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Is Masisi delivering on his inaugural speech? (Part 6)


This week, we are continuing with this series whose purpose is to consider whether or not His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, is delivering on his inaugural speech promises, commitments and undertakings.  

Last week we dealt with H.E Dr. Masisi’s his commitment to stimulate accelerated economic growth by continuing with measures to ensure the Ease of Doing Business for foreign and domestic investors. We also dealt with his commitment to promote the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), an important strategy which he said is aimed at giving Batswana an opportunity to set up industries to empower themselves and, in turn, to create the much-needed employment.

We also dealt with his undertaking to give potency to Botswana’s economic diversification aspirations by prioritizing the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritized sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services. We also dealt with his undertaking that government will also expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which, he said, will contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of this country.

We also dealt with his solemn commitment that his government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of the BCL mine. This week we deal with H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector which, he rightly said, would propel this country to greater heights in terms of economic stimulation, job creation and sustainable economic growth. 

We also deal with his commitment that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade through such agreements as the SADC Free Trade Area, Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, AGOA, SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the bilateral agreements Botswana has with other countries and development partners.

We also deal with his undertaking that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications. We also deal with his pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), water, energy, transport and road networks, to create an enabling environment for commerce and industry, as well as to stimulate the economy.

First, his commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector. Since ascending to the presidency, H.E Dr. Masisi has emphasised consultation. He has, in pursuit of this noble value, consulted with trade unions, the media, opposition political parties, etc. I may have missed it, but I have not heard of H.E Dr. Masisi’s meaningful engagement with Business Botswana as the body responsible for the private sector. If partnership between government and the private sector is to be enhanced that should be the starting point.

I may have also missed it, but I have not heard of H.E Dr. Masisi’s meaningful engagement with any of the major private sector companies in Botswana. It is hoped that his recent symposium with Steve Masiyiwa under the theme ‘Unlocking youth entrepreneurship through the knowledge-based economy is a start in that direction. No doubt, Masiyiwa, the founder of Mascom Wireless and the owner of a pan-African telecommunications, media and technology company with operations and investments in 29 countries, can help Botswana in job creation, especially among the youth.     

Second, H.E Dr. Masisi’s commitment that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade. H.E Dr. Masisi’s predecessor, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s aloofness from the international community has, no doubt, adversely affected Botswana both diplomatically and economically. If there is one thing that H.E Dr. Masisi has done well in the one year that he has been in office, it is repairing the damage that Dr. Khama had caused to our international relations and diplomacy.

His reprioritisation of our relations with Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states means we can better leverage from the SADC Free Trade Area Agreement and the SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement. The cordial relations he has reestablished with the African Union (AU) means we can better leverage from Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. H.E Dr. Masisi has relaunched Botswana into the world stage, potentially taking us back to the glory days of Dr. Khama’s predecessor, Festus Mogae and the late Sir Ketumile Masire in as far as international relations is concerned.

Consequently, our chances of making maximum benefit from such international agreements as the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement and the United States sponsored African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) have become enhanced. Since assuming office, H.E Dr. Masisi has worked tirelessly to mend bilateral relations which had soured during the Khama regime, for instance with the Peoples’ Republic of China, a relationship which, if properly nurtured, may create thousands of jobs for our people.

Not only that. H.E Dr. Masisi has travelled the globe, nurturing already existing bilateral relations and creating new ones. His recent visit to Qatar is likely to bring dividends to such sectors as agriculture, beef imports, hotels, and ICT, which Ambassador Manyepedza P Lesetedi says the Qataris are interested in. Some are accusing H.E Dr. Masisi of being a globe trotter whose globetrotting is costing the country millions of Pula. I disagree. Considering the damage that Dr. Khama caused over a period of ten years, and less than rosy economic situation we are in, we need more of what H.E Dr. Masisi is doing.

Obviously, we cannot reap the fruits now, but seeds are being sown the world over. It is now up to the Ministry of Investment Trade & Industry, Botswana Investment & Trade Centre, Business Botswana and the private sector to water the seeds so that they grow and bear fruits in the form of investment, job creation and economic growth.  Third, H.E Dr. Masisi’s undertaking that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications.

We have already discussed H.E Dr. Masisi’s laudable efforts in as far as nurturing bilateral and multilateral relations is concerned. One of the first things that H.E Dr. Masisi did after assuming office was the relaxation of VISA restrictions as well as making it easier for one to apply for a residence and work permit. It would be recalled that during the Khama era, the Ambassador of the Peoples’ Republic of China in Botswana complained of the stringent VISA and residence and work permit requirements, lamenting that they deterred possible investors from his country from coming to Botswana.

Aware that Botswana is rated poorly in the Ease of Doing Business index, H.E Dr. Masisi has lived up to his promise to remedy this not only by improving the immigration regime, but also by simplifying the company registration process and making the tax regime more attractive to investors. Fourth, H.E Dr. Masisi’s pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors.

While our electricity supply is stable and there are limited power outages, especially in strategic economic zones, the same cannot be said about water supply, especially in rural areas including such villages as Molepolole which are, strictly speaking, part of greater Gaborone.
Commendable work is going on in terms of improving our roads, something which can only improve our transport and road networks. There is an ongoing project led by Botswana Fibre Networks Ltd (BoFiNet) in terms of which businesses are provided, free of charge, with infrastructure for fibre optic internet connectivity.  

We all know that good infrastructure is an enabler of economic growth since it creates an enabling environment for commerce and industry to thrive. Not only that. Infrastructure development creates employment, thereby creating the purchasing power needed to boost economic growth. No doubt, in as far as the promises discussed in this article are concerned, H.E Dr. Masisi has laid a solid ground towards their realization. But ahead lies difficulty, for it is in implementation that his leadership will be tested.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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