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UDC has failed Batswana!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

In Africa, it is almost unheard of for an opposition political party or coalition of opposition political parties to attain more than thirty percent of the popular vote.

Yet, in the 2014 general elections, while the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) attained 30% and 20.4% of the popular vote respectively, the ruling BDP garnered 46.7% of the popular vote. In terms of parliamentary seats, from a total voter turnout of 84.75%, while UDC and BCP attained 17 seats and 3 seats respectively, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 37 seats, suffering an attrition of 8 seats.

The BCP suffered a decline of 1 parliamentary seat. Though it was the first time the UDC contested the general elections, its contracting parties, the Botswana National Front (BNF) and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) collectively enjoyed an upsurge of 11 parliamentary seats. In 2014, therefore, the UDC and the BCP managed to attain a joint 50.4% of the popular vote and a joint 20 out of a total of 57 parliamentary seats.  

Such performance was, by all standards, exceptional, especially in a country where there is no funding of political parties; where the public media’s coverage is biased in favor of the ruling party; and where the state president uses state resources, including helicopters, during electoral campaigns and rallies. In 2009 the picture was not that rosy for the opposition. the BDP had attained a popular vote of 53.26 % compared to the BNF and BCP’s 21.94% and 19.15% respectively. In terms of parliamentary seats, while the BDP had won 45 seats, the BNF and BCP had won only 6 seats and 4 seats respectively.

Clearly, there is a reason why the opposition enjoyed such an upsurge of votes in 2014. In the main, the upsurge resulted from the votes of thousands of public sector employees who were dissatisfied not only by the way they were treated by government during the 2011 public sector strike, but also by the unfavorable terms and conditions of employment generally. Undoubtedly, the opposition was also voted by many youths who, despite several government’s so-called youth empowerment programmes (e.g. Young Farmers Fund, Youth Development Fund and Youth Employment Scheme), remained unemployed.

The opposition’s vote was also positively influenced by the voices of the media and civil society who, while projecting the failures of the BDP, presented the opposition as the answer to the many problems that Batswana suffered at the hands of the BDP under former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s reign. The BDP’s near loss of power in 2014 was also at the hands of its own -the BDP members who were dissatisfied by the way the BDP was running its affairs but had remained in the BDP when some defected and formed and/or joined the BMD.

With the BDP’s loss of the popular vote in 2014, some, especially in the opposition expected that the UDC will win the 2019 general elections. Then, such expectation or hope appeared plausible. The question is: is the expectation or hope still plausible today with about one year before the general elections?

After the 2014 general elections, rather than building on its gains the opposition experienced an erosion of its support base because of, inter alia, the conflicts within the BMD which resulted in its split in 2017, resulting in the birth of the Alliance for Progressives (AP). Truth be told. Prior to the split, the UDC failed to intervene decisively, claiming, through its leader, Honorable Advocate Duma Boko, that since the BMD is an independent entity it can not intervene in its affairs.

In my view, by so doing, the UDC failed Batswana for if it had intervened in the BMD debacle, a split, which has inarguably weakened the UDC, could have been avoided. Even after the AP split, the BMD has known no peace, with the result that the party’s leadership suspended almost its entire Youth League leadership after it publicly called for the resignation and/or expulsion of party president, Advocate Sidney Pilane, for his failure to lead the party.

Still, the UDC leadership folded its arms and did not intervene in the Youth League matter which resulted in further turbulence within the BMD, and by extension the UDC.   Following the admission of the BCP into the UDC, which the BMD and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) dispute, arguing that the current constitution recognizes only the BNF, BMD and BPP as the UDC’s contracting parties, there has been conflict between the BMD and BCP over the positions of UDC Vice President, among other things.  

Rather than dealing with the dispute decidedly, the UDC has been reticent, with some blaming the UDC’s reticence on Honorable Advocate Boko’s friendly relationship with the BCP leader, Dumelang Saleshando. This further caused divisions within the UDC. The divisions were exacerbated when Honorable Advocate Boko with Saleshando submitted, to the exclusion of Advocate Pilane and BPP president, Motlatsi Molapisi, the new UDC constitution for registration with the Registrar of Societies, something which the BMD and BPP opposed and wrote to the Registrar disowning the constitution.

It is common knowledge that the Registrar has since declined to register the constitution giving as one of the reasons for his declination the fact that the UDC is not an entity capable of registration under the Societies Act. This, even to a lay person, is a serious decision since it has implications on whether or not the UDC can, in its current form, lawfully contest elections in 2019. In fact, some have even opined that the BDP could approach the courts and seek to invalidate the election of all Members of Parliament (MPs) and Councilors who were elected under the UDC ticket in 2014.

Therefore, many thought that the UDC would, naturally, approach the courts to apply for a review of the Registrar’s decision. But, the UDC has to date, about two months after the decision was taken, not acted as such, breeding uncertainty among its members. There is another matter that shows the UDC’s failure to act. There has been disputes regarding constituency allocations to the contracting parties.

Some, especially in the BNF and BCP, are arguing that since the BMD was allocated constituencies on the basis of its strength before the AP split, now that its strength has been eroded following the split some of the constituencies allocated to it should be returned for reallocation. This matter is so serious that, at its conference in July this year, the BNF resolved that if the issue is not resolved the BNF should take the constituencies allocated to the BMD which it is entitled to by virtue of its 2014 electoral performance.

The situation in the UDC is so dire that at their July conferences, the BNF and the BCP resolved that if the conflicts within the UDC would not be resolved by mid-August, the BNF and the BCP should enter into a bilateral cooperation for the 2019 general elections. Today, it is mid-September, and the situation in the UDC is as bad as ever, if not worse, but nothing has been done to implement the conference resolution despite the fact that only one year remains before the 2019 general elections.

There has also been talk that the UDC or the BNF and BCP have taken a decision to expel Advocate Pilane from the UDC and nothing has happened in that regard. These debacles, which are mainly caused by the BMD, have caused the UDC to lose focus of agitating for its 2014 manifesto. Consequently, few Batswana know what the UDC stands for because its MPs have not done enough in terms of moving motions and asking questions in Parliament in line with the manifesto.

Some have even opined that the way the UDC leadership has been quite regarding national issues may make one think that they are compromised, e.g. through involvement in corruption, and fear being exposed should they comment on such matters. In its online edition of 17th September 2018, the Sunday Standard, under its column, The Watchdog, described the UDC best. It said “When it comes to lethargy, ineptitude and disorderliness, leaders of the UDC can proudly congratulate themselves for achieving what none us of thought possible only a few years back …”

Then writer continued to say “…The party, or whatever it is called, is no longer able to convene meetings. Even worse, it is no longer able to implement its own decisions. Umbrella for Democratic Change leaders do not speak with confidence on any national issues…” I agree.
In the meantime, the ascension of His Excellency the President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, to the presidency has given new life to the BDP, further reducing the UDC’s chances of attaining state power in 2019.

Though the Masisi factor will no doubt contribute to the BDP’s victory in 2019, UDC’s loss will mainly be because of its own failures and the extent to which it has failed Batswana. Its loss will be as a result of several own goals. The UDC has even failed to perform one simple task-releasing the report on the circumstances surrounding the late Gomolemo Motswaledi’s death in a car accident. It is as a result of these failures, many of which are elementary, that the UDC has lost a significant portion of its support base. One only needs to read newspapers and listen to the radio to reach that conclusion.

The private media, trade unions, including the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU), and civil society are no longer as anti-BDP and pro-UDC. On the contrary, many are praising H.E Masisi for returning their Botswana to them and would, in all likelihood, vote for the BDP in 2019. 

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Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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