In his recent response to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Dumelang Saleshando, the leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), passionately criticized the ruling party’s failure to deliver on its promises. Saleshando focused on evaluating the goals outlined in the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) 2019 manifesto, which aimed to advance the country towards a more inclusive economy. However, Saleshando’s analysis reveals that Masisi’s administration has fallen short in several key areas.
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One of the most pressing issues facing Botswana is unemployment. Saleshando highlighted that when Masisi assumed office in 2018, the unemployment rate stood at 19.8%. However, under his leadership, it has risen to 23.5%, with youth unemployment reaching a staggering 33.5%. This alarming increase in unemployment demonstrates that Botswana has not become an inclusive economy under Masisi. Instead, it has excluded the country’s most educated generation since independence, trapping them in poverty and denying them opportunities for upward mobility.
Another area where Masisi has failed is in attracting investment to Botswana. Saleshando pointed out that the investment to GDP ratio currently stands at 24.96%, the lowest since 2016. This decline in investment has made Botswana less attractive as a destination for potential investors. Saleshando cited an example from the tourism industry, where a business owner in Maun expressed difficulties in convincing shareholders to expand their operations in Botswana due to a lack of transparency and predictability in the business environment. This lack of confidence among investors hampers economic growth and job creation.
Furthermore, Saleshando criticized Masisi’s failure to address the issue of land leases, particularly in the tourism sector. Employers in this industry are now forced to operate without long-term land leases, making it difficult for them to plan and invest in their businesses. Additionally, citizens who are eager to invest in new ventures are unable to secure land for their operations. Masisi’s promise to provide flexibility for business operators to locate their operations in residential areas has proven to be another empty pledge aimed at securing votes.
Food insecurity is another pressing concern that has worsened under Masisi’s presidency. Statistics Botswana reports indicate that moderate to severe food insecurity has increased from 31.7% in 2019 to 34.9% in 2022. This means that more Batswana are experiencing reduced access to nutritious food, with some individuals even forced to skip meals due to the lack of prospects for a plate of food. Severe food insecurity has risen from 20% in 2021 to 26% in 2022, highlighting the failure of Masisi’s administration to address this critical issue.
Moreover, Saleshando raised concerns about the lack of transparency and proper procedures in the negotiations with HB Antwerp, a new company in the diamond industry. He pointed out that these negotiations were conducted outside established government institutions, with key bodies such as the mineral policy committee and the Okavango Diamond Company management and Board not being involved. This lack of transparency raises questions about the integrity of the deal and the potential negative impact it may have on Botswana’s diamond sector.
Lastly, Saleshando criticized the BDP’s double standards when it comes to awarding tenders. While the party publicly condemned the award of tenders to members of the Khama family during former President Khama’s tenure, they see no issue with awarding tenders to President Masisi’s siblings, who lack the necessary business credentials. This inconsistency undermines the credibility of the BDP and raises concerns about favoritism and nepotism within the government.
In conclusion, Saleshando’s analysis of Masisi’s presidency reveals a failure to deliver on promises and address critical issues facing Botswana. Unemployment rates have risen, investment has declined, food insecurity has worsened, and transparency and proper procedures have been neglected in key negotiations. These failures highlight the need for a change in leadership and a renewed commitment to inclusive economic policies that prioritize the well-being and prosperity of all Batswana.
Former leader of opposition and current Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando has this week delivered a yet passionate response to President Mokgweetsi Masisi‘s State of Nation Address (SONA).
The main aim of Saleshando’s speech was to scrutinize the promises that were made by Masisi and the ruling party Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2019.He did so by evaluating every goal under the BDP manifesto of 2019 that was themed “Advancing Together towards a More Inclusive Economy. Masisi o a re bitsa!”
The Maun West Member of parliament (MP) firstly dealt with the unemployment rate in Botswana. He stressed that high or rising unemployment makes it difficult for individuals and households to escape poverty and the indignity that accompanies it.
“When President Masisi assumed office in 2018, unemployment in Botswana stood at 19.8% and today it stands at 23.5% .Unemployment for the youth stands at 33.5%.We can thereby conclude that Botswana has not become an inclusive economy under President Masisi. We have an economy that excludes our most educated generation since independence.”
According to Saleshando, Botswana is becoming less attractive as an investment destination due the decline in the investment to Gross domestic product (GDP) ratio.
“The investment to GDP ratio stands at 24.96%, the lowest since 2016. It is not a surprise that the economy has been underperforming under the Masisi government. One operator in the tourism industry based in Maun recently informed me how it has become difficult to persuade his shareholder to commit more resources to expanding their business interests in Botswana. The main reason for their resistance is that Botswana lacks the transparency and predictability that is needed in business for investors to commit their resources.”
He further stated that since Masisi’s administration, employers in the tourism sector have to operate with no long-term land leases.
“Likewise, citizens who are ready and willing to risk their investments in new ventures, are unable to do so as they are unable to secure land for their operations. The promise by the President in 2019 that there will be flexibility for business operators to locate their operations in residential areas was yet another false promise aimed at securing votes.”
Saleshando highlighted that Statistics Botswana reports indicate that moderate to severe food insecurity has increased from 31.7% in 2019 to 34.9% in 2022.
“Increased number of Batswana are on less nutritious food and reduced food quantities than was the case before the Masisi presidency. Severe food insecurity refers to instances where individuals have been forced to skip meals because there is simply no prospect of them getting a plate of food. Severe food insecurity has increased in Botswana from 20% in 2021 to 26% in 2022.”
He further stated that Masisi announced that a deal had been reached with a new company in the diamond industry called HB Antwerp and government was to have a 24% stake in the company.
He said the negotiations with the company were conducted outside the established government institutions and that the mineral policy committee, a body that advises Government of Botswana on strategic mineral matters was not involved in the HB Antwerp negotiations.
“The Okavango Diamond Company management and Board were not involved in the negotiations with the company although they are hugely affected by the deal. The Botswana Diamond Hub, a body responsible for the development of the diamond value chain was also not part of the negotiations. Our new partner in the diamond sector has been in the news for the wrong reasons.”
According to the Maun MP, BDP leadership has publicly condemned the award of Botswana Defense Force (BDP) tenders to members of the Khama family for the period that former President Khama was in the leadership of the BDF and later when he was in the leadership of the country.
“The same BDP sees nothing wrong with the award of government tenders to President Masisi siblings, who had no business credentials to speak of before their brother set foot at the Office of the President. They will rather mumble in the corridors.”
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.