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Masisi’s BDP ‘RENEWAL agents’ line up

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.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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