIUST, the most able Vice Chancellors are resigning from their work, due to poor governance standards being imposed on them from the Executive arm of Government.”

Gaolathe, the son of former Finance Minister, the late Baledzi Gaolathe said in some instances some public institutions can go for a period of time with no substantive CEO without any reason for that.

He observed that most often the reason is that government is looking for someone who has personal relationship with those in the echelons of power. “As a country we have no regard for good governance, or planning for the long term or for the creative structuring of these entities or satellite entities that regulate their work. It is common to find that the boards of these companies are in limbo, and their Chief Executive Officers are in acting roles for years.”

The UDC think tank is of the view that the appointment of board of directors in public institutions also leaves much to be desired. Gaolathe contends that the board needs sufficient relevant skills and understanding to review and challenge management performance. He argued that it also needs adequate size and appropriate levels of independence and commitment.

Gaolathe said what government needs to do is to appoint competent people and leave the governance to the board and managers and these, in his view will yield dividends.

“Strong public institutions can solve all the problems that this country is facing including unemployment if they are given space to succeed. We can give them a broad mandate to become multinational companies and do business in other countries to boost our revenue.”

While the current government believes that in order to make public institutions effective and productive, privatisation is the way to go, Gaolathe has reservations about the move. “I do not believe in privatisation for the sake of it, some institutions can be made effective and efficient without privatising, “ he argues, “All we need to do is to thrive for excellence, appoint the right people and give them a clear mandate without interfering in their job.”

“We can also de-monopolize some public institutions and allow other players to enter the industry,” he said referring to BMC as one of the prime examples of monopoly that needs to end.

“However we should not totally open it up because that way we will run a risk of a situation where everyone wants to make profit perhaps without the interest of the customers,” he noted. In essence Gaolathe wants the industry to be an oligopoly, where it is open to few, but enough to foster competition and efficiency in the beef industry.

Gaolathe also took a swipe at the country’s procurement system, saying it is disintegrated and lack a clear direction. He said part of the failure relating to the country’s procurement system can be attested by the fact that over the last five years or so, there is no a single project which was delivered either on schedule or on budget.

“We do not align our procurement system with our strategy, “ he said, “It should be stated in the procurement how are we going to empower youth owned business, local entrepreneurs and how sectors of the economy like tourism are going to be empowered but without jeopardizing the quality.”

Gaolathe said without qualified and competent staff in the country’s procurement system, the country will continue losing billions of Pula in projects awarded to companies whose credentials are questionable.

The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator gave the example of the Morupule B as a case in point. “We know that when it comes to power generation we should have looked for Japanese or Koreans because Chinese do not have that type of technology,” he said.

 Despite the Ministry of Education and Skills Development getting a lion’s share of the budget, Gaolathe believes Botswana does not value Research and Development.

He observed that the country could use to churn the skills for the economy. “There are regional foods that can be processed like moretlwa and be exported to other countries, and we can create many sub-industries in conjunction with the best universities in the world like Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” he observed. 

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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