The Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) is moving to formalise its relationship with Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), a coalition of three opposition parties, WeekendPost has established.
BPF, which is the splinter party of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), was established on the eve of 2019 general elections, managing to garner three seats in the country’s most highly anticipated polls in history. Insiders informed this publication that formalising relations with UDC formed one of the major issues discussed at BPF National Executive Committee this week, where they also discussed readying for both the Youth League and Women’s League Congress.
Task teams have since been established to spearhead the work, sources revealed. However, it has also been established that BPF is yet to officially write the letter to UDC leadership, but the process is expected to be initiated anytime soon. When asked about the new developments, President of the BPF Biggie Butale, could not comment on the matter stating that if there are any changes the press will be informed at the right time.
The BPF was engaged in a complicated relationship with UDC in the run up to the 2019 general elections, where it provided support to the latter candidates in constituencies that it was not contesting. BPF contested 18 constituencies, all of them in Central region, where the party patron and former President, Lt Gen Ian Khama enjoys popularity.
Khama is credited with helping opposition, UDC in particular, to wrestle constituencies which opposition has never won since independence. For the first time, opposition won constituencies like Sefhare/Ramokgonami, Palapye, Shoshong, Mahalapye East, Mahalapye West as well as the three Serowe constituencies. On the flipside, Khama’s relationship with UDC is blamed for the coalition’s dismal performance in the southern part of Botswana. Opposition lost its traditional stronghold to BDP, a development which helped the ruling party to cling to power.
The 2019 polls saw BDP emerging with 38 seats, followed by the UDC with 15. BPF three, while Alliance for Progressives (AP) got only one. However, the result was not without blemish, as the UDC challenged the outcomes, albeit unsuccessful, claiming that there was “massive vote rigging” in at least 15 constituencies. UDC was not successful in its bid, as the High Court came to a conclusion that the petitions before the court did not comply with the requirements.
The Court of Appeal later dismissed the case on the basis that it had no jurisdiction on the matter. The arrival of the BPF will also be met by other developments in the coalition. Botswana Congress Party, which emerged as the most successful among coalition partners with 11 seats, its highest since formation, has caused an ease within the party. It is reported that, the BCP is pushing for its leader, Dumelang Saleshando to assume the reins of UDC, and also want coalition partners to consider reconfiguration of the UDC in favour of a total merger.
The BCP Youth League has already released a statement calling for Boko to expedite his resignation from the UDC. The Young Turks also attributed UDC’s dismissal performance in the southern part of Botswana to the UDC leader. The BCP youth wing has since retracted its statement, but many believe the damage has been done and trust has been broken. Meanwhile the Alliance for Progressives leader, Ndaba Gaolathe has indicated that he will announce the future of AP with regard to coalition politics at the party annual policy statement scheduled for February.
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.