President Lt Gen Ian Khama has appointed his Cabinet and once again the President has done it his own way. The nation however has had less to talk about with some observers saying Khama had to do with what he had following the defeat of most of his senior Ministers in the just-ended elections. Others however posit that the Cabinet brings nothing new as the president has just recycled his cabinet.
This, some political commentators argue, does not bring fresh ideas that the ministers would bring, especially considering that some had served for quite some time in some Ministries and failed to bring out any meaningful change or transformation.
During the educational crises mayhem, Khama reshuffled his Cabinet in a bid to address the matter. It is not known whether the crises reshuffle has yielded any positive results as nothing has been said yet.
There are ongoing debates around the world that with the fundamentals of the economy deteriorating, it may be time to have discourse on whether it is time to consider the appointment of experts as Government ministers, as opposed to the current method which has been labelled by some, as nothing more than a patronage system.
What we have seen not only in Botswana but regionally and perhaps globally, is the appointment of ministers based purely on political as opposed to technical competences. This has been the case all along despite a few skills being utilised in one or two Ministries. The Botswana Constitution provides for four specially elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and such individuals are chosen to provide their specialist skills to parliamentary discourse.
There have been concerns, too, that the specially elected MPs are normally the President’s cronies but Khama’s choices, this time around, are well-deserved, according to observes. They, however, question former High Court judge Unity Dow’s deployment to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
“What skills is she taking to the Ministry when the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security she could have been given has gone to former youth, sport and culture minister Shaw Kgathi?” they posit.
Kenneth Matambo, they say, has been rightly re-elected to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for continuity purposes, together with Kitso Mokaila to Minerals and Water Resources – a hard worker of note who they say is results-oriented.
Mokaila studied to become an auto technician at the Swaziland College of Technology, and after graduating he joined the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in 1980. While serving in the army, he studied Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in India.
Academics around the world, research says, have shied away from debate on this critical issue of skills and Cabinet posts. Tim Besley, Professor of Economics and Political Science at the London School of Economics in his academic paper, ‘Do Democracies Select More Educated Leaders?’ notes that modern political economy literature has “not only neglected the problem of political selection, but it has been positively hostile to the topic”.
This he posits is very important aspect of national development that has to be considered carefully by all stakeholders in a nation.
Writer Perry Munzwembiri also argues that it is highly improbable that an individual would trust an engineer to manage the legal aspects of their life, nor would they solicit the services of someone skilled in law to handle their personal finances.
“Be that as it may, when it comes to governmental level, this is what has been the norm. Can a country leave its financial and economic planning fate in the hands of a lawyer? This discussion becomes particularly interesting when one looks at economic and finance ministers globally, especially in light of the global financial crisis,” he writes.
The only risk with such a system, and what a significant risk it is, is that ministers who lack the requisite technical competence are more likely to make bad policy decisions, as their scope of understanding key issues affecting their ministries may be limited.
In Botswana, however, as in many regional countries, there have been arguments that technical competence is not as important for ministers, as it is the Permanent Secretaries and Director Generals who are charged with the actual running of the department on a day-to-day basis, from our British inherited system of government.
In Botswana, Ministers are just overseers and permanent secretaries run the show, this has come in handy in times where Ministers have been defeated by their political rivals.
However, there are concerns that their prominence as the face of the Government in whatever ministry they are in, it might be argued how it is critical to appoint ministers with the necessary skills and competence to oversee important portfolios.
A clueless Minister, some argue, will rubber-stamp everything that comes his or her way. A person with a good grasp of finance and economic matters, for instance, has always led the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. This trend has been adopted in a number of African countries.
Munzwembiri argues that it may be worthwhile to have the debate on whether it would be beneficial to the countries’ developmental cause, if experts in different areas were to be appointed as ministers to run the portfolios of the fields they are experts in.
“The increased understanding they have of their domains, and the skill set they possess, would better equip them to tackle the various challenges faced by the country. Again, the odds of avoiding policy missteps would be lessened, and the correct and proper decisions would be made at ministerial level. No doubt this is a highly sensitive subject as there may be many political forces at play in the appointment of ministers,” he argues.
He continues that for now though, governments are content at selecting ministers based on their political value as opposed to technical competence to a greater degree.
“It may well require crises of epic proportions to effect a change to this line of thinking, which will see experts being appointed as policy-makers,” he argues.
Political appointments have been a subject of intense debate in Botswana as many are convinced that Khama safeguards ministries where he has interests with trusted fellows. A case in point is the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism where his brother, Tshekedi, has been not been removed as is the case with a number of Ministers.
Tshekedi Khama has a Diploma in Business Management from the Institute of Development Management (IDM), as well as a Certificate in Animal Husbandry from the University of Botswana and Swaziland.
Observers say another eye-raising move is that of Kgathi, who was transferred from the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture to the Office of the President (OP) and currently to a senior ministry of Defence, Justice and Security.
It is unclear what has swiftly catapulted Kgathi to the high echelons of power, but insiders suspect his blind loyalty to the powers that be could be the key. They add that Kgathi is too submissive and would not dare jeopardize the growing trust and relationship between him and the President. This they say is the beginning of better things to come for Kgathi. He was academically well suited for his former Ministry having graduated with a Master degree in Public Administration and a Masters in Sport, Culture and Development.
One man many had long waited to hear of was Khama’s closest friend, Thapelo Olopeng who heads the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture. Many had seen him as a full Minister but not at the sports Ministry. It is therefore not surprising that he is the only new MP to be a full Minister but it is not clear what skills or experience he will be taking to the Ministry. Observers say he is youthful and has been very active in the Khawa Dunes games in which Khama is a regular partaker. Olopeng has a certificate in Financial Management, a Diploma in Business Management and Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).
Another key Ministry is the Ministry of Health, which has been given to Dorcus Makgato backed by Dr Madigele, a trained doctor.
Makgato has a Masters in Science and Finance. She is a survivor and a results-oriented woman who has built herself a reputation of a ‘bulldog’. Although some observers say she was doing well at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, insiders say the Ministry of Health had to be given someone competent following the departure of all its Ministers who lost the elections. The Ministry has been under constant criticism for failing Batswana under Rev John Seakgosing. It remains to be seen how Makgato will fare at the controversy-prone Ministry.
Another interesting Ministry is that of Lands and Housing, which has been given to Prince Maele, allegedly to silence him. He has been an outspoken Backbencher and was fearless and often hostile to the Khama regime in his comments in Parliament. He is taking over a dead Ministry that has only itself to serve. It will be interesting to see whether Maele will be able to turn things around following the failure of his predecessors to breathe new life into the Ministry. He holds a Degree in Public Administration and Political Science.
There neglected Ministry of Education, which has been talk of the country, has been given to Mokgweetsi Masisi and Unity Dow. Observers say this is an insult to Dow, who deserved a full Ministry and not to work under a self-centred Masisi whose credibility has been dented by none other than himself.
Masisi graduated in the fields of Education and Economics-Social Policy and Social Development. Dow, however, insiders say, had never wanted politics but was forced into the game by the BDP which was desperate to wrestle the Kgatleng Constituency from the opposition.
“Dow was thus identified as a suitable candidate and this is basically a reward to her hesitant ‘YES’ to the BDP. Dumping her would have soiled her rosy reputation,” a source said.
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.
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.
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.