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Ministers takes over parliament control

With many political observers already worried by the waning powers of parliament, State President Minister Kabo Morwaengs proposed changes to the parliamentary standing orders is set to further weaken the legislative house albeit handing more powers to the executive.

Following the increase of Ministers in 2016, parliament has been captured by the executive as the Ministers outnumber ordinary Members of Parliament (MPs), a development that led to parliament becoming a mere rubber stamp of executive orders. It emerged this week that the Minister has proposed changes to the standing orders, although they have not been well received generally from democracy advocates and some MPs, it is likely that the majority rule in Parliament will see them pass.

One of the changes set to be debated by the Parliament in June/July meeting is that the Leader of the House be allowed more time when compared to other recognized leaders during all debates. This, according to Morwaeng is done so as to allow the VP to represent the government position. Ordinary MPs gets ten minutes to debate. It is also proposed that there should be a new standing order to allow for elucidation by other Ministers/Leader of the House under pre-determined conditions especially given cross cutting nature of some questions.

Individuals who intend to livestream parliamentary proceedings shall do so with the prior arrangements and permission of the Business Advisory Committee, another proposal reads. Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando has been streaming parliament live on his Facebook page, this means he will have to engage with the business advisory committee.

Morwaeng also suggests that, Unless in exception circumstances, urgent motions must be given a 48 hours notice period before presentation in parliament. The Speaker shall afford the mover and the portfolio minister an opportunity to appear before him in chambers before deciding on the urgency of the motion. However, in the case the Speaker deems the motion to be urgent and worthy of presentation to parliament, while the Minister insists it is not urgent, a question of urgency shall be put to the General Assembly.

A portfolio Minister according to the proposed changes, must always be given priority to be the first to respond to any motion immediately following the movers presentation. In terms of the statements made in parliament, it is suggested that they must be given not less 48 hours notices and the portfolio ministers must be given a copy of the statement that has been submitted for consideration by the speaker. Further the portfolio minister must as well be given an opportunity to respond at the end of the short questions and responses by the mover of the statement.

The casual manner of MPs during voting of preceding of follow their votes with a comment will deem their vote spoil in the new dispensation. It is recommended that there shall be creation of another standing order which says the name of the President shall not be used in a derogatory manner, disrespectfully or impute any improper motives in the person of the President in any parliamentary debate.

OPPOSITION TRASHES AMMENDMENDS

Selibe Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse says the proposed standing orders which are akin to apartheid laws will be rejected and disobeyed. The ruling party will abuse its majority to get their way and curtail parliamentary democracy by fraudulently and flagrantly overhauling the Standing Orders. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will vehemently and contemptuously reject all manner of attempts to violate democratic ethos and perpetuate tyranny of the majority in Parliament. If need be, the UDC will challenge the imposed Standing Orders by the ruling party in court to declare them unconstitutional. No laws or regulations comparable to apartheid will be tolerated.

The ruling party must get the message that Botswana parliament is not their House, Tsholetsa house, it belongs to Batswana. Like Christian legal philosophers St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas said that Lex iniusta non est lex, ‘an unjust law is not a law’, we will disobey any unjust, unreasonable and unconstitutional law imposed on MPs under the guise of instilling discipline. We will also reject and challenge all endeavors to STOP live broadcasting of Parliament.

We can only accept progressive suggestions to move forward towards democratic consolidation. Some provisions of the Standing Orders are obsolete and unconstitutional in a manner that suggests a democracy thats regressing and not consolidating. Some sections of the Standing Orders limit freedom of speech including freedom to hold opinions protected by Section 12 of the Constitution. These Standing Orders stifle free parliamentary debates in that the Speaker is able to make some arbitrary decisions at times.

They give the executive more time and opportunity to have amplified voice in parliament more than ordinary MPs. Government Business dominates parliamentary proceedings compared to Private Members Business such as questions, motions and Bills among others. There is an attempt to make this worse!

There is a tradition by the President to address Parliament seated on a chair referred to as State Chair in the Standing Orders. The President after his delivery of the SONA leaves the House and seldom returns to hear MPs debate his speech and never responds to their deliberations. The response is done by the Leader of Government Business, being the Vice President or any Minister acting in that capacity.

This is despite the fact the President wields enormous powers; he has executive powers and can decide alone, prorogues Parliament or decides when its session can start and end and can dissolve it at any time for any reason. All this points to a crooked system that undermines and degrades Parliament. The system promotes disrespect of Parliament and non-accountability by the President. The special State Chair, placed permanently in the Chamber, must be abolished in the Parliament Standing Orders.

It has over the years become a symbol of domination or subjugation of Parliament by the President or the executive. The President should be purely primus inter pares among us his parliamentary colleagues, not some political leviathan of the House the system has created. The US President addresses Congress, especially on his presentation of the State of the Union and on other key addresses, like asking it to declare a state of war, while standing.

This also applies to the British Prime Minister and South African President as well as most Heads of State and Government. In the UK, the Prime Minister doesnt have any special chair, even in the South African Parliament, there is no specially manufactured chair for the President.

Botswana Parliament Standing Orders and tradition dont specifically permit African traditional or religious regalia, especially for male MPs, as only the colonial jacket and tie are allowed. Even smart casual wear on Fridays or any other day isnt allowed. This archaic system belongs to the dustbin of history as it also interferes with the right wear what one wants. We need modern democratic Standing Orders.

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BTC launches the 3rd Francistown Marathon 2024 and handover proceeds to the 2nd Francistown Marathon beneficiaries

8th December 2023

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTC) has announced that its 3rd Francistown Marathon will be held on Saturday 20th April 2024 at Obed Itani Chilume Stadium in Francistown. The BTC Francistown Marathon is officially recognised by World Athletics and a Comrades Marathon Qualifier will offer race categories ranging from 42.2km, 21.1 km, 10km, 5km fun run, 5km peace run for children and has introduced a 5km and 10km categories for wheelchairs athletics.

BTC also used this opportunity to announce beneficiaries who received donations from proceeds made from the 2nd BTC Francistown Marathon that was held on April 23rd 203.  BTC donated a play area, plastic chairs and wooden tables for pupils worth a total of thirty eight thousand, one hundred and three pula, fifty thebe each (P38, 103.50) to Monarch Primary School, Tatitown Primary School, Mahube Primary School and Gulubane Primary School. Ditladi and Boikhutso clinics each received a donation of benches, television sets and 10, 000 litre water tanks worth thirty seven thousan, eight hundred and ninety eight pula (P 37, 898.00). Additionally, BTC also donated seventy thousand pula (P70,000.00) to their marathon technical partner, Francistown Athletics Club (FAC) which will be used for daily operations as well as to purchase equipment for the club.

The BTC Francistown Marathon aligns seamlessly with BTC’s corporate social investment programme, administered through the BTC Foundation. This programme is a testament to BTC’s dedication to community development, focusing on key areas such as health promotion. The marathon, now in its third year, not only promotes a healthy lifestyle but also channels all proceeds to carefully chosen charities as part of BTC’s commitment to impactful and sustainable projects.

Speaking at the launch, the BTC Managing Director Mr Anthony Masunga stated that the marathon underscores BTC’s commitment to community upliftment and corporate social investment. He stated that “the annual event which has been in existence since 2016, having taken a break due to the covid and other logistical issues, is instrumental to the economic upliftment of the city of Francistown”. He congratulated all the beneficiaries for having been nominated to receive the donations, adding that “the donation of proceeds from the 2023 marathon aims to highlight BTC’s commitment and heart for Batswana and our continued impact in the different industries”.

He further stated that through this marathon, “we demonstrate our steadfast commitment to having a good influence on our communities, this event is a manifestation of our dedication to promoting education and a healthier, more active society”.  He concluded by stating that “BTC looks forward to another successful marathon that will leave a lasting positive influence on the greater Francistown community and the country at large” he said.

Giving welcome remarks, the Councillor for Donga, Honourable Morulaganyi Mothowabarwa stated that “he is ecstatic that BTC is collaborating with the City of Francistown on yet another installment of the Marathon”. He continued to offer his support to BTC to enable this marathon to continue over the coming years, stating that the “CSI element is a welcome development that helps empower our communities”, he said.

The 3rd BTC Francistown Marathon is officially open for registrations and athletes may use the following platforms to register and pay; through Smega by dialling *173# and choosing opton 5, then choose Option 3 for the Francistown marathon, at any BTC store or by visiting the BTC website and clicking on the BTC Francistown Marathon and choosing the relevant options.

 

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Letsholo lauds President Masisi’s digitization in fight against corruption

8th December 2023

Thapelo Letsholo, Member of Parliament for Kanye North, delivered a moving speech at the United Nations International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration, praising President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption. Letsholo highlighted the importance of embracing digitalization in governance as a crucial step in curbing corrupt practices.

According to Letsholo, the implementation of digital systems in government services can significantly reduce direct interactions between citizens and officials, which often serve as fertile grounds for corruption. By minimizing these opportunities for illicit activities, the efficiency and transparency of public services can be enhanced. Letsholo pointed to Estonia’s success in digital governance as an example, where public services have become more transparent, accessible, and efficient.

The MP commended President Masisi’s commitment to digitalization and E-Governance, emphasizing that it aligns with global anti-corruption standards. He called for full support and active participation from all sectors to ensure the success of this initiative.

Letsholo also stressed the importance of improving detection methods and refining whistleblower laws to effectively combat corruption. He highlighted the unseen and unspoken facets of corruption as its lifelines, emphasizing the need for robust detection mechanisms and a system that encourages and protects whistleblowers.

Addressing the societal role in fighting corruption, Letsholo focused on the crucial role of everyday citizens and civil servants who often witness corrupt practices firsthand. He acknowledged the existing reluctance to report corruption due to the perceived risks of repercussions. To change this narrative, Letsholo advocated for creating an environment where staying silent is deemed more detrimental than speaking out. He called for a cultural shift where the potential benefits of exposing corruption outweigh the risks, ensuring that whistleblowers are protected and feel secure in coming forward.

Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a system that not only detects and reports corruption but also supports those who stand against it. He expressed hope that under President Masisi’s digitalization initiatives, the future of governance in Botswana will be characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability. Letsholo’s speech resonated with the sentiments of hope and determination that permeated the commemoration, emphasizing the need for unity in the fight against corruption.

In summary, Letsholo lauded President Masisi’s digitalization initiative in the fight against corruption, highlighting its potential to curb corrupt practices, enhance efficiency and transparency in public services, and align with global anti-corruption standards. He emphasized the importance of improving detection methods, refining whistleblower laws, and creating an environment where speaking out against corruption is encouraged and protected. Letsholo called for collective responsibility and action in creating a future characterized by integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance.

 

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FaR property assets value clock P1.47 billion

6th December 2023

FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.

FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.

One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.

The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.

Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.

In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.

FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.

The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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