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UDC/BCP Electoral Pact would have worked

It is regrettable, but not fatal that the newly created political formation, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) excludes the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The results of Mokoboxane and Tlokweng, where the Botswana National Front (BNF) narrowly lost to the ruling party, were the first to demonstrate that the opposition parties need each other. It appears that the BNF lost because of lack of effective BCP support.


I believe that the BCP had its own reasons for not actively supporting the BNF, but I do not want to go into that, suffice it to point out that in the forthcoming bye elections in Monarch West, both the BCP and the UDC partner, the BPP will find themselves on a collision course, much to the delight of the BDP, who will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of opposition victory.


The problem of the opposition parties always splitting their own votes is now legendary. In 2009 the opposition split votes in nine constituencies, in 2004 it was 12 constituencies, and in 1999 it was six constituencies.


Only God knows how many constituencies will lost due to split in opposition vote in 2014. The loss of two wards by the BNF to the ruling BDP with such small margins shows that the go it alone strategy will not work in the current context of first past the post electoral system.  But a BCP victory in Monarch West will only give rise to a false sense of optimism that the go it alone strategy is a viable option.

I want to believe that there is still time for the opposition to get their act together before the next election. There is an urgent need to get out of this self-destructive sibling rivalry where BCP and BNF still see one another as the most immediate tactical obstacle to overcome as a means to a more long term strategic objective of defeating the BDP. This emanates from a well-known ancient grudge between two siblings (in fair Palapye where we lay our scene) who,  both alike in   pride (or egos),  just want to continue with their parents rage, one whom is now deceased (my sincere apologies to William Shakespeare).


One can feel the emerging antipathy between the newly formed UDC and the BCP.  But the BCP and BNF (now under the UDC) need each other more than they want to admit publicly.  Just look at their policies and manifestoes. When I was roped into the task force merging the four opposition party polices last year, I was surprised about the little differences amongst them, and the ease with which differences were quickly overcome.


Even the new kid on the block, the BMD, sometimes came up with very radical proposals, much to the relief of all of us.  It is interesting to note however, that this success story was never publicly acknowledged, instead focus was put on the differences, that is, the problems surrounding seat allocations. But it appears that it is the old habit of the opposition parties to always focus on areas of disagreement rather than areas of agreement and in the process miss the bigger picture:  the attainment of state power.

But now that there is the UDC (of the BNF, the BMD and the BPP) a registered political party, rather than a coalition of parties, how can the TWO main opposition parties, namely, the UDC led by BNF and the BCP together move forward and overcome the well-known problem of opposition vote splitting in all the coming bye elections, and on to the 2014 general elections?  


My own strong feeling is that the UDC and the BCP must form an electoral pact. The much talked about Memorandum of Understanding of Bye Elections signed by BCP, BNF and BMD can be revived and revised in light of changed political conditions. I know for a fact that there will be no need to formulate a Pact Manifesto, because it already exists.  


I know because I was party to its drafting.  But I am not sure who should make the first move. May be the conveners of the talks can break the deadlock by inviting Boko, Motswaledi and Saleshando to some wine and cheese get together, and ask Rev Dick Bayford to grace the occasion.  To someone like Boko, an electoral pact with BCP might be a bitter pill to swallow as it would appear to vindicate the position of the Executive Committee that he fired. 


But political circumstances have changed and a wise man can adapt to the new conditions. The main ingredients of these changed political circumstances include the BNF narrow loss in the last two bye elections, the formation of the UDC and the return home (not defection for God’s sake) of Botsalo Ntuane, and Kabo Morwaeng (and only God knows who is next) formerly very prominent personas in the BMD fold.

Looking at the trends in the popular vote, the opposition vote has always been very high, though fragmented. In  the 2004 general elections, the ruling BDP led the popular vote by about half a percent  at 50.63 percent, and in the last 2009 elections (with the Khama magic)  the lead rose to 53.26  percent,  up by about two and half  percentage points. 


My position has always been that the problem is the electoral system of first past the post, and that it can and must be delegitimized. In a journal article in 2006 I fiercely  repudiated (and with the benefit of hindsight, not successfully)  a thesis propounded by American Professors,  Dandolf and Holm in their 1999 journal article entitled Democracy Without Credible Opposition – The case of Botswana,  on the prospects of  what they referred to as ‘pre-election coalition’  in Botswana.


Their  argument is that  Botswana’s opposition parties have never committed themselves to a strategy of coalition building for the purpose of winning elections  (italics added),  that the de facto  one- party system  that prevails in  Botswana  is due mainly to the opposition parties inability  to form a pre-election coalition, and that the opposition parties squander their chances  by fighting amongst themselves. Whilst I still remain an unreconstructed believer in proportional representation (PR) I now appreciate their argument (better late than never). 


And come to think of it, BDP   just has to lose elections once, and it will be out of business forever,  as  has happened with many other ruling parties  that have overstayed in government, such as UNIP in Zambia, nationalist Party in South Africa or Communist Party of the Soviet Union days.  Can you imagine the BDP in the opposition benches?

It must be noted however, that pre-elections coalition/pact is not the same as merger, and is not necessarily the easy option out.  It  is not a mechanical operation and party rank and file tend to be sentimentally attached to their parties,  so much that some would not vote a  coalition/pact candidate out of resentment.  But if you were to balance pre-elections coalition/pact with the split opposition vote, I believe that an elections   coalition/pact will be the lesser of the two evils.  In 2004, the BNF was able to pull back from the brink because of its pre-election pact with BAM and BPP. But those pre-election coalitions/pact negotiations were difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. I know because I was there.


The 2009 elections results also show that BAM/BCP pre-election coalition/pact worked for BCP, and I want to believe that those talks were also difficult, laborious, painstaking and tedious. Surely if the BCP and the BNF can go into pre-election coalition/pact with smaller parties, and it works, they can go into pre-election coalition with one another, and it would also work, if only it was not because of this ancient grudge! What I find attractive about the pre-election coalition/pact is that the parties in the coalition/pact keep their identities.


The  Oasis Motel negotiations collapsed precisely because people had set themselves  unrealistic deadlines, little realizing that there were going to be many obstacles to be overcome, including botete ja bangwe, which,  even if unreasonable, had to be nursed. There is still time before the next general elections and I will say to UDC and BCP back to the drawing board. And who knows, the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission might just come in handy.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020

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.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

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.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020

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.

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