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BDP evolution: for better or for worse?

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been synonymous with one thing — factionalism. The unrelenting factions have seen the party suffering two major splits in the last decade. As the party heads for its first elective congress under the guidance of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, staff writer ALFRED MASOKOLA studies the evolution of the ruling party.

Between 1962 when BDP was formed until 2007, a period of 45 years, BDP had two Secretary Generals; Sir Ketumile Masire and Daniel Kwelagobe. However, ever since Kwelagobe left the position, the party changed Secretary Generals six times in just under a decade. The evolution does not end there; it has many facets key among them the elections of party Members of Parliament, a development which has seen the party’s MPs re-election rate falling dramatically in the last three general elections.  

There are many schools of thought explaining the party evolution. Some believe that the evolution was inevitable, but an ardent debate remains on whether the change has been for better or for worse. BDP started experiencing factions beginning of the 1990s, primarily because of an investigation carried out by government through a commission of inquiry— and its resultant findings. The findings led to the resignation of then Vice President Peter Mmusi from his position, a development that polarised the party forever.

At the centre of the factional wars in the 1990s and early 2000s was the battle between Kwelagobe and Mompati Merafhe, mainly over the control of the party and succession plans. Despite Lt Gen Ian Khama being brought to the party in 1998, specifically for the purpose of uniting the party, BDP split for the first time barely two years after he became party leader. The first split resulted in the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under the leadership of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi.

Motswaledi fell-out with Khama in the build to the 2009 Kanye Congress, where his faction, Barataphathi, supported among others Kwelagobe defeated A-Team, which enjoyed the backing of Khama. Owing to the fragile relationship between the two factions, Motswaledi was suspended from the party, barely two months after his faction won all but one Central Committee (CC) positions in Kanye.

The suspension of Motswaledi set in motion the events that led to BDP’s first split since formation, an occurrence which in the past was synonymous with opposition parties. BMD became an important founding member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been threatening BDP’s hold on power since then. A year after Khama left the leadership, the party also suffered a second split, and again Khama was at the centre of the debacle.

A fallout between Khama and his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi over the ‘gentleman’ agreement that they had, saw Khama and a legion of supporters, including the disgruntled primary elections losers leaving the party. A splinter party, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) was formed, a development which saw BDP for the first time losing its traditional base in the Central District, its long-time stranglehold.

Ever since the 1990s, BDP never recovered, and it has become a party associated with factionalism. The problems however now go beyond factions, as there are new problems threatening the future of the party. BDP had to go through reforms since 1990s, the major ones being the 1997 constitutional review which resulted in the introduction of 10 year limit for presidential term; reducing voting age from 21 to 18; and establishment of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

At party level, the 1995 constitutional review made it explicit that party President shall be elected at party congress every election year. This provision however was never exercised, both during President Festus Mogae and Ian Khama’s terms but chickens came home to roost after Masisi became President. In a historic moment, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, a Cabinet Minister in Masisi’s administration announced her intention to challenge the latter for the throne. The battle for leadership was tense, and played a key role in the formation of BPF, after Venson-Moitoi pulled-out of the race at the eleventh hour.

But one of the problems facing one of the longest governing parties in world, is the inevitable evolution that brought among other things reforms and money. Money is today the most important tool in the fight for BDP control, a trend which is tearing the party asunder, perhaps in the manner that is bellicose than just factionalism. In 2003, BDP replaced its old system of selecting MPs and council representative through a Committee of 18, with a new system of Bulela Ditswe, where the party members were enfranchised to participate in the process.

Popular hardworking and loyal activists were always assured of a berth in Parliament or Council if they participated. Central Committee position was the preserve of thoroughbred members who understood the party and its tradition. The new developments have left many frustrated. No matter how popular they are, they know without the financial muscle they will remain in the periphery as the monied buy their way into power. These developments remain an errant bode, and to most, it is an irreversible trend.

“How can money politics be a positive development? It rules out vast majority of dedicated hard working activists from occupying certain political offices,” said a former BDP Central Committee member. “It starts at primaries. When you look at many people who won primary elections, they are new in the party but won because of money. If they had presented other credentials than money they would have been outcompeted by long servers who know the party better.”

In the 12th Parliament, there were less than 10 returning MPs, majority of them being a new crop of MPs. In the past the party had a high re-election rate but since the advent of Bulela Ditswe the re-election rate has been on a drastic decline. Ever since 2007, when Kwelagobe retired from the Secretary General position which he held for 27 years, the party has been chopping and changing Secretary Generals. The trend has been affecting other Central Committee positions.

The Central Committee is currently made up of fairly new entrants, the only veteran being party treasurer, Satar Dada, who has held the position since 1995. Masisi, the party leader became part of the Central Committee in 2015, a year after being appointed Vice President, meanwhile his understudy, Slumber Tsogwane only tasted Central Committee in 2017 despite being the longest serving party MP.

Since 2007, BDP has had six Secretary Generals; Jacob Nkate, Gomolemo Motswaledi, Thato Kwerepe, Kentse Rammidi, Mpho Balopi and Botsalo Ntuane. “But it is an irreversible trend. Money now buys office. Those without money are being reduced to voting fodder for the monied. They are second class members who will never compete for big positions until they also have money to buy votes and build networks,” said the former Central Committee member who also served as MP at some point.

“Bulela Ditswe also placed lots of demands on candidates by voters who ordinarily would not participate in party activities. They had to be fed, transported and it is becoming common for them to be paid in exchange for their vote. It is also common for opposition supporters to be recruited to vote in bulela ditswe with full knowledge of both transacting parties.”

BDP is preparing for its first elective congress under the leadership of Masisi. The party, for the first time since formation, postponed its elective congress in order to nurse its fragile state while preparing for its most crucial elections in its history. Already there are indications that party members have grown disgruntled with the party Secretary General and his position is the most sought after as the party heads to July’s elections.

Unlike previous elections there are little fears that the party may split, but the party is charting into new territory. As new blood takes centre stage, most of the party’s traditions will be surrendered, and largely unconsciously. When Khama announced his departure from the party in 2019, it also presented a new chapter in the party’s history. It was the end of the Khama dynasty, a family which has been part of the party fabric since formation.

The 2019 general elections also provided new dynamics: BDP is no longer a party of Central District. In fact, it is charting new territory. BDP survived 2019 general elections, largely on account of urban and peri-urban vote in the southern part of Botswana.  Whether that will sustain the party in power remains to be seen.

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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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