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Key factors that could shape Botswana politics


Masire

Botswana has just emerged from one of the most contested elections in her history. For the first time the opposition has suffocated the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to an extent that the party failed to score a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Out of 57 elected Members of Parliament, the BDP has 37; the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has 17; and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has three.


Tati West legislator, Samson Guma Moyo has in the immediate past Parliament desired to table the subject of direct election of the president. This week he told this publication that the subject of direct election of the President will first have to be sold to the BDP members before it reaches Parliament.


He indicated that while he may have wishes, first the motion should be sponsored by the party before it is debated in Parliament. He said the BDP National Council and Congress will first have to deliberate on the subject so that it is agreed to or rejected depending on the views of the party members.


According to Moyo the subject has quiet some weight because it calls for the amendment of the constitution therefore it must be appreciated by party members before being subjected to Parliament scrutiny. He indicated that it was long agreed that subjects which are weighty in substance should first be appreciated at party level.


Meanwhile President Lt Gen Ian Khama is expected to announce his Vice President as soon as the High Court decides on the matter in which the Presidency and the National Assembly are at loggerheads over the modus operandi of conducting voting in Parliament.

 

Many speculate that the decision will make or break the ruling party depending on the choice of candidate. The incoming Vice President will feel the direct consequences of direct election of the president should it sail through. Former President, Sir Ketumile Masire says he is against the arrangement where Vice President automatically becomes President without going through an election.


The BDP Congress and National Council are expected to chat the way forward as far as the ruling party is concerned. There has been talk of some senior members of the party willing to challenge whoever will be appointed Vice President for the position of President when Khama leaves. It is very likely that the next two congresses could spell a lot of changes in the BDP.

 
Observers point out that whatever the BDP does will also be influenced by the shape and status of the opposition which appears to be ready for full cooperation. The opposition parties’ quest for unity is motivating by the fact that the BDP is a minority government by popular vote despite scooping the majority of Parliamentary seats. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) are expected to agree on the subject of unity in preparation for 2019.


PROFESSOR MONAGENG MOGALAKWE’S VIEWS
University of Botswana of Botswana lecturer, Professor Monageng Mogalakwe says Guma Moyo’s motion on Direct Election of President is a good idea.  “I like the idea of the direct election of the President, especially the American type.

 

Such a directly elected President should appoint his own management team, or cabinet from outside the Legislature But it is dishonest, disingenuous   and opportunistic to pretend that this idea is original. This is a well-known position of the Botswana National Front (BNF) which has appeared in its various policy documents on governance,” he said. 


He points out that the motion should not be narrowly focused on the election of the President, but seek a comprehensive review of the Constitution, and adapt  it to the current political trends in the region  and globally.


“For example, there is a need to detach and decouple the Parliament of Botswana from the Office of the President to which it is currently fettered. There must be a clear separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature. The Executive, while having authority and power to run the country on day to day matters, must be accountable to Parliament on both policy and operational issues,” he said.  


According to Mogalakwe, recommendations to make Parliament Independent of the Executive are contained in the Bahiti Temane Report of 2003 on the Study of On the Independence of the Parliament of Botswana. This report is gathering dust on the shelves of Parliament Library. The so-called reforms by MmaNasha are based on that report, and the right thing to do is to have the Report tabled  for debate  by the this Eleventh Parliament.


Commenting on President Khama’s Vice President choice, Mogalakwe said: “This is more than a  BDP internal matter, it is about Khama successor.  The BDP lost the opportunity to entrust its leadership to the more experienced BDP cadres, but opportunistically donated (ba e shoma) the leadership to Ian Khama, apparently to tap on his assumed charisma and political magnetism.  The 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections have revealed that Ian Khama has no such charisma and magnetic appeal. BDP would have been better off under Kedilkwe than Khama. The BDP needs to look for a leader who will revive the fortunes of the party, after Khama recklessly squandered   them.” 

On decisions of the next BDP national congress, Mogalakwe says the BDP would be out of business if it was not  for the fragmentation of the opposition vote.  He said for the first time since independence, and under President Khama, the BDP is a minority government. 

 

“If only the UDC and BCP can get their act together, the BDP would be out of business come 2019. One thing that can prevent the political demise of the BDP is the proportional representation electoral system, which they have dismissed with contempt in the past. Introducing a direct election of the President and trying to smuggle Khama back after two disastrous performances will not assist them much. The BDP should just forget about building the Khama Dynasty. It is now a discredited and failed project. Our Republic should be led by republicans, even if they are BDP,” he said.

UDC AND BCP DECISION ON UNITY
Mogalakwe said there is a need for both UDC and BCP to crack out of this mutually assured destructive mind-set where they view one another as the immediate target to be destroyed, as a tactical manoeuvre towards a long term strategic objective of defeating the BDP.  He said this did not work in 2004, where the opposition lost 12 seats due to split vote, it did not work in 2009, where the opposition lost nine seats due to split vote, it did not work in 2014 where the opposition lost a staggering 15 seats due to spilt vote. It will not work in 2019.  


“In business language, the UDC and the BCP are selling the same product, but are splitting up their market share, much to the amusement of the BDP. If you came from Mars you would not tell who UDC was and who BCP was when you listen to them carefully. The unity between the BCP and UDC cannot be brought about in a mechanical way, but will be a process involving political and spiritual rebirth, and as in every birth, there will be a lot of pain,” he said.

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Travel ban unfair and unjustified – Masisi

7th December 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

For the past two years, the world has been at combat with various COVID-19 variants. A new variant of concern which is considered to have a combination of the greatest hits (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) has sent alarm bells around the world.

Botswana’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance, which actively monitors COVID-19 variants in Botswana, picked four samples that were concerning and discovered a completely new variant. In accordance with international obligations, as a responsible member state under the International Health Regulations of 2005, Botswana submitted the suspected new variant for the entire global scientific community to respond to this early finding. Shortly after, the Republic of South Africa, also submitted a similar concerning variant.

The new variant, ‘Omicron’ is named after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet to avoid public confusion and stigma.
The news spread like wild fire which resulted in European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America imposing travel bans on Botswana and other sister SADC nations, resulting in drawing a wedge between nations.

In his address on the occasion of an update on Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has shunned the response by some countries to Botswana’s detection of the Omicron variant stating that it is unfortunate as it appears to have caused unnecessary panic amongst the public across the world. He considers it defeating the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic.

“The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but is also unjustified while remain confident that reason and logic will prevail, the harshness of the decision has the effect of our shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment of equality and economic prosperity for us,” he said.

President Masisi has appealed to the nations that have imposed travel restrictions on Botswana to reflect and review their travel restrictions stance against the Southern African region.

African leaders and heads of state are in agreement on a matter. Some stating that the travel bans are ‘uncalled for, afro phobic, unscientific, strict, unfair and unjustified’. They have come out to bash the unilateral travel bans and request immediate upliftment of the restrictions imposed on SADC member states by European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America.

While Batswana are banned from international travel, locally as at 26th November 2021, a total of 195 068 COVID19 cases and 2 418 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have been steadily witnessing a decrease in the number of new cases and deaths in the last three months. We are currently reporting an average of less 10 infections per 100 000 people compared to 648 cases per 100 000 people at the peak of the third wave. We have also observed a gradual decline in hospitalizations across the country with an average of less than 10 patients at a time at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) and our other health facilities countrywide,” pointed out President Masisi.

Masisi encouraged Batswana not to despair as to date, all the nations’ key indicators remain stable. “This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behaviour and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view new variant of concern,’’ he sternly advised.

Government through the different Ministries leading the different sectors, has been working tirelessly to prepare for potential outbreaks and a fourth (4th) wave. This will be achieved through; installing oxygen generating plants and increasing skilled human capacity.

With regards to the vaccination programme; as of 29th November 2021, an estimated One Million and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty One (1 053 361) people translating to 75.7% of the target Batswana citizens and residents over the age of 18 years have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Three (950 973) people translating to 68.4% have been fully vaccinated. This number exceeds the 64% target Botswana has set to achieve by end of December 2021.

Masisi enthusiastically revealed that; “We are one of the three countries in Africa that have achieved the World Health Organisation target of vaccinating at least 40% of the entire population by December 2021. We are committed to ensure that all is done to reduce the transmission of the virus in the country.

More vaccines are being procured to ensure availability for those who have not yet received any dose. Government is also considering booster doses for those who may be identified as qualifying for them.”

President Masisi urged Batswana to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing, washing hands or sanitizing and wearing masks and avoid unnecessary travelling.

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China pledges a billion vaccines to Africa

7th December 2021

As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.

President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.

Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.

Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.

Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.

China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.

Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.

He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.

In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.

Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.

Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.

For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. 
As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.

African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.

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COVID-19 has pushed cost of living up – report

7th December 2021

A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.

The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.

The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”

However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.

Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.

The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.

“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”

“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.

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