Monday, 05 November 2018 09:17

Can Masisi walk the talk?

It is at this point that the nation expects to hear and understand the president’s roadmap. In his inaugural speech in April this year, the President was full of promises, which have largely become just simple talk and less action. The president, upon assuming office had Batswana with high hopes that at least after 100 days, his ‘Out’ tray would carry people’s hopes and morale, tenets that have been dampened in the past 10 years of iron fist rule.

Observers maintain that so far the president has been more vocal on simply reversing Khama’s policies, firing people from the public service and cabinet and focusing on the internal fights of his party Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). While there was hope that there would be a clear roadmap from the president, nothing has come to the fore.

The Monday address is the opportunity for the president to prove that indeed he is fixing things by focusing on issues of national importance and restoring Batswana’s confidence in his administration, which some are now beginning to doubt.

Corruption
He has to stick to his statement that he hates corruption and would not tolerate it. This is not a new statement as his predecessor sang the same song. Little, if not nothing, has been done to deal with corruption especially at government enclave. We still have high profile cases of corruption where people occupying high offices of leadership are not being prosecuted.

During oversight Parliament committees such as the Statutory Bodies and State Enterprise and Public Accounts Committee, it has been revealed that corruption is the order of the day. The president should take this seriously and act and not hang on the usual praise of international rating agencies who claim corruption is low in Botswana.

As promised by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Nonofo Molefhi the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill should be brought before Parliament during the SONA session. The minister must also make his commitment in strengthening and empowering the institutions that deal with these matters.

Unemployment
“As you all know, Botswana faces a myriad of challenges such as unemployment, poverty, crime, HIV and AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse, amongst others. Therefore, one of my top priorities as the President of this country will be to address the problem of unemployment especially amongst the young people who constitute the majority of our population.

The young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future,” President Masisi said in April. This is yet to get underway.

Nothing much has been done and Batswana await the implementation of a combination of strategies required to stimulate economic growth which was to be implemented as a matter of urgency. We have new graduates who recently joined other unemployed youth. The issue of unemployment is a ticking bomb and needs the attention it deserves.  Unemployment has in some quarters been associated with most of the social ills in the country.

These are the future leaders who demand answers now. There is still skills mismatch and this has made the industry to shun new graduates; therefore, the president has to firmly speak about the country’s vocational education.

Economic Diversification Drive (EDD)
This is one animal that is yet to be understood. Results are still to be realised and tangible proof be availed to the effect that indeed the programme is benefiting Batswana. The EDD has been introduced as an important strategy that is aimed at giving Batswana an opportunity to set up industries, to empower themselves and, in turn, create the much-needed employment. But where are we? Where are our success stories and what is being done to improve the programme?

The president explained early this year that in order to give concrete effect to the economic diversification aspirations, Government will prioritise the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritised sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services.

He said Government will also expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones which will contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of this country. It has however been observed that even SPEDU is struggling to get things running. It has emerged that companies in the SPEDU area are failing to sustain themselves.

The SPEDU revitalisation strategy has taken time to be implemented. It was reported recently that so far around 750 jobs have been created but the number continues to fluctuate because of challenges faced by companies that operate in the SPEDU region. There is lack of serviced land which makes it difficult to attract investors to set up businesses in the region.

Land and housing
Land allocation acceleration is also key and thousands of people are still waiting to be allocated land, especially for residential use. Others have already died before they could have a place they call home. This has depressed many citizens and it now seems to be igniting tribal fights as some tribes especially those in the periphery of the capital city feel cheated over their rights to own land.

The problem in the delay of allocation of land which all along has been an urban issue has now spread to rural areas. The Botswana Land Policy, which was adopted in 2015, has to be implemented. Government’s promise to give priority to the youth when allocating land for agriculture and business purposes still remains a dream for most of the young people who want to go into business.

Labour movements
His commitment in working with labour movements, and not against, has to come out clear. After promising to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) the government moved swiftly to derecognise most of the public service sector unions. This left thousands of public servants without a place to deliberate on their salaries and conditions of service.

Government being the largest employer has the responsibility to protect the country’s economy. For the past 10 years, public servants have been disgruntled and with the recent developments, trade unions have started to think they were sold a dummy, as the current administration is just a continuation of the past one, after all.

Media
As a guarantee for a free press, the laws that were promised, especially the Freedom of Information should reach parliament with the same urgency that the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities is likely to. The media industry has through various structures such as Editors Forum and Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union placed their pleas before the President.

The industry is also on the brink of collapse because of the unwritten policy of advertising ban, which has to be lifted. If the industry is allowed to collapse because of this policy, democracy would be jeopardised as checks and balances and accountability would have no one to act on.

Published in News

Director of Investment Promotion at SPEDU Benedice Sibanda has appealed to residents of Selibe Phikwe to cleanse their minds of the ‘mine era’ and start focusing on other avenues to diversify the SPEDU region as it commands tangible economic value.

He was speaking at the annual SMME Pitso hosted by Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) last week. Sibanda said that even though locals are not as forthcoming as they had anticipated to engage and to start businesses in the region, the zone is more than ripe for business activity.

“The SPEDU region is loaded with economic opportunities from Hospitality, to tourism, Recreation, Horticulture and Agriculture. Let us unpack what we have long neglected,” he said.

Sibanda noted that the SPEDU Region is strategically placed as the gateway into northern side of SADC Region through well-developed networks of roads, rail, air and commercial border infrastructure. 

It also conveniently connects Botswana with the South African seaports, notably the renowned port of Durban through an excellent network of roads and up to five borders notably Platjan and Martins Drift border posts.

“This is to show that in terms of accessibility, the region puts any business at an advantage” he said. He implored locals to create demand and bring value propositions to start businesses. 

“We at SPEDU have succeeded and continue to develop the region to better house local businesses, the land is ready for use, allocated and fenced, electricity has been provided, water is more than abundant, all that is left is for Batswana to come and do business.” 

In fact, as an upside the region is home of five of the country’s major dams, the Thune Dam, Letsibogo Dam, Lotsane Dam, Dikabeya Dam and the Dikgatlhong Dam. It boasts highly fertile soils and a climate conducive for agriculture, especially horticulture production.  The availability of land for industrialisation in Selebi Phikwe and the region, infrastructure resources, abundant natural attractions, flora and fauna, natural resources such as granite, sandstone, marble and silica sands open up opportunities for industrialisation.

However, Sibanda is not pleased on how government institutions work disjointedly saying this can cause sluggishness and discourage locals from benefitting from what the government has to offer.“It causes unnecessary delays that Motswana has to move from pillar to post to get services that could be boxed in one.” He urged institutions to come together to collaborate and serve Botswana better.   A Youth Development Fund (YDF) beneficiary for example should be able to come to one place to seek assistance on what CIPA, SPEDU, BDC, CEDA can offer and in that way, “We as a country will better benefit as a whole, let alone the shift that could happen economically as this could be the push locals need to flourish”.

The economy of the town of Selebi Phikwe and its rural hinterlands historically relied on copper/ nickel mining and smelting since the inception of the town in the early 1970s. In order to diversify the economy, the Government of Botswana set up the Region as a Special Economic Zone with the intention to support industrialisation through the economic sectors of Tourism, Manufacturing and Agro-Business.  This is in recognition of the inherent comparative advantages of the region evidenced by availability of ample surface and underground water resources. The region is located in the Central District of Botswana comprising four geographical areas of Bobirwa, Tswapong North, Sefophe, Mmadinare and Selebi Phikwe town housing a population of about 200,000 inhabitants.

Selebi Phikwe serves as the commercial nexus of the SPEDU Region with about 49, 411 people, making up approximately a quarter of the entire population of the Region.

Published in Business
Friday, 04 November 2016 15:07

Phikwe business community sends SOS

The chamber of commerce for Selibe Phikwe region demands that government, through its financial institutions, should avail the region P500million loan to incentivise projects in the area.

This is contained in a document outlining recommendations that were shared with the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment and Trade Industry, Peggy Serame in a recent meeting. The Chamber urges that CEDA should relax security for loans and must allocate five additional officers to the Phikwe branch to proactively engage potential investors and to assist them in the successful completion of their funding applications. CEDA is also urged to undertake to either approve or reject an application within two (2) weeks of submission, and undertake to commence drawdown of the funds within seven (7) days of the approval for a successful application.

The business chamber also calls on the government investment agency, BITC, to assign an officer to Selebi Phikwe and place him at the SPEDU offices with immediate effect.“That officer must avail to the public the full list of potential investors who are looking to partner with Batswana to invest in Selebi Phikwe. That officer must assist with licensing, physical planning labour and immigration departments to facilitate the “ease of doing business” in Selebi Phikwe.

The Chamber wants all Phikwe based companies to be given a 25 percent price advantage on all government, parastatal and local government tenders. Further, it demands that, “All the BDC owned properties in Selebi Phikwe that are zoned for industrial activity, (must) offer a standardized rental of P3/sq m. As soon as this industrial space becomes fully occupied, BDC should be mandated to buy or build more industrial space and to subsequently lease out at P3/sq m. Including SPEDU plots. This should be for manufacturing companies.

“SPEDU land bank needs to be fast tracked and provide a budget for SPEDU owned factory shells. Consider transferring the BDC shells to SPEDU. This will speed up the SPEDU investor facilitation. 100 new businesses are needed and each business will employ 25 people to breath fresh life into the Selebi Phikwe economy,” reads the document.

Last month a task team comprising ministry of investment, trade and industry and Botswana investment and trade centre officials was formed. The task team, headed by Peggy Serame- is to deliver a strategy on re-organisation of Phikwe town. It will also present the framework to the business community before they finalise it.

Trade Minister, Vincent Seretse could not be reached for comment, whereas his Assistant Biggie Butale indicated that he was not aware of the recommendations by the Phikwe business community. He even referred this publication back to the Minister as he is the one handling the Selibe Phikwe related matters. The PS’s personal assistant (PA) indicated that the PS was held up in meetings but would call back to answer to the inquiries. At the time of going to press, Serame could still not be reached. 

BITC Chief Executive Officer, Letsebe Sejoe whose organisation also forms part of the task team, said progress has been made with regards to developing the Phikwe strategy; but referred this publication back to Serame who chairs the task team for the details of the strategy.

Published in News

The long-awaited tender for the construction of the P85 million all-weather Platjan bridge over the troubled Limpopo River, which joins Botswana and South Africa was awarded last Friday with construction billed to start early October

Botswana Guardian has it on good authority that the final evaluation meetings of the awarding of the tender process started last week Friday. The bridge, originally a long concrete slab supported by railings and mounted on pillars, over the crocodile-infested Limpopo River can no longer carry the heavy trucks that use it. During rainy seasons the bridge becomes dysfunctional as it gets completely submerged in water. In fact, recently the concrete slab was torn out by the pressure of the waters and was only restored thanks to the goodwill of the area business community.Speaking to Botswana Guardian, Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Sadique Kebonang confirmed that the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) awarded the tender last Friday. Kebonang said Cabinet had also decided to move the project from the ministry of Transport and Communications to SPEDU which falls under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.

In terms of what is happening with the progress of the construction of the Platjan Bridge, SPEDU has advertised the tender, the ITT is going through the evaluation. “The brief that we have is that by Friday (last week) the board should be deciding on the award having gone through the adjudication process. The budget was originally P100m; it is now P85m. We are hoping that the 11 kilometre gravel road will be done alongside the construction of the Bridge.”In an interview with SPEDU’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Mokubung Mokubung said the contractor awarded the tender would be expected to sign the contract, mobilise to the site and start construction in early October 2016.

This infrastructural development project will have overlapping second phase that involves construction of the 30 kilometre road from the bridge to the village of Mathathane which is a shorter route. In that case we expect tourists that come from Kruger National Park to come straight through the Platjan bridge through Bobirwa constituency to Selibe Phikwe. “SPEDU and Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) are on course to develop the dam based tourism surrounding Thune, Letsibogo and Dikgathong dams,” he said.The bridge is of strategic importance to the Bobirwa area which is rich in both wildlife and tourism sites amongst them being the newly constructed Thune dam- which will partially be used for irrigation purposes, Molema Trust – a wildlife trust composed of the villages of Mothabaneng, Lentswe- le- Moriti and Mathathane. Others are Mathathane Basket Weaving project and two of the country’s top tourism sites – Mashatu Game Reserve and the Thuli Block Belt. Most importantly, once the bridge and road are completed it will allow residents of Bobirwa, Selebi Phikwe and Mmadinare constituency to also participate in tourism ventures.

The bridge was first mooted in 2007 after Botswana and South Africa agreed on the Regional Action Agenda to identify gaps and prioritise projects that can promote regional integration and development such as upgrading bridges and river crossings connecting the neighbouring nations. The two countries then agreed to start with Ramotswa and Platjan bridges. South Africa was allocated construction of the Ramosweu bridge while Botswana got Platjan bridge. Ramotswa bridge is about to complete while Botswana has been dogged by delays allegedly caused by officials of Roads Department.With the ball now thrown on SPEDU’s court, it remains to be seen how it will affect the completion of the bridge and 25 kilometre road between Mathathane and Platjan. The road had been tarred up to Mashatu and Platjan junction about 11 kilometres from the bridge. The Bobonong – Mathathane road which joins Sefophe-Selibe- Phikwe is currently being refurbished.

Published in News

The battle for Goodhope-Mabule constituency in a by-election to be held within the constitutional 90 days, poses a major test of character for the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The by-election comes after UDC Member of Parliament James Mathokgwane resigned recently under mysterious circumstances.

Mathokgwane has since been employed by Selibe Phikwe Economic Development Unit (SPEDU) which is a government-sponsored regional development strategy for Selibe-Phikwe and the surrounding villages. While the BDP and BCP will be selling their policies to the electorate from day one, the UDC is likely to spend most of its campaign time trying to convince the people of Goodhope-Mabule that it is still dependable and worthy of their votes despite the resignation of Mathokgwane only seven months after they voted him to parliament. Supporters and sympathisers of the UDC have been telling all and sundry that both Titus Kebuileng of Bokone and Mathokgwane of Goodhope-Mabule are not the first elected representatives to ‘abscond’ causing an unnecessary expense in a by-election. Kebuileng of the UDC resigned his council seat early this year following an ultimatum by the University of Botswana (UB), his employer, for him to either leave his employment with the institution or resign from council. In 2003 the Member of Parliament for Francistown East, Joyce Phumaphi, resigned her parliamentary seat for a job at the World Health Organisation (WHO). Four years later, Boyce Sebetlela and Obakeng Moumakwa, MPs for Palapye and Kgalagadi North respectively also resigned their seats in parliament for greener pastures.

While the other two were from the BDP, Moumakwa was a BNF MP. The BNF is an affiliate of the UDC. The outcome of the Kgalagadi North constituency by-election following Moumakwa’s resignation can hardly be a source of inspiration to the UDC either because the constituency, which the BNF had won by a slim margin in 2004, went back to the BDP in the by-election. By contrast, both the Francistown East and Palapye constituencies were BDP stronghold which the party easily retained at the by-election. The Goodhope-Mabule constituency on the other hand, is also a traditional BDP stronghold which the UDC won at the general election last year by a margin of only 717 votes. Of the 12 wards, 11 were won by the BDP with the UDC clinching only one of them. In comparing the 2003 and 2007 resignations on the one hand and the current one, the UDC may succeed only in as far as assuaging its own inevitable sense of guilt and embarrassment. Firstly, many of today’s voters, who are generally the youth, may not feel personally offended by the resignations of Phumaphi and Sebetlela that took place a decade or so ago.

For the UDC to harp on the 2003 and 2007 resignations in an attempt to implicate the BDP and protect its own reputation, the party may portray the BNF, its affiliate, as a repeat offender as far as ‘absconding’ by its elected representatives is concerned. First, it was Moumakwa, then Kebuileng and then Mathokgwane. There is no doubt that the BCP, riding on a moral high-ground, will want the voters to regard UDC representatives as quislings not fit for political office as they are a potential liability to the economy as they are likely to resign after being voted hence causing a by-election. University of Botswana political science lecturer, Professor Zibani Maundeni believes the resignation of Mathokgwane may hurt the party only if it tries to defend him. “It depends on how the party handles the issue. The party must distance itself from him. If the UDC shows disappointment with him, the voters will differentiate between the party and the individual,” said Prof Maundeni. Perhaps the UDC did not use Prof Maundeni’s approach because, a few weeks ago, it lost Bokone ward to the BCP in Mochudi.

Shockingly, not only did the UDC lose the by-election it came a distant third after the BCP and the BDP, in that order after shedding its support from 590 votes in 2014 to 271 in the by-election. The BDP and BCP had in 2014, been voted by 435 and 482 people respectively. This should come as a warning to the UDC. BCP supporters gleefully insist that the voters punished the UDC for Kebuileng’s disappearing act. After a sterling electoral performance at the general election last year where it amassed 20 seats from the total of 57, the UDC perhaps experienced its first setback when it failed to win Moshupa ward in a by-election early this year. The ward, whose by-election was the result of a tie between the BDP and BCP in the 2014 general election, was retained by the BCP which had won it in 2009. Considering the fact that, at the general election hardly three months earlier, the UDC had won unlikely constituencies such as Molepolole South, Gaborone Central and Goodhope-Mabule, many expected that the party would effortlessly consign the seemingly hapless BCP to the dustbin of history by elbowing it from the council seat. Not only did the BCP beat the UDC hands down, but Mogobagoba (BCP’s praise title) chagrined its detractors by increasing its popular vote in the ward.

At the four by-elections that have taken place after the general election; at Goodhope, Ngware, Moshupa and Bokone wards, the BCP has arguably proved that it is still ‘the party of choice’ by winning Moshupa and Bokone; the only two wards where the party fielded a candidate. The party out-performed itself when it dethroned the UDC from Bokone ward. There are fears within UDC circles that, at this rate, the imminent by-election at Goodhope-Mabule could prove to be the Waterloo of the UDC. Back in 1825, following a season of successful military escapades throughout Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military and political leader, was defeated at the sanguinary battle of Waterloo; a small town in present day Belgium. Captured and humiliated, the hitherto unstoppable military genius was then banished to the Island of St. Helena before he died six years later. It is not clear why the UDC seems to have lost its lustre. There have been complaints that, ever since they were elected, UDC representatives ceased both to be visible or audible in their constituencies and parliament. There have also been indications that not all was well within the UDC especially when the infightings of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) youth league went out of control.

It is also possible that the lack of involvement by BOFEPUSU, which campaigned for the UDC in the general election, has robbed the UDC of the necessary hype needed to excite voters. Besides the credibility deficit faced by UDC, the party, alongside the BCP has to contend with resource constraints. In the run-up to the 2014 general election in the Goodhope Mabule constituency, a total of 15, 874 people registered to vote. Of this number, 2344 did not vote. Ensuring that all the 13530 who voted do vote again, will require a lot of logistical imperatives with serious financial implications. Locating those who did not vote can also be an expensive exercise requiring money and a motivated campaign team. This is one constituency where the centrality of the candidate, especially for the UDC, cannot be overemphasised. “The calibre of the candidates for all the parties will probably count more than anything else,” opined Ndulamo Morima, a political observer.  Reportedly, the BDP has got a line-up of seven candidates ready to represent their party in the Goodhope-Mabule constituency. Among them are young attorneys and veteran former civil servants. On the other hand, the BCP is yet to decide whether to contest or not. Indications are that Kgosi Lotlamoreng of Barolong has agreed to be the UDC candidate. It is believed that, due to his status, his candidature will neutralise the credibility gap that was created by Mathokgwane’s resignation.

The historically-conscious bandy about the names of Bathoen Gasietsewe and Tawana Moremi to prove that no Paramount Chief has lost an election in his backyard. President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are also mentioned in this context for they won their constituencies effortlessly because they are of royal blood.  Unity is also of the essence. The possibility of primary election in the BDP could favour the opposition especially if the losers are not happy with the outcome like it happened at the general election last year. The BDP, BCP and some of the UDC affiliates will be going for their respective elective congresses in July. Because of the disputatious nature of elective congresses, the party that has better mechanisms to resolve differences will likely carry the day given that the Goodhope-Mabule by-election will take place just after the congresses. The BDP might take longer to start campaigning due to the fact that they are involved in campaigns for central committee positions. This campaign may spill into the constituency to the disadvantage of the party.  A lot is at stake for the UDC and a loss will certainly reduce it into a butt of political jokes. Should the party lose Goodhope-Mabule, those who always argued after the 2014 general election that the party’s impressive performance was nothing but a fluke will be vindicated.

Published in News

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