The last few months have been dominated by the election campaign leading up to the general election on October 24th. Amongst the few economic issues that were prominent in the campaigns of the different parties, the problems of unemployment, poverty and inequality had perhaps the highest profile. There is no real disagreement that these are amongst the most pressing socioeconomic issues facing Botswana; however, there is much less agreement on how to successfully address them.
While these issues are crucial and need to be addressed, this must be done in the context of other pressing issues, including dealing with fiscal pressures as government revenues gradually decline in the medium to long term, and the need to restrain fiscal expenditure in order to keep the budget on a sustainable track. None of the parties really came up with a coherent plan for dealing with this, and indeed many of the election promises included unrealistic commitments for ever-greater spending.
Over the past few years, politicians have often stated that certain development projects could not proceed because of recession and adverse economic circumstances affecting the government budget, sometimes with a commitment that said project would proceed once economic circumstances improved. This may be a good way of deflecting pressure for excessive project spending, but it may also generate expectations that cannot be fulfilled.
A second pressing issue is the need to diversify exports and attract more FDI. Again, this was not really addressed in the election campaigns, and indeed all of the parties seemed more concerned with import substitution than promoting exports. In fact, none of the parties took time to adequately address pertinent economic issues, which is most disappointing, especially during the highly publicized pre-election debates.
Now that the election campaign is over, attention will turn to the development and finalisation of two key, closely related strategy and planning documents: the 11th National Development Plan, to run from 2016 to 2022, and the post-Vision 2016 document, which will cover the period of the next two-three NDPs. With the election out of the way, the government will have to ensure that these are completed quickly, but in a way that coherently addresses the key economic and social issues.
It will be important to recognise that there are many trade-offs in policymaking. Making rational decisions requires both clarification of objectives and a good understanding of the likely impact of competing policies and projects. Evidence-based policy making is essential if good use is to be made of limited resources, and if sensible decisions are to be made about which projects and programmes are to be financed.
However, this is difficult on the basis of Botswana’s current capacity to generate and analyse data and statistics. Significantly increased resources need to be provided for statistical and analytical capacity if appropriate policies and projects are to be implemented in NDP11, and subjected to proper monitoring and evaluation. Of more immediate interest is the forthcoming 2015/16 Budget next February. We have been given a flavour of what the 2015 Budget will say, in the Budget Strategy Paper released in September.
The BSP is a good initiative, which helps to keep stakeholders informed and encourage debate. It also helps to put information in the public domain at an earlier stage in the budgeting process, which in turn helps to improve understanding of economic conditions. From the 2015 BSP, we have learned that the preliminary outturn of the 2013/14 budget was more favourable than originally anticipated, with a fiscal surplus of P3.5 billion (2.8% of GDP). This was mainly due to underspending on the development budget. Clearly there still remains a major problem of implementation capacity and project management – given that many on-going projects are behind schedule, over budget, and only three-quarters of allocated funds for development projects were spent in 2013/14.
One of the most important elements of the BSP is the introduction of a new Fiscal Rule that commits government, for the first time, to allocate a fixed proportion – 40% is proposed – of mineral revenues to financial savings. In the past, there has been a commitment to invest mineral revenues in various forms of assets, but financial savings have always been a residual. Partly as a result of this, the financial assets accumulated by government over many years were relatively small and quickly depleted during and after the global financial crisis.
The Fiscal Rule is good, in principle, and in many respects is long overdue. However the implications need to be fully understood, in particular that the government will need to run large budget surpluses to finance the proposed savings. There also need to be hard and fast rules regarding drawdowns – the circumstances and conditions under which the accumulated savings be accessed.
Furthermore, government has repeatedly stated its intention to improve the screening and selection of development projects, such that only those yielding positive economic returns will be financed; if this commitment is adhered to – as it should be – some of the projects that are being called for in NDP11 will not pass the test. With the new Fiscal Rule in place, the focus will shift towards saving rather than spending, and as a result there will be less money rather than more for development projects.
Commentary adopted from Econsult ECONOMIC REVIEW – third quarter July – sept 2014
COVID-19 has been identified as a burning factor fuelling the use of force to prevent journalists from working in Africa. This was said by Reporters without Borders in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, indicating that although there was less deterioration in Africa’s “Abuses” score, it continues to be the most violent continent for journalists.
The 2021 Index shows that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation. The data reflects a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage, further showing that journalists are finding it increasingly hard to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Africa, Asia and Europe.
After a wave of liberalisation in the 1990s in Senegal, Eritrea and Djibouti, press freedom violations are now only too common. They include arbitrary censorship, especially on the internet (by means of ad hoc internet cuts in some countries), arrests of journalists on the ground of combatting cybercrime, fake news or terrorism, and acts of violence against media personnel that usually go completely unpublished.
Reporters without Borders say respect for press freedom is still largely dependent on the political and financial influence that undermines their independence. For the most part, it says, State-owned media still tend to be governmental mouthpieces or propaganda tools and have a long way to go before they become independent public service media reflecting a wide range of opinion.
On the pretext of combatting disinformation and hate speech, many countries in Africa have adopted new laws in recent years with vague and draconian provisions that can easily be used to gag journalists.
It has been said that an increase in online attacks is another disturbing phenomenon making Africa a bad space for journalists in this era. These attacks are often by trolls close or directly linked to the government that are designed to discredit or intimidate journalists.
The report by Reporters without Borders show that African journalists were hit hard by the Coronavirus in 2020, suffering three times as many attacks and arrests from 15 March to 15 May as during the same period the year before.
Ranked number 38 globally, Botswana’s press freedom violations are said to have declined since President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over. Masisi, according to Reporters without Borders, has given at least frequent press conferences, unlike Ian Khama, who gave none.
Nonetheless, there is still no law on access to information, which journalists have long been demanding. The few privately-owned newspapers depend on advertising that they may or may not receive from the State.
Three years after taking office, Masisi has yet to keep his promise to revise draconian laws such as the 2008 Media Practitioners Act, which restricts their freedom to inform, journalists say, and the law on access to information.
In 2020, Botswana saw journalists being arrested and detained at holding cells by State security spies while on duty. The said journalists were interrogated, and their gadgets confiscated. Prior to that, one female journalist was ambushed by security officers at her home.
Even though Namibia has been doing well in protecting and giving journalists freedom since 2019, in 2020 several reporters were briefly arrested and some given warnings after putting a question to the President, and many media outlets were barred from government press conferences about the Coronavirus crisis.
It was against this background that a Namibian journalists’ union was formed in 2021, the first since the country became independent. Namibia is ranked number 23 in this year’s Press Freedom Index, becoming one of the countries in Africa doing well in respecting journalists.
In Ghana, a group of investigative journalists had to spend part of 2018 in hiding after producing a documentary about corruption in Ghanaian soccer. A ruling party parliamentarian who had been named in the documentary publicly threatened one of the journalists without ever being arrested or questioned.
According to Reporters without Borders, the journalist was shot dead in the street a few months later. Investigative reporters are often threatened even though journalists are rarely arrested. It was reported that, most cases of police aggression against journalists go unpublished but timid attempts have been made to combat this impunity.
South Africa’s 1996 constitution protects press freedom, but the State security agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover certain subjects involving the ruling African National Congress (ANC), government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption.
The opposition party in South Africa, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema was given a high court warning in 2019 because of its invective and hate speech against journalists. In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis did not spare journalism in South Africa.
Rubber bullets were fired at a reporter covering compliance with lockdown measures and a community newspaper editor even had to flee abroad after being threatened by the police for covering a lockdown-related story, RWB said.
The Djibouti 1992 Freedom of Communication Law is itself is an obstacle to free speech and media pluralism. It provides for jail terms for media offences and imposes age and nationality restrictions on those who can create a media outlet. In terms of media freedom, Djibouti is ranked 176th, 5th position from the lowest bottom.
Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) last week, during Labour Day, put forward sturdy demands to President Mokgweetsi Masisi and calling for government to act upon them promptly.
Following these celebrations over the weekend, BFTU presented demands for decent work and sustainable development to government.
In fact, the Union is advocating for a new social contract in which employee’s welfare, rights and social protection as well as the need for inclusion occupy centre space.
“On behalf of the labour movement in general, factors in our own midst which still inhibit taking everyone along, include the absence in our country, of a mandatory and genuinely national tripartite framework where both employer organizations and trade unions along with government can ventilate their concerns and any apparent demands for a better life for their members and improved working environment.”
Against this background, BFTU submitted that workers cannot be said to be represented when their view is not considered mandatory. Thus, BFTU argues, existing structures such as the Labour Advisory Board, NEMIC and HLCC are merely volitional in effect.
Consequent to the practice of acting alone many employers, probably emulating government are bent on frustrating transparency and good faith engagement in the workplace, BFTU said. In most cases employees still find it hard to form and belong to trade unions without fear of reprisal by employers nor are employers keen to grant the institutionalization of Work or Industrial Councils in order to freely share and exchange information for amicable resolution of disputes.
“It must be mandatory for employers to disclose to employee representatives all the relevant information including financial, which would assist employees in their bargaining with the employers. In spite of this we are aware of many unscrupulous employers who withhold such critical information under different pretexts.”
BFTU further indicated that the Department of Labour and Social Security remains seriously under resourced to dispose labour disputes lodged with them, and to ensure regular labour inspections and compliance with relevant labour laws.
Furthermore, the absence of an integrated national social security policy with many and scattered policy administrators goes to show how far Botswana is in meeting those deserving of the social protection assistance despite trade union’s shared pledge not to leave anyone behind, BFTU said at the commemoration of May Day.
The Union, urged government to consider introducing the National Occupation Pension Fund so as to assist those employees who find themselves in the lurch because of automation or other unforeseen factors resulting in job loss.
“We further demand a reviewing of laws and provisions relating to insolvency and or liquidation to protect employees. It is the Federations considered view that social dialogue in the present dispensation is merely cosmetic and incapable of fully aiding the implementation of the SDGs and ensuring we leave no one behind.”
“We therefore propose that a National Tripartite Council Policy Forum be set up which will involve government, employer organizations and trade unions to duly reflect on the social and economic challenges affecting the nation and accordingly make recommendations.”
BFTU expressed satisfaction in the reassurance by President Mokgweetsi Masisi that a Constitutional Review is forthcoming.
“Critical among the issues that come to mind speaking of the review is the autonomy of Parliament especially the amendment of section 90 and 91 which relate to the ability of Parliament managing its own affairs and the power to dissolve parliament which is currently vested in the person of the President.”
Ten years ago, Botswana rose to an awakening when 90 000 public sector employees took to the streets after negotiations with their employer, government, reached hard point and collapsed. The effect was a strike that was to impact on the industrial relations landscape in a manner that was unprecedented.
BFTU says the strike knocked some sense in those who underrated the power of workers’ unity and the effectiveness of industrial action as tools for bargaining with employers and the powers that be. Learning at a cost, BFTU acknowledges that consultation and workers’ education including on the processes of the strike are very critical.
Hell broke loose back in 2018 when Botswana Television (Btv) Broadcasting Officer, Gaolaolwe Ralotsia, son to former cabinet Minister, Patrick Ralotsia, started to make sound statements and reported the rampant corruption happening at the National Broadcaster spearheaded by a cabal of procurement officers.
Ralotsia’s actions have put him in trouble with the mob which is working in cohorts with intelligence agents in covert operations, according to information gathered by this publication.
Tragic or coincidence, fast forward 2018, Ralotsia’s workstation computer, a government Central Processing Unit (CPU) black in colour went missing in what is alleged to be the work of Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) covert operations.
The computer was reported at Gaborone West Police Station and WeekendPost is in possession of an abstract from the police record involving burglary and theft and or loss dated 09/10/2018. Up to date there has never been any arrest and the case is still under investigations at least according to the document.
This is despite the fact that Ralotsia who has now become DIS ‘prey’ has his life under illegal surveillance.
Early last year, the National Health Lab in Gaborone through a report which was sanctioned by the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) confirmed his worst fears that there were attempts to poison him.
Two samples being a supposedly PET coke bottled and a plastic bag containing apparently home baked scones were presented. The scope was to attempt to determine if there is a case for worry of malicious or criminal poisoning.
In view of these suspicions, samples were treated as potentially hazardous and handled with utmost care. A series of microbiological and chemical rudimentary tests was devised since there is no cheap and widely available method.
According to the report, due to the nature of the work, the work is being done in utmost confidentiality and this reduces the progress and hampers the sourcing of some needed materials without suspicion. Thus progress was and is extremely slow.
In conclusion the report in view of the results from the spectrophotometry and the refractometer reading, they are convinced to a large extent that the supplied specimens were deliberately contaminated with ethylene glycol or related compounds, also called glycol which is the main ingredient of a vehicle anti- freeze. It is fairly common and not scent and therefore makes sense as a poison tool in sweet foods or drink.
Glycol mode of poisoning is to induce oxalate crystals in the kidneys leading to irreversible renal failure and ultimately death.
WeekendPost is also in possession of a complaint letter which Ralotsia wrote to The Intelligence and Security Tribunal through the Register of the High Court of Botswana this week. The letter references complaint to grievances by an officer of the Directorate- Peter Magosi.
The letter is addressed to the Chairperson of the Tribunal as detailed in Section 32 (2) of the Intelligence and Security Service Act Chapter 23:02. This according to the author follows months of investigations owing to illegal surveillance, unauthorised access to computer systems and invasion of privacy.
“The DIS has used access previously granted to investigate myself to carry out an illegal systematic monitoring and tapping of my phone calls, communication and general surveillance for personal gain as directed by the Director General Peter Magosi since mid-2018 to date,” the letter said.
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Ralotsia also wrote that the intelligence unit has on several occasions analysed troves of data to form an intimate picture of his life, relationships and movements. He reports that on three occasions, the DIS illegally submitted data gleamed from his personal communications to The Voice newspaper for publication.
“Graphics to that effect had already been prepared,” he stated.
According to Ralotsia, there has been attempts by the DIS to also incriminate him. He says on or around the 16th February 2020, the DIS with the help of some members of Botswana Police Services (BPS) attempted to lure him into a sexual trap and frame him for rape using a certain woman, very close to him who is also their agent.
This came a few months after they tried to plant drugs on him on his trip to Francistown in order to incriminate him.
A divorcé now, Ralotsia also submit that the DIS instigated a feud in his family that ended in his divorce.
“Throughout 2019, the DIS has shared with my ex-wife while still married incriminating sensitive personal data, some of it more than a decade old. A female agent named X (names withheld) was the link. The aftermath subsequently led to our divorce. The DIS continued to use my ex-wife to attempt to entrap me in some form of wrong doing. As such, I have not seen my children in over a year,” he said.
Ralotsia said on or around the end of March 2020, he became aware of successful attempts to clone his sim card by the then his ex-wife with the help of the DIS and an employee of Orange Botswana based in Jwaneng (names withheld).
The man constantly on the run said the DIS also recruited a human resource officer from the Department of Broadcasting Services to copy and deliver to them his file under her custody as an HR officer.
He reports that officers from the spy agency have on numerous occasions gained access to his place of residence, taken pictures, intimidated and at one point kidnapped and threatened the occupants.
“In one incident, four men wielding guns arrived in a white VW Amarok pickup truck. Their threats revolved around my feud with them and an open letter I had written to the President,” he said.
“The DIS mostly uses my mobile devices to keep track of my movements. On the 17th April 2021, I had left all my devices in the boot of a vehicle in Kanye. I had then driven back to Gaborone and stayed indoors. On Tuesday 20th April, just after 1530hrs, my companion was about to leave the house when Peter Magosi driving a silver Jeep registration B 660 AYP arrived at the gate. This was consistent with their modus operandi. She called me out and that is when Peter Magosi panicked and recklessly sped away. There is a picture of his vehicle to that effect.”
Ralotsia also reported Magosi for abuse of office and failure to carry out crime busting duties.
He said on 14th February 2020, he met with Peter Magosi at around 1100hrs. This was just a follow up meeting after numerous telephone communications.
The objective was to brief him about the disappearance of the CPU, the various attempts to cause harm or incriminate him by some of his agents and to report to him in person, the rampant corruption happening at the Mass Media Complex spear headed by one officer (names withheld).
He alleges that after the meeting Magosi used the information he got from him that he is onto them.
“I later discovered that the DIS is nothing but a cess pool of corruption, offering protection to the corrupt elite.”
According to Ralotsia, it is now common for cases involving the DIS not to be dealt with or unfairly dealt with because they have capabilities and willing partners being the BPS to make everything disappear.
“I am however under no illusion that the tribunal will do what is necessary to end this greed of thieving and rule bending by members of the DIS and their friends. I am however prepared to go public with the full details if necessary,” ends the letter.
WeekendPost is also in possession of copies of WhatsApp messages between a DIS agent only known as Jerry and a female known as Phatsimo who is a well-known informant.
The woman asked Jerry about her payment after doing a job for them to incriminate Ralotsia. In one of the messages Jerry is quoted saying, “Hey gorgeous, I will push for your payment. Am on leave but will link you up with someone at the office. Anyways, I still need more information on your guy, these days he seems to have covered his tracks very well, I can’t make a breakthrough on that issue you mentioned, we tried everything even with his computer we couldn’t find anything to prove that” (sic).
In her response Phatsimo wrote; “What more do you need, this has been dragging for too long and am not getting the money I was promised, but I had budgeted for that. Mme kana gone jaana it’s the perfect time to get to him, he just divorced, he is messed up and spends most of the time going to the farm, they are doing all they can to cover up for their motokwane thing. You guys are just too slow, he must be way too ahead of you, that one is too intelligent. But don’t worry I will use my charm to get to him, just tell me what to do and it will be done, hes got soft spot for me remember. I just want to get over and done with him, I want to see him go down. Oh, here are his other numbers that you can tap on ……” (sic).
In his response Jerry, “One of our guys at work was helping the wife to track his whereabouts and she was paying him so well, looked like the wife had everything under control. And one of your home girls is also helping us with baiting him, looks like Ralotsia is trying to try his luck on the lady, so she should also be able to help” (sic).