Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 18 September 2018 - Botswana Guardian
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 12:27

BMC retrenchment extends to all abattoirs

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is continuing to bleed cash losses, as management and stakeholders fail to conclude ongoing restructuring of the parastatal that was expected by end of August.BMC management has been engaged in negotiations with Botswana Meat Industry Workers Union (BMIWU) regarding retrenchment of employees especially from the Francistown abattoir.

The union is said to have expressed disappointment at the manner in which the BMC management want to fast track the restructuring without considering the extent at which this would impact workers.One of the outstanding issues has been that initially the restructuring was to affect the Francistown plant only but things have changed and all the BMC plants are now affected. Brian Dioka, BMC spokesperson has allayed fears that the delay is due to a stalemate on negotiations between management and union on the intended restructuring.

“We have not achieved much in getting to finality, we agree with the union that having a plant running in Francistown without production is a painful cost,” said Dioka citing that the abattoir has been idle since October last year.Last month BMC told Botswana Guardian that the parastatal has hatched a plan to place its loss making Francistown plant under care and maintenance to save the parastatal a whopping P35 million every year.

The decision came after government, the main shareholder, approved restructuring request and disbursed a budget in excess of P30 million. Sources within BMC have indicated that a stalemate has ensued over packages, but Dioka has dismissed the claims.“We never differed but modalities of getting it (restructuring) completed have stalled the process,” said Dioka.

Currently BMC has kept a skeleton staff at the Francistown abattoir to ensure the premises are not vandalised and machines are running while most are earning salaries from home, a worrying situation to BMC.“We just have to find ways to finalise. These are not cheap employees, they are paid industry standard salaries,” said Dioka, adding that although the process is taking long conclusion will be reached.

BMIWU Chairman Negro Thebe could not be reached for comment at press time even though he had agreed to the interview.Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) where BMIWU affiliates Thusang Butale told this publication that they are assisting BMIWU in the whole process. He explained that currently they are waiting for a report from the affiliate on progress.

“As things stand now we know the negotiation is still ongoing and our affiliate would accordingly give us the report. The delay, we understand, has been caused by the fact that the process which initially focused on the Francistown Plant has now been extended to other BMC office. What we have been given so far is that negotiations have not been exhausted and we would give BMIWU the chance and when there’s need for us to join the fray we would do so,” said Butale who added that they engage BMIWU from time to time.

Published in News
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 12:20

Dalai Lama will never visit Botswana

The spiritual leader of Tibet Dalai Lama will not be allowed in Botswana anymore. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation, Gaeimelwe Goitsemang said this when answering a question on Tuesday at the Public Accounts Committee meeting.

PAC member Prince Maele wanted to know if Botswana has a foreign policy and what values is it predicated on, in light of the mixed signals conveyed by the recent visit to China by President Mokgweetsi Masisi and last year’s refusal of Dalai Lama to visit Botswana.
Goitsemang said a foreign policy ideally should be informed by the country’s national interests which should be defined over time.

In Botswana our national interests are contained in Vision 2036, which is a blueprint for the country’s vision to become an upper middle income country.He said that there is no country that practises ethical foreign policy, because a foreign policy is always a hybrid of national interests and principles that a country espouses or envisages.

He said that Botswana believes that in whatever we do, we should not antagonise our interests as a nation and also in dealing with other nations, we should be sensitive to protect our interests and derive value from the relationship.  He explained that in foreign policy, the chief diplomat is the head of state hence under international law whatever statement is made by the head of state reflects the foreign policy of a country.

Historically, Botswana’s foreign policy has always been guided by principles, but what will differ is the posture of the head of state at any given time. He said that posture speaks to approach. For example, in one instance the approach could be to engage and in another to refrain from pronouncing a position on a given issue.

As for China, he said it was true they have just returned from the Asian giant, which they consider as “our strategic partner in development” pointing to the opportunities that can be derived from there. PAC chairman Abraham Kesupile wanted to know what has changed in our foreign policy to which Goitsemang cited the approach. “Like I said the end of the day it is a question of who is the head of state as he is the one who gives direction. So for us as the ministry, we are implementers”.

Would the Dalai Lama be allowed to enter Botswana if he wished to come here like before? Goitsemang reiterated the One China Policy that regards Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, saying Botswana fully subscribes to this longstanding policy. “So the issue of Dalai Lama coming here being recognised as the leader of Tibet, it can’t work,” said Goitsemang.

Published in News

Rural development is centred on natural resources and agriculture. The effects of climate change on the ecosystem have since worsened the plight of the rural poor, as natural resources and agriculture - the main sources of sustenance - are under threat.

Most affected are women and girls whose gendered chores dictate that they walk great lengths to fetch water as nearby rivers have dried up, and to gather firewood for cooking and lighting. According to the Case Study of Botswana on Gender and Climate Change published by Edwin Pool in October 2016, firewood is an energy resource which is no longer near homesteads because of climate change driven desertification.

When carrying out these strenuous daily tasks, Pool’s findings show that women and girls risk being raped by men, and being attacked by wild animals. In order to lessen the burden carried by women and girls, organisations such as Now for Them Community Trust have implemented programmes like Marang a Thuto, aimed at increasing access to energy in rural Botswana, despite the financial challenges faced by this effort to aid climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“We donated 325 solar lamps in 2017. Villages that have benefitted from our efforts from 2016 to date are Mabalane, Sojwe, and Shadishadi to cite a few,” said Sarah Mulwa, Founder and President of Now for Them Community Trust. Her project donates solar lamps to rural scholars whose households are not connected to the national electricity grid.

Following the donation, the trust carried out research which revealed that students in rural communities no longer perform poorly as compared to those in towns and cities, as household roles and poverty no longer restricted studying to only during the day.  “To be able to donate lamps we run a yearly campaign called 100km Makgadikgadi Pans Walk for Solar Lamps for Rural Scholars in Botswana, which raises funds across the world to purchase solar lamps. This campaign began in 2017,” she said.

The donated solar lamps have also positively impacted the lives of women; who feel secure not living in the dark, and children living with disabilities. Such initiative which strives to promote the use of renewable energy could achieve a lot with financial support from the government as the main socio-economic development driver, but the project has had no such luck.

On August 24, 2018, Sarah Mulwa and colleagues embarked on yet another 100km fundraising walk, with the hope to raise enough funds to purchase and subsequently donate 1000 lamps.

Coal production plans
While citizenry are advocating for solar energy, the government is planning on investing funds in increasing Botswana’s coal plants from seven to 27, and ramping up Morupule Coal Mine’s annual production to 8-million metric tonnes by 2025 from 2.8-million tonnes. All with the desire to ensure that Botswana produces enough electricity to meet its domestic consumption and hopefully export the surplus – strategically harmonising its balance of trade by reducing the import bill.

These plans have since brought Botswana’s commitment to the Paris Agreement under scrutiny, with some questioning Botswana’s ability to play a credible leading role in addressing climate change and sustainable development.“We wish to see the government moving towards energy security which promotes the use of renewable energy especially solar, and biogas as we have enough waste to generate heat and electricity,” said Mulwa.

Nevertheless, with the high costs that come with transitioning to solar, she understands the government’s predicament. “It is our government’s responsibility to provide affordable and sufficient energy to our people so cutting subsidies will negatively affect the less privileged and stifle our efforts towards poverty reduction.

The challenge with solar is the high cost of storage, which technology is making strides to improve, however we can employ an energy mix that allows us to use solar during the day while the sun shines and use coal at night, until we phase out coal,” she said.
Tshepo Tsito, Founder of the Kalahari Culture & Nature Safaris who was born and raised in Palapye, a small town where the Morupule Coal Mine is located, also sees the need for a smooth transition to renewable energy given the positives and negatives emanating from coal production.

“Morupule provides employment for my community and its surrounding areas, it boosts buying power of small local businesses and contributes to the existence of add on services such as transport,” he shared. However, he said the mine has resulted in persistent air pollution, it has taken land reserved for agriculture from locals, and has contributed to common social ills such as alcohol and substance abuse among the youth. Hence he urged the government to invest in ozone layer friendly technologies.

Climate financing
In an effort to diversify Botswana’s energy mix, and create an enabling environment for the exploitation of renewable energy, the government of Botswana says it has made significant strides in the development of the climate change policy, national climate change strategy and action plan, integrated waste management policy, and the energy policy development led by the Ministry of Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.

For Botswana to fulfil its commitments under and beyond the Paris Agreement, and achieve its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which outline efforts to achieve overall emissions reduction of 15 percent by 2030, Botswana says it will require financial support, it envisions, more than it is currently investing into coal. 

“The plan is to get USD100 billion from the green climate fund. The money will fund three renewable energy projects we have in mind. We believe we would have done a lot in the development of these renewable energy projects by 2045. So in 2045, we will cap our use of coal,” said Thabang Botshoma, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Conservation and Tourism.

He said there is also need for coordinated efforts in innovative domestic resource mobilisation. With the money, Botshoma said the government will be able to fund the transition. “We want to build a 100 megawatts solar power plant in Jwaneng.
We are also trying to get funds to build a 200 megawatts solar power plant. The off grid plant will cater for rural communities,” he explained.

Sharing his sentiments, Katrin Hagemann, Head of Political Affairs, Delegation of the European Union to Botswana and SADC, said it is unrealistic for Botswana to suddenly stop the use of coal. Moreover she said that solar in Botswana has a big future. “Botswana’s population is small, which makes its use of coal a non-issue.

The problem comes with the need to export huge coal reserves, this becomes a climate change issue, as it means pollution. Because of this we will continue to advocate for solar. So far the country has some promising solar projects,” said Hagemann.

Effects of climate change
In the last decade climate change has led to about USD2.5 trillion in disaster losses in developing countries. The number of people affected by natural disasters doubled from 102 million in 2015 to 204 million in 2016.
About one third of the land, Botshoma said, is no longer fertile enough to grow food.

More than 1.3 billion people live on this deteriorating agricultural land, putting them at risk of climate driven water shortages and depleted harvests.Since 2001, droughts have wiped out enough produce to feed 81 million people every day for a year. Between 2014 and 2016, the Southern African region suffered the worst drought in 35 years, which left an estimated 41.4 million of the population in need of food aid.

“Botswana has not been spared, with an estimated 500, 000 livestock deaths, and over 30, 000 people left vulnerable to the impacts of the drought,” said Thabang Botshoma. As the devastating impacts of climate change continue to weigh heavily on vulnerable communities, it becomes evident that the government of Botswana should consider channelling more funds into large renewable energy projects, and small scale citizen efforts such as Marang a Thuto – all in an effort to mitigate swiftly.

Published in News
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 12:04

BOPEU leadership struggle stalemated

Factional wars within the leadership of the union of choice- Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) - is intensifying ahead of December congress billed for Kasane, Botswana Guardian has established.As the union prepares for its elective National General Congress from 10th to 13th December 2018, it has now come in the open that it would be a battle for the leadership of the union between two warring factions which are fighting before courts.

The rivalry between the two started off during a meeting in July this year in Gaborone where there were suspensions and counter suspensions. This resulted in a legal battle that pitted BOPEU as 1st Applicant followed by Ogaufi Masame, Zibani Philemon, Mosalagae Tlhako and Motswaledi Monaiwa against union President Masego Mogwera as 1st Respondent followed y Tlhabologo Galekhutle (Treasurer), Martin Gabobake (1st Deputy President), Topias Marenga (General Secretary) and Ketlhapelang Karabo (Deputy General Secretary).

Philemon and team have since appointed him as acting president of the union assisted by Masame.  Philemon and team approached the courts to force Mogwera and team out of office and pleaded with the courts to recognise them as legitimate BOPEU leadership. The matter has been taken up to the appeals court which has indicated that until there are court orders from High Court the appeal cannot be heard. This has left a stalemate between the two factions as there is no court order that has declared which faction is legitimate to lead the union. 

Information gathered by this publication is that a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting led by President Mogwera on Monday this week resolved to bring Philemon and team for disciplinary hearing. It is alleged that Philemon-led team refused to accept the letters calling them to appear before a commission to face the music. According to sources, Philemon’s team argued that there is no order of the court that confirms that suspension as has been pleaded by Mogwera and team before Lobatse High Court.

Last week the two factions dispatched letters to the union structures regarding the congress, causing more confusion among union members. The two letters are identical save for whom the names of delegates and observers should be forwarded to. One letter has been signed by Mogwera while the other by Philemon.

In an interview, Marenga representing Mogwera team, indicated that there should not be any confusion among BOPEU members. Marenga, who is the union General Secretary, stated that until there is an order of the court interdicting them to carry out the duties of the union then members should know that they are the legitimate National Office Bearers of BOPEU.

“We are currently dealing with some internal matters and in due cause we will deal with the matter regarding our comrades and their conduct. In a few weeks to come we would write letters to our structures on the matter and what is expected of them and outstanding matters would be dealt with,” said Marenga.

For his part, Philemon said without any court order issued against them, they are legitimate NOB as per the meeting of July this year. He indicated that before the congress everything would have been dealt with and “members have nothing to worry about because we have everything under control.” Philemon confirmed that they were summoned for disciplinary hearing but declined to discuss the matter further saying they would deal with the matter internally.

He explained that the union structures would be updated on any matter arising and they are still awaiting court orders from Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa regarding their case before they could return to the appeals court. Justice Nthomiwa has dismissed the urgency application that was launched by Philemon and crew. According to sources there could be more court battles with the union before the December congress is held.

Mogwera became BOPEU President after the then President Andrew Motsamai resigned to join Babereki Investment-BOPEU business arm as Executive Chairman. He was later relieved of his duties for allegations of misappropriation of funds.

Published in News
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 11:55

Tshekedi Khama under siege

Tshekedi Khama – minister for environment, natural resources conservation and tourism – is a man under siege. Lately his karma is taking a hard knock on account of his management of his ministry.

TK was forced to shoot from the hip on Monday during minister Unity Dow’s press conference at Mass Media Complex. Dr. Dow, international affairs and cooperation minister, had in not so many words made it clear that Khama was heavily conflicted as minister responsible for wildlife and a member of Tlhokomela Wildlife Trust at the same time.

Other members of this anti-hunting lobby group include Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders, whose report that was leaked to the international media suggesting that some 87 or so elephants were killed by poachers in northern Botswana has sparked an international uproar and blemished Botswana’s wildlife conservation record; former president Ian Khama and the Marketing Manager of Botswana Tourism Organisation, Jillian Blackbeard.

Dr. Dow cautioned: “Let us separate the private from the public” a direct reference to the conflicting positions of TK and Blackbeard and by extension former president, Ian Khama’s membership to an NGO whose primary motive is the agitation for continued imposition of wildlife hunting - whilst they hold or held public office. To make matters worse, Dr. Chase has been contracted by TK’s ministry to conduct the elephants study in northern Botswana.

But TK, who it was said, had ‘gate-crashed’ the press conference, wouldn’t be cowed into silence. He vigorously defended Dr. Chase’s report and dissociated himself from the Government rebuttal that was issued after the report was leaked. He said he only learnt of the rebuttal, which was full of errors, from social media and eventually implored Acting President, Slumber Tsogwane to instruct BDF and Police to do a survey to get a factual report about the alleged elephant massacre.

The jury is still out on this score, and Cabinet is expected to hear a full and comprehensive report next week Wednesday. Obviously, this TK’s outburst hit his Permanent Secretary, Thata Yaone Raphaka, below the belt. But, he couldn’t respond until he was asked how he was getting on with his minister and whether they were on talking terms to which he responded that indeed there are “issues” between them and they don’t get along well, but he would not be drawn to wash their dirty linen in public.

After the press conference Botswana Guardian asked TK if he had any personal or private interests in tourism that he could be protecting, to which he responded with an emphatic “No, I don’t” this, notwithstanding his membership to Tlhokomela Wildlife Trust.
Tshekedi Khama also defended calls by Dr. Chase, which were later reinforced by his wife, Thea, for the re-arming of the Anti Poaching Unit of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

Dr. Dow had earlier reiterated President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s viewpoint that, the arming of this Unit was illegal and tantamount to promoting “banditry”, as such an exercise flew in the face of their administration’s professed respect for the rule of law. But for Minister Tshekedi Khama, the first automatic weapons were supplied to this Unit as early as 1987. No one disputed his assertion, not the minister or the two PSs – Raphaka and Gaeimelwe Goitsemang.

 When Botswana Guardian asked Tshekedi Khama, under which law were the automatic weapons supplied to the Anti Poaching Unit of DWNP, he said it was at the “President’s discretion.”  President of Botswana in 1987 was the late Sir Ketumile Masire. Botswana Guardian could not ascertain the veracity of the minister’s assertion at the time of writing.

However, legal experts at the Attorney General’s Chambers told us that there is no Unit or Department of Government that is licensed to own weapons of war, except for the Botswana Defence Force.Not even the Police carry guns, except in emergency situations, said one lawyer.

Published in News
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