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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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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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Masisi stops hefty P5 million MP allowance

1st March 2021
President Masisi

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has taken a stern but unpopular decision within the August House by putting to an end a hefty P403, 200 monthly budget directed towards legislators’ housing allowance.

Since the beginning of the 12th Parliament in November 2019, MPs have been staying in rented spaces. At first they were lodged at Avani hotel and a whooping P6, 2 million was paid by government for accommodation and meals for Members of Parliament and their spouses from October 31, to December 20, 2019.

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Budget 2021: BDP MPs smell a rat

1st March 2021
Minister of Finance: Dr Matsheka

Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka could be forced to provide a detailed explanation to a number of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers who are not impressed with Government expenditure for the 2020/21 financial year.

The unconvinced lot smell a rat and suggest that the Minister should furnish them with all the balance sheets for all the procurements and reports of all the transactions carried out by government from April 2020. This is so because within them, there is an air of disbelief in relation to the use of national funds by the powers that be.

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