Before the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) could even celebrate its triumphant 2019 general election victory, the party faithful is already hunting for the next secretary general of the party as the future preoccupies their 2020 agenda – they want an agent of renewal to breathe life into President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s promise to renew the ruling party.
Cocktail conversations marked by uncertainty are dominating BDP circles, and from various sources, it is evident that the party wants to continue of the path of ‘renewal’ as promised by its leader President, Dr Masisi. What is also emerging though, is that this is likely to be a completely different BDP where leadership positions are likely to be contested for ‘genuinely’ with very little magic of influence from the leadership.
BDP members are hopeful that the behind the scenes systematic handpicking of office bearers may just be over. This President may just allow a natural selection that will be punctuated by the ‘winner takes all’ principle.“Most of those in the current central committee are of the view that Democrats should allowed to throw in their names for leadership positions and elected accordingly. The probability of the leadership giving direction as to who should be elected is at a minimal,” opined a BDP insider who preferred not to be named.
At the heartbeat of the ensuing leadership contestation is the position of secretary general, by historic analysis, the most powerful after the President in the BDP hierarchy. Reverberations and echoes of ‘Who?’ Why?’ ‘Really’ dominate muted lobbying currently besieging the party that was founded in 1962 to push Botswana’s eminent Independence from the Queen of England.
This publication has it in good authority that Kanye North Member of Parliament, THAPELO LETSHOLO is one of the fashionable names in the lobby cabins. Whilst some see him as a party intern and still wet behind the ears politically speaking, those who are pushing for his candidacy for the position of secretary general are convinced that he represents ‘renewal’.
Letsholo is one of BDP’s freshmen who were expected to make the cut to cabinet only to fall short at the declaration of the President. Although talk is that he was disappointed, the youthful Member of parliament whose physical features satisfy the general public scale of good aesthetics has found a voice in Parliament, slowly but slowly molding himself to become ‘The voice of reason’ in the BDP backbench.
Not only is his name being touted to be synonymous with cleanliness, hope, renewal, and unifier – his would be sponsors are likening him to the maverick former BDP Executive Secretary, and later Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane. They point out that when he stepped into the secretary general’s office, Ntuane was untainted hence his reign saw very little upheaval and muted factions.
As for his inexperience, Letsholo is expected to make up for it with his intelligence and market place experience he got in the corporate world – he has worked for Kgalagadi Breweries and Debswana among other companies. Letsholo is also a self made entrepreneur. There is competition for the Kanye legislator, former MP for the same constituency, KENTSE RAMMIDI is also mentioned along as a possible candidate. Rammidi is an experienced politician. He has been a cabinet minister and is known to command the ground very well. Interestingly he has served (briefly) as party secretary general before quitting unceremoniously at the height of Khama’s intolerance to dissent within the party.
Rammidi main blemish could be his sojourn to opposition politics after being frustrated by former President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama back in 2011. Rammidi resigned his cabinet post and quit the ruling party in protestation after Government shoved teachers in to the essential; service category. To some, Rammidi does not fit the renewal template, he has a baggage of dumping the party and speaking ill of it. However, some understand the circumstances around his opposition sojourn, they have welcomed him back to the BDP.
Rammidi campaigned for the BDP in the 2019 general elections. Those who are antagonizing Rammidi’s candidacy throw around a theory that he is acting on the ricochet because he is unhappy with his failed mission to be posted to Ethiopia on Ambassadorial assignment. “We learn that he was blocked by some senior party officials who felt that he is still new because he recently returned from opposition politics,” theorized a fervent supporter of the former Kanye North legislator.
BOYCE SEBETLELA, who traversed the Central District during the 2019 election campaign trail to help the BDP neutralize former President Khama’s vitriolic propaganda against the BDP and President Masisi, is also a man on a mission. He seeks to return to mainstream politics as the secretary general of the ruling party. Sebetlela is also a former legislator and those close to developments believe that his ambitious are bigger that the secretary general position.
Their diagnosis is that the former Palapye MP wants to stage a political comeback right from Tsholetsa House, he wants to stand for Palapye constituency in the 2024 elections. They speculate that his horizon could as well be beyond Tsholetsa House and Cabinet. But as Democrats toss innumerable names, the fact of the matter is that there is no vacancy yet.
The office of the secretary general is currently occupied by MPHO BALOPI, the Member of Parliament for Gaborone North who is also the Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity & Skills Development. Following his resounding general election victory, there is no doubt that Balopi commands sizeable political currency compared to some of those who want to subtract him from the BDP governing structure.
At a recent press conference the secretary general made statements to the effect that he is yet to decide on whether he should defend the position or not. He also threw in a word of caution to aspirants, that party members should not breach party rules and regulations by campaigning before season. He holds the office that implements and advises the President.
From this statement, by way of deductive reasoning, one could decipher that Balopi, who is credited with the BDP’s powerful branding during the 2019 campaign, still needs time to decide his next move and would not be in favour of any party member who would bend the rules to get a head start. The position of secretary general is very powerful and it is right at the BDP verdict making pot, decisions are made and breached at the very same office. Taking into account his experience, Balopi’s incumbency should come in handy should he decides to run.
There is a long queue at Tsholetsa House, of late, LESANG MAGANG is reported to be interested in the position. This is a second cameo for Magang who is likely to paint himself as a victim of the intolerance of the past BDP regime. He may argue fresh and new ideas to warp his agenda around President Masisi’s renewal message.
Lesang Magang has a history pf being linked to positions only for the report on intention to die down prematurely. The influence that his father, David Magang wields in today’s administration may just be what the doctor ordered to finally give Lesang Magang the impetus to push for the long haul, it remains to be seen.
Meanwhile KAGELELO BANKS KENTSE may not run for the position of secretary general. He is currently the Head of Communications subcommittee. By the admission of those close to him, Kentse acknowledges his shortcomings at the moment, “he is still inexperienced and new in the party because he was recruited from Botswana Movement for Democracy. But he could take a shot at the position of deputy secretary general,” notes an insider who also posits that SHAW KGATHI will not be available to defend this position because he may take up an offer of Ambassador in Asia.
ALFRED MADIGELE has been named by some BDP members as another name that could represent renewal which punctuates most of the President’s political speeches. Grapevine suggestion is that there is a team that is coercing the medical doctor who has stuck his foot at the practice to consider a political assignment.
From all the potential candidates, “it is evident that party members are thinking of the future, they want deal with the question of uncertainty – what does tomorrow hold for the party.” Two people, President Masisi and his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane are guaranteed a return to the party’s governing structure later this year.
The latest edition of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Monitor shows the continuing and devastating impacts of the pandemic on jobs and labour income since early 2020, and the massive disruptions in the labour market that will persist into the fourth quarter of this year.
ILO analysts argue that policymakers will need to maintain support to employment and incomes over the coming months and well into 2021, and to address key challenges.
Botswana’s flagship mining company, Debswana is currently engaging various stakeholders with a view to put the currently abandoned Palapye Glass project plant into good use.
The glass manufacturing plant was left as a white elephant, midway into construction, following the liquidation of its holding company Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana.
Last week, when responding to a question from Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East Kgoberego Nkawana, on the status of Palapye Glass Project, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry Molebatsi Molebatsi told Parliament that Debswana is one of the companies interested in utilizing the project facility to establish a glass manufacturing factory.
Responding to a questionnaire from Weekendpost regarding the matter on Thursday, Debswana Corporate Affairs Manager Agatha Sejoe said, Debswana is currently assisting Somarelang Tikologo, an environmental watch NGO to develop a business case to set up a glass manufacturing plant in Botswana.
Debswana has in the past funded Somarelang Tikologo to run a glass crushing business, the two organizations are now contemplating ways of expanding the business from just crushing glasses to completing the whole recycling process by setting up the re-manufacturing component locally.
Currently the crushed glass produced by Somarelang Tikologo is exported in its entirety to glass manufacturing plants in South Africa.
“Debswana believes that rather than to continue to export crushed glass to South Africa, there is an opportunity to establish a glass crushing and manufacturing plant in Botswana and create jobs and secondary businesses in Botswana” Sejoe said .
She explained that Debswana, in partnership with Somarelang Tikologo and Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), have made a preliminary enquiry on the availability of the glass plant from Botswana Development Corporation.
“Discussions are still at conceptual stage and currently ongoing with all the relevant stakeholders. Based on the outcome of the feasibility study, Debswana and Somarelang Tikologo will only then establish the appropriate way forward on the matter,” added Sejoe.
Quizzed on Debswana‘s future investment plans, the company’s Lead media liaison revealed that the mining giant continues to play a major role in various partnerships within communities in Botswana as part of its Social Performance Framework and in accordance with the Life of Mine planning.
She said currently the company is undertaking stakeholder consultations in communities within the Zone of Influence to identify sustainable partnership opportunities that can leverage on large-scale projects such as the game park assets and form an economic diversification stream through tourism.
“There are other projects in the pipeline, which fall within the ambit of community development, and these will be revealed as we implement them through the usual channels,” said Sejoe.
The Palapye glass plant currently lies unutilized and incomplete in Palapye. The glass project was conceptualized in 2007, wholly Government owned investment arm Botswana Development Corporation( BDC) and Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company , a Chinese corporation entered into an agreement and formed Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana at 43 % -57 % Shareholding whith Shanghai Fengyue holding majority shares.
Botswana Development Corporation invested a total of P511 million for its 43 % interest and a loan to the established company. Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company on the other hand invested P113 million.
After failure to fully operationalize, Fengyue Glass Manufacturing Botswana was liquidated. Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) remained with ownership of the erected plant and warehouse.
Last week Investment, Trade & Industry Junior Minister told Members of Parliament that Government through its wholly owned investment arm, BDC is in the process of breathing life to the project by opening up discussions with interested parties.
“There are companies and different parties such as Botswana Railways who showed interest on the facility for either manufacturing some components of their coaches or refurbishment or servicing of their coaches,” Molebatsi said.
He further noted that Government was coming from the fact that Botswana currently produces abundant resources and raw materials that can be used to manufacture glasses, creating much needed economic diversification and jobs for the youth.
Research from Agrilinks shows that more than 60 percent of Africa’s working population is engaged in agriculture which accounts for a third of the continent’s GDP. However, the sector is plagued by the use of outdated methods and tools, hence the need for rapid modernization.
The lack of modernized and up to date methods of farming have been a set back to the local farming sector which has attributed to the decline in production. Access to markets, new trends, better tools can be resolved through digitization and high speed information. The recent introduction of the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has seen local farmers taking advantage of the development to enhance their operations.
There are signs that, the expansion of high-speed Internet coverage into settlements and rural areas has boosted the production of farming locally. Farmers use the internet to access market information, crop production farming implements and vital details that influence farming decisions.
The VSAT technology enables countrywide coverage even in the most remote parts of the country, giving farmers internet connectivity through its vast telecommunications network. Results have already started showing especially in the Kaka region which boasts of cattle ranches. Farmers can now also access the BAITS System and Herd Cards, easily. Furthermore, computerized movement permits and new Change of Ownership documents can be printed on the spot.
The BAITS system provides a platform for farmers to provide information on their livestock.
This platform is offered online, it is used for animal registration, transfer of ownership, arrival of livestock, veterinary drug treatments and removal of dead/fallen stock.
Prior to its introduction, farmers had expressed interest in using internet and digital technology to enhance farming operations but lack of internet held them back. Five years ago a website developed for livestock farmers failed to gain traction due to poor access for those in remote areas.
“Communication has been bad in this part of the country, which led me to installing a satellite phone which is very expensive to maintain. I settled for this alternative because I am required to be in communication with the commercial world as well as my farm workers. But, since the introduction of the BTC VSAT technology, farm business operations and communication with stakeholders has since improved significantly,” said Gokatweng Coach Tshekiso, a cattle ranch farmer based in Kaka.
Through the contribution of this technologies that falls under the auspices of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) it’s a matter of time Drone technology which supports numerous major applications for agriculture gets to be fully utilized by local farmers. The Drone Technology increases efficiency in certain aspects of farming. From crop monitoring to planting, livestock management, crop spraying and irrigation mapping. The VSAT and such technology will definitely work smoothly even in the most remote parts of the country.
Farmers are hopeful that with access to BAITS, they will see reduced likelihood of cattle theft because of secure identification of stolen cattle due to easy identification of stray (Matimela) cattle. In essence, there will be increased security for the Beef Export Market because customers overseas will be assured of origination and traceability of cattle therefore providing a marketing edge for Botswana beef. The network uptime on this technology is approximately 99.5%, exceeding typical terrestrial cable lines. The VSAT is designed mainly for any customer who is remote from the main grids and base stations to access voice and data services.
These technologies have the potential to have a positive impact on the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector especially during this COVID- 19 period which has greatly disrupted the global supply chain. Through the help of 41R in agriculture, Botswana has potential to be a self- sustainable farming country.