Monday, 01 August 2016 13:39

Let go BCL stake

The sole reason of operating a business is to get sustained profits, nothing else. This does not matter if government or a private investor owns the business. I am compelled to reiterate this statement because of the current tightrope that government is currently walking through in a desperate attempt to save BCL copper mine.

Looking from a distance, it will appear the executive arm of government is having limited options. However, some four hundreds of kilometers, north of the capital city, more than 4500 workers trek to BCL copper mine in Selibe-Phikwe to make a fortune for the company and a meal for their families. However, in recent months, workers and indeed management have become increasingly jittery and restless. The fear? They might just wake up and discover the government had closed the mine, for good! For sometime now, BCL has dominated high-leveled closed-door meetings at the government enclave. The agenda items centred on how the copper mine should operate sustainably and profitably.

Two weeks ago, a local business weekly made chilling death knell to miners with its article titled ‘Finished and Klaar’. In the article, the paper said cabinet has taken a decision to close the mine as it is not sustainable to run. The determination on whether to shut down the mine or not remains a very challenging decision to make by cabinet. However, what is key is what government should do with a profitable future BCL. The mine is currently operating at a loss and it has a mountain of debts to descend from. However, the mine is currently not producing anything to generate revenue, let alone pay its numerous creditors. It will seem BCL top executives these days spend more time discussing how they could sweeten their funding proposals for impactful responses.

However, what is becoming clearer by the day is that the same government is running impatient that BCL has now become more of a burden, competing with other equally important national projects, with its piling financial proposals on the back rock of drying state coffers.

It’s a precarious situation for President Ian Khama’s government, which is expected to post a P6 billion deficit in its current budget (2016-17). The choice to close the mine will not be helpful for now, as government has to first recover the invested billions of Pula. Government has also made guarantees to BCL mine, including the recent $100 million from Barclays bank. Any solution must ensure the mine returns to profitability in the medium term. This of course, is if the global commodity crunch was to end and prices for copper warrant sustained mining.

While government’s top officials are still in deep thoughts about how to deal with BCL, the critical matter that should be lingering on their heads is how to deal with the mine’s shareholding structure. It is a decision that could have been made some years ago, but unfortunately it was not to be. Currently, government is the sole shareholder at BCL. This has become increasingly knotty, as whatever demand BCL makes government has to bear it alone. In the modern business world, this kind of business model is eroding fast. It is even problematic for Botswana government, which surprisingly but forthrightly speaking, seems not to truly understand the art of mining.

I strongly believe that to solve this menace, once and for all, government should just sell part of BCL once the mine is profitable. The share sale will prove vital during unprofitable and unsustainable periods. If government had partnered with other investors shareholders at BCL, it could have acted as fallback and even more importantly, as a measure to spread risk in the highly volatile mining business. De Beers and Botswana have had a largely successful partnership with their Debswana.

For example, when Jwaneng was facing possible closure in the foreseeable future, the two shareholders quickly jumped in and invested P24 billion in a project known as Cut 8. The project is expected to prolong the life of the mine by at least a decade or so. When the Russian company, Norilsk sold its minority stake at BCL some few years ago leaving government as the sole shareholder, an expression of interest should have been opened immediately to invite strategic investors on board. At the current time, BCL’s aging equipment and mining underground become expensive; the deeper the mine, the more expensive and risky to run it.

Recent loss of lives at the mine can attest to this. The Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi admitted, as Bloomberg recently reported from Kigali, that the mine is costing them dearly. “It's unprofitable, unsustainable and expensive,” he said this on the sidelines of the African Union elective meetings two weeks ago. Further, the republic’s number two said they will continue to inject P1, 4 billion on the mine to keep it afloat every year, even when the company was to stop mining.

This perhaps shed some light on the imminent closure of the mine. To save taxpayers from further paying more for BCL problems alone, government should at the earliest possible time part sell the mine. This will not be for the first time that a government does this. In Russia, Vladimir Putin’s government has sold part of its stake at Alrosa to plug its budget deficit. For now, government is likely to come with a workable solution to keep the mine running. However, to avoid falling into the same pit year in and year out, government should sell part of its shareholding at the Selibe Phikwe mine. The money raised would be thrown in the economic diversification efforts.

Published in News
Tuesday, 26 July 2016 11:29

Are we a nation of failures?

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) said President Ian Khama is to blame for the unsuccessful campaign of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi in her bid to ascend the chairmanship of African Union Commission over the weekend.

The Minister wanted to replace the incumbent, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma but could not as she failed because she could not obtain the necessary two-thirds majority vote.According to BCP Information and Publicity Secretary, Dithapelo Keorapetse, the party is of the view that President Ian Khama should be blamed for the loss of Venson-Moitoi because of his isolationist foreign policy and snubbing of AU heads of state and government meetings for almost eight years. “It was Khama’s duty (not Festus Mogae or Mokgweetsi Masisi) to persuade the countries that abstained to vote for Venson-Moitoi,” said Keorapetse adding that it did not make diplomatic sense that Khama expected other Presidents to vote for his candidate whilst he was having fun at Makgadikgadi Epic and Presidential Performing Arts Competitions.Over the long weekend, the President joined party revelers at Makgadikgadi for quad bike rides and planes.

“Botswana will during this July session domesticate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) when the AU has fundamental misgivings about the ICC and some African countries are actually withdrawing from the Court. Botswana is ready to arrest and handover Africans indicted by the ICC but is unready to arrest and handover Americans indicted by the ICC,” writes Keorapetse adding that it was unrealistic and unreasonable for Khama to expect Africa to vote Botswana candidate under these circumstances.Vice President Masisi was quoted on Bloomberg after the elections saying, “The best defense is not to abuse, stick to the law. We would never allow our president to get away with murder. We are not being prescriptive, we are just asking that we up the game.”Speaking in an interview with BG News, Tati West MP, Biggie Butale who was in Moitoi’s campaign team said Khama could not be blamed for the loss because already the good work was done.

“Our campaign was going very well and during elections when some countries realized that we were going to win they abstained so as to stop our candidate from being confirmed as AU Commission Chair. Most people, like BCP, do not understand the geo-politics of Africa, that is why they make ill informed statement, shooting in the dark.” He said they are confident that Moitoi will emerge victorious in January next year. He reveals that some countries from West Africa have expressed desire that Khama should visit them but he declined to mention them.

“I will have to sit down with him first to pass the message. Botswana has a lot of respect in Africa. Quite a number of Presidents have asked me to convey to the President that he visits their countries” said Butale.According to Butale there are some countries in Southern Africa that want to field a different candidate in January. “They are our friends but we are confident that Moitoi will win because they want to frustrate us,” he said.

Venson- Moitoi managed to pass all election hurdles to the last stage as she remained the last candidate standing after others, in the former Uganda vice president, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy were eliminated.Venson-Moitoi is not the only woman from Botswana to be snubbed at a regional or international level. In 2014 African countries rejected Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme’s candidacy for the presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rather endorsing Senegalese Minister of Justice Sidiki Kaba as their preferred candidate.

In 2015 Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba failed in her bid to become the Commonwealth secretary-general. Dominica-born lawyer Patricia Scotland beat her to the post. The other candidate was Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the United States.Still in 2015 President Ian Khama nominated Dr. Gloria Somolokae as Botswana’s candidate for the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the period 2016-2019 but the candidate failed to get the nod. Keorapetse argues that these are women of substance who are qualified but were let down by “their President and Government who didn't campaign seriously for them.”  Khama and the government could have done more for these women and secured a place where it could play a meaningful role in international relations, he says.

Published in News

Retrospectively speaking, the recent reckless comments by Botswana on the highly sensitive South China Sea issue did not come as a surprise. Rather, it would have been a surprise had they said something substantive, objective and conforming to diplomatic etiquette.

I suppose by now, the diplomatic community here has gotten too accustomed to these ‘schizophrenic feats’ of its host. Although the comments were aimed at embarrassing China at international stage, they also served as a calculated move directed at exploiting strategic differences in US-China relations. A kind of rudimentary move to divide and conquer. All those keenly following the issue would be acquainted to the fact that the dispute is now snowballing into a geo-strategic and military tinderbox and the risk open conflict is real. The strategic warning signals are already there for all to see.  The ongoing strategic ‘posturing’ by both US and China in the South China Sea, which includes heightened rhetoric and deployment of strategic air and naval assets, are indicative of heightened risk of open conflict.

The US has so far shown determination to present itself as guarantor of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea dispute, thereby, not only challenging China in her sphere of influence but also disputing her territorial claim of the region. In backing this position, US Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter declared that, United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea is not and will not be an exception.

This prompted an angry response from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang, who said, I advise the US not to make a fool out of themselves in trying to be smart. Recently, Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Chinese Joint Staff Department has remarked that, We dont make trouble but we dont fear trouble. In the light of these overt developments, one would have expected our foreign policy practitioners to be aware that the South China Sea issue is evolving into a textbook standoff between two great powers. This would have surely informed approach and sensitivity into the issue.

However, Botswana’s comment on the South China Sea issue came from a foregone conclusion that China was an aggressor. This inversely supported US position on the matter and to an extent gave the Chinese an impression that Botswana was just following through on US ‘instructions.’

As far as I am concerned, this was not the case because it would insinuate an ‘ally-type’ of relationship between US and Botswana. Under President Khama, US-Botswana relations can be described as ‘love-on-the-rocks.’ They are no longer at a level where US can rely on Botswana for policy projection. The way I see it, the US retains peripheral influence and it is mostly institution-to-institution based. Although there are many factors affecting this relationship, as far as I am concerned, it boils down to trust. Khama’s government does not seem to trust Americans.

There is unpronounced suspicion by the Khama regime on US activities here, especially their relationship with private media. Having said that, there is also a narrative doing circles in political and security corridors, which accuses Americans of ‘propping’ UDC. Therefore, there is little or no room for US to have dictated to Botswana what to say. As far as I am concerned, the move was directed at further polarising the two major powers.

The more polarised, the more they are vulnerable to his personal exploits. This would then mean, the two countries would have to out-compete each other for his attention and ultimately for his Khama’s pseudo-philanthropy projects.
The fact is, the strategic end-goal of Khama in any engagement, is always premised on acknowledgement and affirmation.

Published in News

President Dr. Ian Khama’s government has come under heavy criticism for its deafening silence over the Panama leaks which continue to link local businesspeople to involvement in offshore accounts.

The scathing attacks were made by the former Speaker of Parliament Dr. Margaret Nasha recently in Francistown. Nasha, who dumped Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in favour of its offspring Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) said that since the Panama leaks, Khama has preferred remained tight lipped even though some local businessmen have been fingered in the alleged dirty tax evasion deal.  She pointed out that while other countries have taken measures against their citizens’ involvement in Panama, Khama’s regime has preferred to remain mum in the process leaving the public with more questions than answers.

“The British Prime Minister David Cameron was at one point under pressure as citizens wanted him to step down since he benefited from the Panama offshore accounts held by his father. This is a clear sign that the country’s powers that be are gravely concerned to the extent of knowing the truth about these offshore accounts. Khama’s silence on this issue is questionable as it leaves a lot of questions than answers,” she explained.

Her sentiments follow hard on recent revelations that President of the Court of Appeal Ian Kirby and Farouk Ismail, a major shareholder in Choppies, are also linked to the Panama leaks. Nasha said that people should start asking themselves questions as to why Khama is silent this time around. She suspects that a good number of influential figures of the country are connected to the leaks.

“Go ka se didimalwe jaana. Tjingwenyana tji yapo,” she added in Kalanga to the amusement of the crowd. Nasha is also disappointed that the current government is run without a National Development Plan which she said is like a budget. Her other worry is that running a country without a budget breeds fertile ground for money laundering by leaders.

“Corruption cases involving high ranking government officers are not brought before the court and this a laughable matter as these guys are hiding something. When rot was smelt at Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), we advised that an investigation be carried out to salvage the BMC only for the president to refuse until BMC went on its knees. When we tried to investigate Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) on their glass manufacturing plant in Palapye, Khama refused until the project collapsed and it will never stand up again. We have plenty of salt but the president doesn’t see the need to package it locally in the process creating employment,” she added.

Published in Northren Extra
Monday, 18 April 2016 15:28

How BR Express coaches were bungled

Botswana Guardian has turned up new evidence suggesting that the government - through the troubled Botswana Railways (BR) - was under immense pressure when it finally received the incomplete coaches from South Africa’s Transnet Engineering.

The 22 coaches were received and launched last month by president Ian Khama in Lobatse. Even though allegations of corruption and malpractice were reported (and dismissed) prior and after the launch, the train experienced technical problems during its maiden trip. Information gathered by this newspaper indicates that Transnet was also under pressure to deliver the coaches within the agreed time with the client (BR), something that’s feared, compromised the coaches from undergoing all the required mechanical and electrical tests.

Initially the train should’ve commenced operations in December 2015 as promised by President Khama during a political rally a few months before the 2014 general election when he was launching Botswana Democratic Party Parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central Rupert Hambira. At that time Khama promised the multitudes that attended the rally that Batswana would be using the passenger train during 2015 Christmas holidays after it was discontinued in 2009. In leaked information, Botswana Guardian has uncovered communications between officials from Transnet Engineering regarding completion and readiness for delivery of the coaches to Botswana. It has also been alleged that the 22 of the 37 coaches worth R280 million which were delivered for the launch were not complete when they left Pretoria, suggesting that all the engineering tests – electrical, mechanical and sign off - were not done by the quality department.

BR is said to have also not participated in the 2000Km fault free trip to ascertain the safety and quality of the coaches. The coaches were engineered and manufactured at Transnet’s Koedoespoort (KDS) and Salt River (SLR) facilities. In one of the documents titled Coach 85478 contains outstanding spares that were needed in Mafikeng urgently for completion of the coach.

These included among others, water filter pipe cab on the emergency brake side, control box for aircon (1), Orange box for aircon, lights covers (5), cover plates between steps and the head stock (4), 20x10 Amps relays, roof aircons (2), door striker plates (4) and all Decals for under-frame components (for example, water tank, retention tank and filtration system).

Botswana Guardian is in possession of emails exchanged between officials at Transnet Engineering conversing on how they should speed up things so as to meet the client’s requirements and try to safeguard Transnet Engineering’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)’s status. One of the officials - a Technologist (mechanical) in the Product Development Department, Rodney Orsmond told his colleagues in an email on the 11th of March 2016 that “I hereby recommend that a census be conducted on the incompletion statuses of all the coaches with the current design status, after which a formulated plan be compiled that will substantiate the actual completion dates of the required coaches. All the dates promised thus far have only been pies in the sky and therefore never materialised. Please also take note that it is impossible to complete all the coaches on the same date, meaning that a reasonable amount of coaches should have been completed and signed off by now.”

In the same email titled ‘Unibody-Botswana Coaches / Incomplete aircon type tests on Bot 4’ it is revealed that only 1½ days of the five day sitter coach type test process have been completed. “The request yesterday was to shunt the coach into Bay 39 so that a condenser fan problem can be checked and corrected but in the process it was hijacked to do slew and weight distribution tests instead. Please take note that the initial written request was that a mechanically and electrically completed coach was required so that the aircon type tests can be conducted uninterrupted.”

It was also requested that a communication be made when the coach will be available in Bay 39 so that SME (the Air-conditioning Company supplier) can be communicated accordingly after which the tests need to be continued at the shore supply at S9. “Please also take note that due to the double glazed window design of the coaches it is imperative that all the air conditioning systems type tests (sitter, sleeper, buffet, and power car) are completed successfully before the coaches are coupled in a train consist for the final combination tests powered by a power car. It should also be noted that the trainset couldn’t be delivered to Botswana unless all the relevant tests have been successfully completed. Please also take note that water leaks were exposed while the coach was standing in the rain”, reads part of the email.

The technologist expressed his opinion that if they are serious about engineering, product development and business then they should seriously consider the damage that delivery of incomplete/poor quality coaches can cause Transnet Engineering’s reputation and OEM status. He said only non-learning organisations would not be concerned. It has further been discovered that in a race against the deadline a team was put together from Transnet Engineering, Product Development Coaches (PDC), SME and other contracted supplier which worked extended hours in the second week of last month. Some of the team leaders from Transnet according to gathered information were of the opinion that without the coach business success they will have no jobs.

According to the documents each coach type (sleeper, buffet, baggage, power car) was to undergo a series of type tests as stipulated by the client; the complete train set must undergo a series of tests (including a 2000km fault free trip) as stipulated by the client; the test and commissioning specification (PD-PDC-NAT-PROC-0002) be loaded on SAP for perusal and all testing must be backed-up with documented proof.

Reached for comment Minister of Transport and Communication, Tshenolo Mabeo said they are currently involved in a commissioning with engineers from Transnet in every trip of the train. “This allows us to tick to identity the problems that are in the coaches. This will give us opportunity to see whether the product is the one that we wanted. If we are not satisfied with the coach we will send it back because we have a two year warranty. This is something in contractual (agreement),” explained the minister. He denied that the coach delivered was not complete.

He added that the remaining coaches will be delivered next month (May) and the same process of commissioning will be done. Transnet Engineering Corporate Affairs Executive, Zodwa Mashishi had not responded to a questionnaire sent to her. She however in a follow-up email communication responded that she has shared the questionnaire with the company’s official spokesperson’s office, who she believed was out of office travelling. “I will however follow up and find out possible response time from this office,” she said.

Published in News
Monday, 18 April 2016 14:58

‘SBRANA worse than Boko Haram’

A  Kanye woman has written to president Ian Khama complaining about ill-treatment and abuse at the hands of SBRANA psychiatric hospital staff in 2013.

Freelance journalist Ponalo Thobega 35, says she was admitted at the Lobatse mental hospital, following a depressive illness from her childhood challenges. Narrating the incident to BG News, Thobega says she was not disabled when she got admitted at the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, she was given Benzhexol tablets, which are usually prescribed for Schizophrenic patients.

“I refused to take them because I knew I wasn’t a psychiatric patient,” she says. She was then locked up with another patient who attempted to commit suicide in front of her. “When I told the nurses about it, they ignored me thinking I was a mental case,” she adds. The patient has since killed herself. Thobega was taken to another room where her room-mate took all her food for the whole week, starving her.

“They locked us inside there and would slide the food under the door,” she states. She would then find a way out of the room and jumped over the hospital wall with the plan to go back home. Unfortunately, some residents of Lobatse saw her and identified her by hospital clothes and forcibly delivered her to hospital security.

‘Skimberly’ style
“Upon arrival, the nurses told me they were going to fix me. There were seven women and one of them just shouted ‘Skimberly!’ They tied my hands to the back, kept my legs crossed and stiffened, and lifted my knees to my waist area for a full hour, whilst taking turns to assault me,” she says, fighting back tears.

Her father John Thobega, who is also an amputee, says he managed to convince the hospital staff to discharge his daughter so that he could take her for medical examination. Her medical record from Princess Marina hospital shows that she suffered painful limbs both upper and lower, joints pain and pain in the abdomen.

The mother of one says she was treated like an outcast at SBRANA. “I cannot walk anymore,” she says, pointing at the psychiatric hospital staff for ruining her life as an independent, single mother. Meanwhile, a preliminary psychiatric report from Princess Marina hospital says her mental condition was within normal range. The exam was conducted in February this year.

“It has not been possible to get collaborative history, save for a single admission in the distant past to SBRANA hospital for a depressive illness. She stopped taking anti-depressants a long time. She had no depression or any discernible mental illness at the time of assessment,” states then acting Superintendent Ishmael Makone.

Official response
SBRANA hospital Superintendent Dr. Mpho Thula said the hospital does not discuss patients with the media, unless the patient has consented through written proof.  He however, said that the hospital retains two types of patients being voluntary and involuntary patients. The former, he said, are those that come willingly and mostly for counselling over depression.

Involuntary patients are the ones committed by legal instruments such as mental disorder acts. The latter are usually brought in by the police because they refuse to be detained. “We don’t beat patients. We usually resort to injecting them. Once they recover sanity, they will then agree to take oral treatment,” he says.

On ‘Skimberly,’ Dr. Thula said it is an informal name used for the physical restraining of patients, who are violent to themselves and to people around them. “We do so on rare occasions if the patient is violent. The purpose is to hold the patient so that an injection can be ministered to him or her, but we don’t beat patients,” he said.

Published in News

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Duma Boko, has attacked the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led government of President Ian Khama accusing it of breeding future suicide bombers and extremists.

He was addressing a rally in Francistown recently. Boko complained that Khama’s “hallucinations of seeing every youth as a herdsman and Ipelegeng worker” does not go down well with most of the youth who know the truth about the type of leadership this country has. Boko added that suicide bombers and extremists are people who are usually tired of a government which does not care about the wellbeing and rights of its citizens and in the process lose hope and resort to terrorism as the only answer to their woes. He added that the current government should take care of the youth and regard them as the future torchbearers of this country.

“The founder of the Botswana National Front Dr Kenneth Koma once said that if children are not given proper education, they normally turn out to be problem children. Problem children are involved in worst case scenarios. The current education system is in shambles and thousands of youths are roaming the streets due to joblessness experienced by Botswana. I beg to differ with Ndaba Gaolathe who said that Botswana is a nation forgotten by its leaders. The leadership of this country is rude as it opts to deliberately forget what matters most to the lives of Batswana,” Boko said.

He attributed government’s indifference to lack of education amongst leaders of the ruling BDP starting with the first citizen whose educational background he said, is shrouded in mystery as to where and with whom he attended school. Boko said that if Botswana had an educational yard stick to select leadership like in countries like Zambia, most of the current leaders of BDP would not have qualified since most of them lack education. Botswana Congress Party stalwart Kentse Rammidi did not hide his displeasure at the way the government is misusing funds through “ridiculous initiatives”.

He told crowds at the launch of UDC council candidate for Phillip Matante East by-election Uyapo Nyeku that BDP is squandering money like the exposed past FIFA executive. “Kwa ga domkrag madi a jiwa jaaka ko FIFA mme mmang le mmang wa bone yo o a jeleng was go a busa (At BDP there is rampant monetary corruption scandals comparable to the past FIFA office bearers most of whom found themselves behind bars and facing the legal music),” Rammidi said. Former Member of Parliament Vain Mamela lashed out that the ‘rot’ at Botswana Railways where the newly introduced BR Express experienced mechanical hiccups during its maiden trip to Francistown, was indicative of the rot consuming the whole country.

Mamela dismissed Minister Tshenolo Mabeo as an actor who is only good at drama. “Mabeo is famous for acting in prominent local dramas including Thokolosi in which he became an instant hit. As for the new train, he has taken drama to the extreme by compromising a service which is dear to the hearts of most citizens. P280 million was used to purchase the new train and this is not a joke but they allegedly went on to buy a second hand train which is a clear sign that the Khama led government is taking Batswana for granted,” Mamela said.

He added that everything has collapsed in the country except for Ipelegeng and Chibuku. He accused BDP members for being cowards as they let Khama do as he pleases without any one of them lifting a finger to condemn the poor initiatives which include a lot of Ds. “A ‘D’ is not an appropriate letter as it signifies disaster”.

Published in Northren Extra
Tuesday, 03 November 2015 12:07

Dr Ian Khama; the politics of honorary degrees

At long last President Ian Khama has a degree. It is a doctoral degree by the way. It is needles to state that it is honorary; that is being petty. After all, it could not have been otherwise.

It was conferred to him by one university located somewhere in the Korean Peninsula, apparently for being the voice of “rationality, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” Although it is very consistent with a healthy mental constitution that such publicity-seeking stunt would make one laugh, just try hard not to laugh. Congratulations are in order Sir! But may I mention without any intended malice, that a Mabijo-like character in the name of Kermit the Frog has also been awarded honorary doctoral degree by Australia’s Long Island University. Just in case you are wondering how devalued and meaningless these ‘honours’ and ‘prizes’ have become, be reminded that President Robert Mugabe has recently been awarded Confucius Peace Prize by a Chinese institution for his “outstanding contribution towards world peace.” Indeed, another man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

But besides being trivialised as marketing and publicity tools, honorary degrees and ‘prizes’ are a functionary of international politics and public diplomacy. For foreign policy entrepreneurs, they are legitimate instruments of soft-power that can be employed as and when to achieve a favourable outcome towards a policy objective. Let us face it: the idea that Mugabe, who has mercilessly ruined Zimbabwean economy beyond repair can be considered for a ‘peace prize’ is as ridiculous as honouring President Khama’s human rights record. But in international politics, alliance and ideological affinity are more important than the truth. Mugabe’s award does not come as a surprise as it is consistent with his “Look East” policy. On the other hand, western governments, lobby groups and think tanks have in the past ‘honoured’ various Chinese political ‘dissidents’ for their fight for ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights.’ This is also not surprising as it is consistent with the West’s position on China’s human rights record. The point is, ethically speaking, these honorary degrees and awards counts for nothing, but influence.

Therefore, instead of basking in the adulation of illusory ‘doctoral degree,’ President Khama must figure out the wider implications of this uncharacteristic gesture from the South Koreans. Lest we found ourselves being used as a political pawn in the East-Asian struggle for power and influence between China and South Korea. The question is: what does South Korea seek to achieve in our relationship and how do they intend to frame their interests in the context of our apparent ‘complicated’ relations with China? Do they seek to capitalise on our ‘complicated’ relationship with China and offer alternative ‘quality’ human and industrial capital or they want to cultivate a new relationship devoid of extenuating factors? Whatever the answer, it would be ignorant to assume that the South Koreans are not aware of Botswana government’s dissatisfaction with Chinese companies.

As such, they may seek to exploit that and present themselves as viable and reliable alternative leveraging on their technological and human capital.
At the same time, it would be utterly ignorant to think that the South Koreans do not know that political power in Botswana lies solely with President Khama. They know he is the “Alpha and Omega” for any project that seeks to enjoy political will. Therefore, faced with this reality, they see soft-power as an alternative option to enlarge Korea’s ‘foot-print’ in Botswana and possibly the region. But in order to achieve this, they first have to look for an internationally credible partner, if there is none, they make him by awarding a phony doctoral degree. In other words, these ‘honorary degrees’ and ‘prizes’ are just internationally accepted form of bribery. They generally do not stand for nothing but interests.
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Published in News

The newly introduced Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) has aroused mixed reactions across various sectors regarding its importance for the economy of this country.

President Ian Khama unveiled the ambitious programme at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Special Congress last week Saturday in Gaborone as the remedy for job creation, economy stimulation and economic diversification. Khama told the delegates that this is the right time to start new projects on top of others because the economy has improved. Areas of focus will be building construction, roads construction, tourism development, increased agricultural production and manufacturing. He said the country will also tap on its foreign reserves, which are currently estimated at around P87.8 billion.

“In 2008 we managed to fight recession and emerged successful to sustain our economy while other countries failed. If we cut projects now, the economy will stagnate. We have now built up sufficient reserves. The time has come now when we have problems to use our reserves. We have to be bold and take bold decisions. We however are not going to be reckless, we will be prudent”, he stated. He said diamond sales and their prices were very pleasing. The president explained that for the past six years there have been talks about recession. “We couldn’t continue spending money as if our reserves will last forever. So this year after the 2014 general election I together with my cabinet started working on the ESP. The economy has been fattened a little bit so we are Ok.”
Unpacking the ESP Khama said building construction is an engine of growth for many economies the world over.

The focus he said would not be building big projects. “We will be spreading construction projects around the country. There will be construction in every district”, he said adding that Batswana construction companies will benefit in the building of classrooms and teachers’ quarters as well as clinics upgrading and nurses’ quarters. Khama said there will be additional funds for maintenance, because “We do not want to just build and not maintain old buildings. There will be major construction in all corners of the country. This will boost the construction industry in the country.” As for roads construction, he said: “We will however not be constructing long stretching roads but rather alternative roads with the aim of reducing construction.” Under tourism the president said the aim is to broaden the tourism base.

He said those include wildlife management areas, dam tourism and communities forming trusts to undertake tourism in their areas. He revealed that the Ministry of Environment Wildlife and Tourism will be equipped to roll out the initiative around the country with emphasis on improving domestic tourism. On increasing agricultural production, Khama said there will be additional projects to improve and accelerate food production, horticulture projects and markets, and beef beneficiation. He said local produce will be bought from small farmers and commercial ones. He said this will also open doors for possible export. The president said government institutions like schools, prisons, police and Botswana Defence Force spend almost P800 million on feeding schemes. He emphasised that government will put in place technology to use limited water the country has, by recycling used water. On manufacturing Khama said the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) would be emphasised.

“There will be a unit to monitor implementation of EDD of about 35 people. Uniforms for all government institutions and even the private sector will have to be bought here. The manufacturing industry will also be empowered so that there is potential for exporting,” said Khama. He said there will be accelerated land servicing by the Lands and Housing ministry. Under this, Khama said more money will be availed for close to 37 000 plots to be serviced. “There are residential, industrial and commercial plots that will be serviced. If we have commercial and industrial plots Batswana will start businesses and employ others. There will be more industries and business that will boost our economy,” he said adding that these past months the cabinet has been working on this programme. “We are left with final touches that we will finish in the few coming weeks,” Khama told the congress.

“We see that this year commodities’ prices all over the world have gone down again including diamonds. Economy this year was projected to grow at 4.5 percent but because of poor performance of diamond sales and other commodities in the market we are now projecting a growth of 2.6 percent. Projected surplus was around P1.2billon. Now we are projecting a deficit of over P4 billion and next year another deficit is projected. We also have water and power problems. We are looking for money to arrest water and power situation not forgetting drought.”

Published in News
Monday, 28 September 2015 14:49

Stadium name shocks Francistown councillors

The Mayor of Francistown city, Sylvia Muzila together with her councillors have expressed shock and frustration that they were left out in the naming of the Francistown stadium while they were still waiting to be given the go-ahead to consult with their people.
President Ian Khama this week named the newly-opened facility the Francistown Sports Complex, contrary to the understanding of the city’s leadership on the processes set to source a name. 

A fortnight ago, Muzila told BG Sport in an interview that they were putting systems in place to later engage the youth in suggesting suitable names for the facility.  She had said then that they were awaiting the green light from the sports ministry to start the process. This week however, Muzila was still in the dark about the latest development when asked how she and the council arrived at the use of Francistown Sports Complex as the facility’s name. “To tell you the truth I am shocked about the name because as it is right now I am waiting for Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) to give us a go-ahead to consult residents in and around Francistown to come up with the name.

I am not aware that it has already been named,” she said. She however conceded that the name was still “a good name” and that she would accept it.  Tatitown ward councillor Gaethusi Ramolotsana – in whose area the stadium is located - said that he also learnt about the name of the stadium through the press despite knowing that the naming of the stadium would be done through consultations with the residents in the area. “I think it is high time icons in Botswana started getting recognition, and I believe the people would have come with a better name,” he said.

Itekeng ward councillor Lesego Kwambala also said he was shocked by the naming of the stadium while they were preparing to consult.  Kwambala said that for a facility like the stadium, it needed people of the area to be involved so that they would feel they have also played a role as well. Another councillor, Shadreck Nyeku of Philip Matante East said he could not accept the name as the authorities did not consult the people.  “We were waiting for the completion of the stadium with the knowledge that we would then consult people on the naming of the facility,” he said. 

In an interview, sports minister Thapelo Olopeng said that in the naming of the facility, he used social media networks like Facebook to consult people. He said that after the stadium was handed over on August 6, he then posted on Facebook that people should suggest names for the stadium. He said different names were posted and he ultimately had to make a decision with the help of other officials. “The Francistown stadium is a public structure not owned by any individual but a lot of suggested names made it like the facility belongs to a particular group of people, so we chose a name which would be neutral for all Batswana. I hear a lot of people are not happy especially in Francistown but they should understand that we do not want to create a national crisis,” the minister said.  The stadium will be officially opened in the last week of November, Olopeng added.

Published in Sports
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