Scores of defeated former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) backbenchers could found the going tough outside parliament. While most admit that politics is not a full time job, some had actually not seen their defeats coming.
The 2014 historic general elections saw opposition gaining unprecedented 20 seats. Among the backbench losers is veteran politician who served forty five years in Parliament, Daniel Kwelagobe, and philanthropist Robert Masitara, and former defectors in Botsalo Ntuane, Odirile Motlhale and Mephato Reatile.
Evidently the majority of defeated cabinet ministers will be shoehorned in various plum posts locally or sent on ambassadorial mission abroad as it has been the norm.
Already Khama has brought back two allies Kitso Mokaila and Kenneth Matambo through the special election avenue. The two retained their cabinet post as Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources and Finance and Development Planning respectively. Mokaila lost Goodhope-Mabule constituency to Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s James Mathokgwane while Matambo did not contest for a parliamentary seat.
Other nominations include Dr Unity Dow who lost to Gilbert Mangole of UDC in Kgatleng East and former Permanent Secretary to the President Eric Molale. Molale has since been appointed Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.
It is expected that majority of defeated MPs who were close to Khama circle will get ambassadorial posts. Already, former Lands and Housing Minister Lebonaamang Mokaila is touted to be heading to Zambia for ambassadorial post. Mokalake lost to newly elected Boteti East MP Sethomo Lelatisitswe in the BDP primaries last year. But the appointment is subject to Zambia, a country that is still mourning the death of President Michael Sata, approving the name.
Meanwhile former Commerce and Industry minister Tebelelo Seretse has been recalled from the United States where she has been an ambassador. It is understood that the post will be given to one of general elections losers. Seretse’s early return to associated to her differences with newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. Seretse also has vested interests in the Serowe South constituency and chairmanship of the ruling party.
Former Leader of Opposition and founding member of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Botsalo Ntuane is expected concentrate on his businesses. But if lady luck smiles on him, he may get an ambassadorial role. His chances rest solely with his association with minister Venson-Moitoi as compared to President Khama. Insiders say Ntuane eroded Khama’s trust in him because of his active role in forming the BMD. Therefore, Ntuane’s chances of gaining favour from Khama range from slim to none.
Ntuane has been involved in a number of businesses for the past years. Many believe that Ntuane retraced his footsteps to BDP in an effort to save his business interest, but without political power, business acumen will ensure survival. Ntuane should however not be ruled out of politics, the former BDP Executive Secretary could still redeem his political career, but it would not be with the help of Khama.
Odirile Motlhale, who lost Ramotswa to Botswana Congress Party (BCP) face the same conundrum. Motlhale is the former BMD treasurer who retraced his footsteps to BDP in October 2012. Motlhale like Ntuane despite being one of the bright MPs during his tenure, he has never been a close ally of president Khama.
Contacted for comment former BMD Treasurer Odirile Motlhale noted that he will be pursuing his business interest in the next five years. “Politics is not a full time job, I have to do something in the meantime to earn a leaving,” he said, “Since I am no longer a Member of Parliament my only option is to pursue business.” Motlhale in the past have been linked with a move to network giant MTN in South Africa.
Another ex-BDP backbencher, whose future many can only second guess is Mephato Reatile. Reatile first arrived in parliament in 2004, after beating BDP veteran Michael Tshipinare for Ngwaketse West constituency. He successfully defended his seat under BNF ticket in 2009 before defecting to the ruling party in 2012 amid differences with BNF leadership. Touted as one of the rising politicians under Khama leadership Reatile help the BDP to win Letlhakeng West (now Takatokwane) bye-election following the untimely passing of area MP Maxwell Motowane.
BDP roped Reatile as the campaign manager and their faith on him paid dividends as the BDP retained the constituency through Ngaka Ngaka. Mephato lost his seat to UDC’s Shawn Nthaile in the now Jwaneng-Mabutsane constituency.
In a brief interview Reatile said as a party they will work hard to reinstate the ruling BDP to its dominant position. He said they will want to correct the mistakes that saw them take a knock in certain constituencies. Reatile who is BDP’s Political Education and Elections Committee is confident that his party will bounce back.
The fall of Daniel Kwelagobe could spell end of road for him. The veteran politician has held a number of cabinet posts in the government and party and structures. Khama never had a healthy relationship with Kwelagobe and it is highly likely that the former BDP strongman could be left to die a natural death outside the government and BDP. Kwelagobe’s 45 year parliament reign was brought to an end by University of Botswana academic Dr Tlamelo Mmatli.
In the past, former cabinet ministers went on to land plum post in the corporate industry especially state owned entities. The notable names include Jacob Nkate, who was roped in to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the then Botswana Export Development and Investment Agency (BEDIA), now Botswana Investment Trade Centre (BITC); another former MP Ronald Ridge was appointed head of e-Government Department while Neo Moroka joined De Beers Botswana as Regional Director or CEO.
Politicians who have served before as Members of Parliament usually find it hard to make a comeback after defeat. Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando who lost the Gaborone central to the UDC is one personality who will attract a lot of interest. Many want to see how he plots his comeback after a loss associated to his party’s withdrawal from the Umbrella project. He is expected to be involved in private business in the meantime.
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.