A spirited campaign by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) saw the party rip through some of the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) territories in the Southern part of the country during last Friday’s general poll.
But the same cannot be said about the Northern half of the country where the ruling party won over two thirds of the available parliamentary seats.
The second city, Francistown, for instance, has three constituencies of which two went to the ruling party and one to the main opposition, UDC. Constituencies stretching from Dibete to Gweta all went to the ruling party.
Effectively the BDP has the Central District and North East to thank for winning this election. For the first time in its history, the party has won government by a popular vote, which is less than 50 percent (46.0 percent).
Francistown South Member of Parliament (MP) Wynter Mmolotsi of the UDC says he is not intimidated by the continued dominance of the BDP in the North.
He said his party is confident of erasing the BDP in all areas. He promised that the next wave of campaigns will be reaching the North in due course. Mmolotsi was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Francistown constituents, thus putting to rest assertions that he had run away with BDP votes.
Winning BDP candidates in other areas ascribed their victories to the “cash they poured” into the campaigns.
After emerging victorious against his rivals in the Francistown East Constituency, Billy Honest Buti said in the run-up to the October 24 general election, he spent over P800 000. He said the exercise was daunting as his campaign team had to conduct house-to-house campaigns as well as do consultations with other stakeholders.
Through the door-to-door campaigns Billy said he identified issues which he will tackle during his tenure as Francistown East MP.
“Many people in Francistown are not aware of Government initiatives, I will align my plans to the already available initiatives and Francistown’s Vision 2022 to help move the city forward,” he said.
But Billy’s seat is not a safe bet for 2019 because the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has a strong presence in the area; a complete unity in opposition ranks could easily sweep him away.
However, Billy remains resolute that he can survive any combined opposition onslaught.
Meanwhile, BDP’s Ignatius Moswaane for Francistown West ensured that BCP’s Dr Habaudi Hobona spends the shortest time in Parliament when he defeated her in the national polls.
Hobona entered the National Assembly through a by-election from which the BDP was barred from contesting earlier this year. Habaudi Hobona was the first opposition woman MP. She was frustrated by the poor development status of the city.
“The rulers have this kind of ownership mentality over the people they rule. The people literally wait for handouts from Government. There is no spirit of ownership. There is no spirit of self-entitlement. It’s all subservience. That is not good for any democracy because the rulers develop a master mentality,” she said.
Moswaane has meanwhile also pledged to improve developments in his constituency. The Francistown West legislator is under pressure to push the city’s development agenda as residents are clear that their loyalty to the ruling party is not yielding any results development wise, with the city becoming more of a ghost town.
BDP insiders in Francistown revealed that they are expecting the wave that ran through Gaborone to shift to Francistown. They said several factors would determine their political future as individuals and the BDP, such as Cabinet appointments, President Ian Khama’s choice of Vice President and indeed developments in the City of Francistown.
Francistowners also feel the city has been neglected as developments are now being channeled to main villagers in the Central District. They want planners to balance infrastructure distribution or risk an opposition takeover in some areas in the North.
The BCP has a large following in the North-western part of the country. They have one Member of Parliament in Okavango, Bagalatia Arone. BDP politicians in the area have also expressed worry that the relaxed attitude of their leaders in Gaborone could come at a cost in 2019 should the opposition work together.
They point out that, constituencies like Maun, Chobe and Nata are not BDP strongholds any more. According to BDP insiders, the Ngami constituency won by Thato Kwerepe under the BDP ticket is also a very marginal constituency and should scales tilt to opposition unity, the BDP will “kiss the constituency goodbye if reasonable service delivery is not demonstrated in the area”.
The BCP also has numbers in the Selebi-Phikwe, Bobirwa and Tswapong areas. BDP members are aware of the threat posed by a united opposition. Already the BCP has one MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse in Selebi-Phikwe West, and he could be the spring board of opposition unity in the area.
Indications are that the three BCP MPs in the House have already agreed to work as a team with their 17 UDC colleagues.
For the first time, the BDP has failed to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
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.