Items filtered by date: Thursday, 27 September 2018 - Botswana Guardian

Government is currently looking into alternative use of land for the controversial Palapye glass project that cost the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) over P500 million.This was revealed by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Peggy Serame. 

The project was in 2016 expected to be auctioned but interested bidders pulled out. Provisional liquidator for the Fengyue Palapye Glass project, Nijel Dixon-Warren, reportedly confirmed that his meeting with two potential buyers back then did not bring any desired outcome. 

Serame told Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that following the liquidation of the project there were potential investors who wanted to take over the project. According to the PS after inspecting the plant the investors decided that they are no longer interested in the project.“Their reasons have been that the project would no longer be viable.

So currently we do not have any interested party in the project. We met recently to explore other options. We want to alternatively see what we can use the land for,” she explained. The 100-hectare property is located adjacent to the Serowe-Palapye junction.
The property was reportedly expected to fetch between P25 million and P180 million through auction in 2016. Among the goods on site are float glass plant and equipment, coal gasification plant, construction plant, and oxygen plant. 

The project stirred controversy after it emerged that the Chinese company that was in partnership with BDC was a shelf company with no experience whatsoever in glass manufacturing. There was also confusion as to which company was in the project between Fengyue China and Fengyue of Cayman Islands.

In 2013 Parliamentary Special Select Committee of inquiry into the BDC found that the Palapye glass manufacturing project was bound to fail as it was premised on poor diligence, doubtful partner selection and a litany of project implementation violations.The report revealed that BDC opted to go into a joint venture with Chinese Shanghai Fengyue Glass Company, ignoring their function of encouraging citizen partnership in national business ventures.

It emerged that the company was appointed although it did not have the required technical expertise. BDC board members were also said to have been kept in the dark with regard to the partner selection process. Findings further revealed that the project was originally estimated to cost P309 million but ran additional costs which increased to over P500 million.

The appointment of an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor agreement between Fengyue Glass Manufacturing (Botswana) and Shanghai Fengyue Glass Corporation also raised eyebrows.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 September 2018 10:09

BPC fire Chief Operations Officer

Jonathan Raheem Hosseini, the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) who was tipped to be the next chief executive, has been fired Botswana Guardian can reveal. Hosseini was dismissed controversially on 28th August 2018. However, it appears there is more than meets the eye in the way Hosseini has been fired as he was originally cleared from all the six charges he faced by an independent Disciplinary Panel composed of professionals and constituted by the BPC Board.

Indications are that the matter may be settled in a court of law to determine whether the way the Board wants to separate with Hosseini is legal. The matter between the two has been dragging since early 2018. At some stage BPC suspended Hosseini pending investigation and hired Deloitte to do a forensic audit. Deloitte completed its assignment and handed over its findings to the Board.


Second investigation
Based on the Deloitte findings, the Board allegedly started another procedure under which sources and HR experts say the board allegedly colluded with the CEO Dr. Stefan Schwarzfischer and acted outside the bounds of BPC Policy, Procedure and Botswana law to unlawfully and unfairly dismiss Hosseini.

It all started on 4th July 2018 when a disciplinary hearing under Section G of the BPC Human Resource Policy and Procedure commenced against Hosseini. It is said the complainant was CEO Schwarzfischer. It is alleged that based on the seniority of the persons involved, BPC empanelled a body independent of its structures to preside over the disciplinary proceedings, and this resulted in the formation of a disciplinary hearing panel of highly respected legal, human resource, and business professionals.

The disciplinary hearing panel was chaired by a highly respected attorney (name withheld) selected by BPC. It is said that the Panel conducted the hearing explicitly in terms of BPC Disciplinary Policy and Procedure at every step of the proceedings, with the disciplinary hearing taking place  between 4th - 20th July 2018. Close sources say the final written submissions from both Schwarzfischer as the complainant and Hosseini as the defendant were submitted on 30th July 2018.

Not guilty
Botswana Guardian investigation shows that on 2nd August 2018, the disciplinary hearing was concluded and closed, in terms of BPC Disciplinary Policy and Procedure Section G Clause 4, specifically Clause 4.6.15 and Clause 4.6.16.  The disciplinary hearing panel found Hosseini not guilty on all sic (6) charges levelled against him.

The panel stated that no mitigation was required since Hosseini was not guilty. Sources say the  BPC Management and, or Board misdirected themselves or deliberately failed to adhere to BPC Policy and Procedure and Botswana law during the period between 2nd August – 29th August 2018.Sources say in so doing the CEO completely failed to comply with his obligations under clause 4.6.19 of the Disciplinary Procedure and failed to respect clause 7.1.1 of the Disciplinary Policy.

The final blow
BG News has it in good authority that on 28th August 2018 Hosseini was asked to appear before the BPC main Board within a two hour notice. The Board allegedly informed him that they disagreed with the decision of the disciplinary hearing panel and without any further hearing, the Board told him that they choose to find him guilty, and now having been found guilty he was being asked to present mitigation.

It is alleged in that meeting Hosseini and his representative told the Board that they were operating outside of BPC Policy, Procedure and the laws of Botswana and that accepting to present a mitigation to their unlawful pronouncement of guilt would begin to validate their unlawful action, and further that in law mitigation is not presented to those who have not heard a matter themselves. It is said that Board went ahead allowing Schwarzfischer to present before it.

Subsequently the Board ruled contrary to BPC Disciplinary Policy, Procedure and the Laws of Botswana that having been found guilty by them of four charges Hosseini was dismissed with immediate effect. Botswana Guardian investigation found that the letter of “Termination of Contract of Employment” dated 29th August 2018 makes reference to termination “following the disciplinary panel’s findings”.

This according to the sources is dishonest and disingenuous as the disciplinary hearing panel appointed by the Board, after a month long hearing process, explicitly in a signed written judgement found Hosseini not guilty of all six charges and “fully exonerated” him.

 Hosseini confirmed that he has been fired and reluctantly said, “as the process takes its course, I will be vindicated and, remain loyal and dedicated to BPC and the government and its objectives and most importantly to the nation that I dedicated my life to serving and look forward to get back to work at BPC soon in order to complete the work that I started.” At the time of going to press, both BPC spokesperson, Dineo Seleke and CEO, Schwarzfischer were not available for comment as their mobile lines rang unattended.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 September 2018 10:04

Architects body cries foul

When they were appointed into office exactly 178 days ago the Architects Association of Botswana (AAB) Executive Committee members vowed to change the fortunes of their members.AAB is a body representing Architects in Botswana with the core mandate of promoting architecture, promoting architectural education, generating interest and assisting within the government realm for the profession, whilst also shaping the country’s economy through the architectural infrastructure of the country.

President of the Association, Gorata Kgafela said on Monday that it has been 10 years since members of the Association have been receiving the full brunt of the decline in construction, and as a result there is ‘very little’ work available for their members.  Though the situation is not unique to Botswana, Kgafela together with her fellow Executive Committee members are convinced that numerous factors further contribute to their current challenges.

She said the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development is aware of some challenges that they have voiced in the past. For example, they have been made to compete with the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC), which uses in-house expertise to build their houses, when in fact, government should be availing work to empower citizen companies.

“This means that expertise of AAB is not fully exploited,” Kgafela said, adding that the engagement of their members is not just limited to financial gain, but is also an opportunity for young professionals to contribute to meaningful projects, something that would enhance their knowledge and experience.

Kgafela also decries the use of international architects in local projects that local architects are capable of implementing. “Government needs to introspect and determine whether it is the right thing to do to continue to give work to foreign architects. Our narrative is written by foreign architects and our buildings and structures say nothing about us,” she said.

One of AAB’s intentions is to uphold the profession’s ethics and code of conduct and have zero tolerance for anyone who contravenes these. Only registered professionals are expected to carry out work, according to the Architecture Regulatory Council (ARC). This goes a long way in protecting the unsuspecting public from unscrupulous dealers and promotes competence.

AAB, which has 132 members currently, is working closely with the ARC to root out any unethical behaviour. Kgafela said it is worrisome that there are numerous cases of fraud in the industry that happen under the watchful eye of those who need to safeguard right procedures and processes of delivery.  For example, the AAB has encountered instances where drawings are approved at the council without proof of the actual person who produced them.

Kgafela and her team are also concerned about lack of continuous professional development in the industry. They have observed that there is a knowledge gap between private sector professionals and public sector professionals. This, not only undermines the profession, but also creates bureaucracy within public offices.

“Government needs to emphasise more on enhancing the knowledge base and experience of officers so that they are equipped for what they need to do.” The other challenge that the AAB is currently facing is the procurement of architectural services and fees.
Kgafela challenged the status quo, where architects are expected to design upfront and compete on fees. She said this is not best international practice.

“Gone are the days when professionals are expected to do work for free,” she said.  To deal with the challenges, Kgafela told the media that they have come up with business enabling solutions that are expected to build an environment conducive for business for their members.

Among the solutions, the ABB will now take an active role in the Project Allocation Committee, which will help in ensuring that members access projects. “We are hopeful that though work was low in the past, this will facilitate direct allocations,” Kgafela said.

The ABB, whose membership comprises of Architects, Architects Technologists and Students is also advocating for the registration of member firms in the Association in addition to individual registrations. Member firm registrations will enable them to have representative in bodies like Business Botswana. ABB is currently engaging a local commercial bank on future partnerships and collaborations to address risks in property funding.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 September 2018 09:57

Protocols stall BMC marketing strategy

Botswana Meat Commission’s (BMC) envisaged plan to grow its share of the beef export market is not going at a rate that they had wished. The reasons are the bureaucratic protocols which govern the import and export of beef as they often take long to complete before a deal can be sealed. Such protocols which are in conformity with international laws depend and or differ from country to country.

For example, Botswana has been courting two of the world’s biggest and lucrative markets being China for sometimes and the protocol negotiations are still ongoing. The other is Nigeria which is still to indicate whether they are in or out. Recently when President Mokgweetsi Masisi visited China he expressed Botswana’s desire to export beef to China. But will be able to match the market given the state of the BMC abattoirs some of which have been closed?

Speaking to Botswana Guardian BMC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Akolang Tombale stated that the China market is just too big even if we operate at full strength we can never  meet their demand. But the good thing is that the Chinese market is also looking at the supply of offal. “Currently we have applied for export permits with them. We applied for them to access our plants so that they could inspect if our production system does satisfy them in terms of meeting the standards”.

BMC currently sells its products both locally and internationally with the ability to reach even more markets regionally and beyond. The company’s quality standards span across many international bodies and is considered among the best five in the world. Botswana beef is one of the most naturally grazed. BMC plant has capabilities of producing beyond beef; pork, mutton and game meat processing.

Production
BMC currently produces 24000 tonnes of beef per annum with the European Union (EU) market - the single largest consumer since the company’s establishment – taking up 9000 tonnes. It is expected the number of tonnes produced per annum will increase as more cattle posts have been registered to sell cattle directly to BMC.

Other markets
Tombale revealed that currently BMC is not looking at any market. The last they negotiated and are supplying but have not reached the level they want to get to are regional countries in Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola. Tombale said that amongst the challenges they face is that DRC pays for their order in advance.

“Lately Angola is experiencing cash problems, with Mozambique getting most of their products in South Africa and we are working on them to increase the order. We have been supplying DRC for the past two years and Angola for three years while Mozambique is on and off,” he said.

New market
BMC will soon start to sell its beef to the Island of Seychelles. Not only will they sell frozen raw meat, but will also send corned beef for trial in the Island. All this is thanks to the recent visit by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to that country who included in his delegation executive management of the BMC led by Tombale.

The agreement signed between BMC and two leading Seychelles Companies will see BMC exporting at least 48 tonnes of raw beef to the island possibly from October (next month). The names of the two companies that BMC signed an agreement with are Seychelles Trading Company which is a quasi government organisation and Rosebelle Company which is privately owned.

Although both have agreed to trade with each other, BMC cannot start immediately, as they have to wait for the green light from Seychelles companies who still have to apply for import permits in accordance with the law of their republic.
BMC has also negotiated to sell small stock meat to Seychelles and successfully negotiated for local chicken farmers to start selling their range chicken to Seychelles as well.

According to Tombale he negotiated the deal after being approached by local chicken farmers amongst them Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete who requested that “we should try to find market for chicken farmers as we go around the world searching for beef market”.
Tombale revealed that for a start both range chickens and small stock will not be supplied in large quantities as they will be sold on trial basis.

Envisaged markets
Besides Southern Africa, BMC is still to make a breakthrough in other parts of the African continent. According to Tombale BMC has been trying to secure the Nigerian market for long but without success. “We have also inquired from Ghana when their president Dr John Dramani Mahama visited Botswana. He expressed interest but nothing concrete has come through.

We still remain hopeful that they will respond positively,” said Tombale The good news is that thus far Botswana beef remains safe from livestock diseases such as Foot and Mouth (FMD), Contagious Bovine Pleuro-pneumonia (CBPP) and Anthrax and as such the diseases have no impact on the country’s ability to export to foreign markets. CBPPP has been eradicated.

However, originally , the problematic disease was the FMD, but Botswana dealt with  it through dividing the country into zones , as such only beef from the green area zones is accepted everywhere. Asked which measures have the Department of Veterinary Services or relevant authorities undertaken to get foreign markets to relax sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures that act as a barrier for our beef exports, Tombale said the major issue under discussion is commodity-based trading in Ngamiland. 

“This means that you can export meat from other red zones as it is not every cow in that area that has FMD. The meat to be sold will not be having FMD as it would have been thoroughly checked before we can export but we will have to disclose by way of putting a stamp indicating that the meat comes from this area. The business of trade depends on individual countries to agree and our discussion was between Southern African countries,” he said.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 September 2018 09:48

Kgatleng parents force Headteacher out of school

Some parents in Mochudi – the capital of Kgatleng District - have taken the war directly to the education ministry succeeding in one instance to force the removal of a junior secondary school head teacher for non-performance.

The former head teacher at Sedibelo Junior Secondary (name withheld) who is in D- scale now lies idle at the Regional Education office where she is often given clerical jobs whilst still waiting for her charges. In 2017, the district had a pass rate of 67 percent at PLSE, 31 percent at junior certificate and 21 percent at senior secondary.

Sedibelo came last out of the 10 junior schools in the region. The best regional position the school ever got was position two at 44 percent in 2014. Otherwise they got position seven in 2013 and 16 at a pass rate of 28.3 and 20.2 percent respectively.Her  orchestrated removal from office is not only a warning  signal that  many parents in the district or even the country  may follow, but equally put at risk stakeholders as on that day parents just instructed the accounting officer to take with him the school head and replace  her or else they will not let him out of the meeting.

BG News team visited the school this week and found the situation calm under the new head, Tshetsana Mmesetse. Speaking to BG News, Regional Education Officer, Kereng Koko said the results in the schools are really depressing, to the extent that at times one tends to speak with a bit of harsh language because when you get into a school, the expectation is that, you will find the basics of teaching and learning taking place.

Why so? “Because in our senior schools we have seven people who are not teaching, being head, deputy and five departmental heads. In an 18 stream school or 24 stream school, you will have about three departmental heads these people are not teaching, they are supposed to be looking after teaching and learning.

“When school heads are asked how things are because the results are poor, they claim everything is fine. But, the results of the past four to five years shows there is a drop every year. When you get to the class and scheme books where the teacher makes the initial planning, you will realise that not they have schemed or prepared.”

She said, when you take the lesson plan, you will realise that there is no lesson plan. “When you take students books, which is something we have done in Kgatleng, then you will find that the last assignment or work that was done was in February, and the students are sitting for exams the next day. When you look at some of these things, then you will end up almost losing because you take that with the number of people who are supposed to be checking, Some of these things which are happening are not supposed to be happening”.

Parents
According to her, parents are now up in arms, because they also check their children’s work and they find all these things and they come back to us. “Typical example is here in Kgatleng, last year subsequent to my arrival in the district, I checked all my schools and found that there are schools which are not performing amongst them Sedibelo Junior Secondary School, I wrote to the respective head teachers asking them what they are doing about the results. “Instead of telling me what they are doing they told me about the resources.

You know teaching is not about the resources, teaching needs school heads and a focused head needs teachers who are prepared to teach any students. The resources are just enablers to make sure that teaching and learning is adequately done”.

Attacked
Koko said after writing letters to the heads she was ridiculed. At the beginning of the year, one of those schools that she wrote to - Sedibelo - based in Mochudi came last in the district. The parents decided to take it upon themselves; they called for a meeting saying that we are going to talk about the results. 

“We went into the school thinking so. At that meeting I was told in no uncertain terms, that I should leave with the school head because they have realised she is unable to instruct teaching and learning and as such she has abdicated her role as an instructional leader. I speak she is here with me in the region without a post waiting for her charge for non-performance”.

Bakgatle School
In another related incident, parents at Bakgatle Junior Secondary School came to her office complaining that there is no instructional leadership taking place in that school. “I talked to the leadership of the school and there was no improvement. I subsequently appointed three people to investigate. 

“The committee’s findings were that prior to their visit to the school, the School head played his part of checking if teaching and learning is taking place in their school. The parents have given me up to the end of the year to ensure that the results have improved”.

Challenges
Koko said the challenges are  poor supervision, teachers do not want  to scheme, do lessons plans, monitor  those lesson plans, do not give the students practice, don’t do marking and they do not do the corrections.  “The new PS, Dr Collie Monkge came up with the Turnaround Strategy.

We brought them for a conference, talked about clinical supervision which is all about making sure all is done accordingly including testing, when the students fail you make them do the corrections and for teachers to do that they need heads to check instead of just trusting if such basic things are not done. “I personally do visit schools to check and verify.

I have checked and verified many times I came disappointed and I have been forced to put up my voice when talking to school teachers, because if we have agreed and we know and have been taught, and we are professionals then we must go and check,” she said.  Bakgatla Regent, Kgosi Bana Sekai confirmed that he has heard of unpleasing reports coming from Molefi Secondary School and will soon be meeting with the regional education officer this week to get a brief and map a way forward.

Published in News
Thursday, 27 September 2018 09:41

Rammidi blasts BDP cadres as ‘crybabies

Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Kentse Rammidi has lashed out at fellow democrats for being crybabies when it comes to serving the party.

Rammidi who recently defected from opposition Botswana Congress Party where he also served as secretary general expressed concern that there is low level of commitment from BDP members when it comes to actively participating in party activities. He explained that he has participated in all forms of elections and what he has learnt in his past political life is that there is commitment in opposition cadres.

“BDP members should be blamed for the poor performance of the party during elections. It is not that opposition win elections because they have a relevant message to the voter. They do not talk anything sensible that can convince the electorates to give them their votes. It is because of commitment, hard work and compromise. Without these within the BDP members we would not win convincingly,” Rammidi said when addressing a political rally in Ledumang- Gaborone North Constituency this past weekend.

Rammidi has observed that BDP members want to be treated with kid’s gloves when they do party assignments. They would always want whoever they are canvassing votes for to do everything for them before they actively get involved. “Things that BDP members do are surprising. You will find that a candidate loses election because his or her spouse has failed to register. When you have an event they want you to do everything for them.

“When they travel to a party activity you will find that only two people travel in a car leaving others behind. Where I come from in the opposition there is a lot of compromise. They even share the little they have. BDP members will want you to buy them chicken-licken but in the opposition even if they have a loaf of bread and milk they are good to go just like members of this other church I would not mention,” he told the poorly attended voter registration star rally.

Rammidi warned democrats to desist from only working during Bulela-Ditswe. He wondered why a council candidate would be voted by 200 people but fail to bring only 50 people to the rally. He said the difference is commitment which is what the opposition prioritises.

The former legislator pointed out that he managed to introduce BCP in Kanye North through commitment which resulted in the party pulling 4000 votes in 2014 general elections. He warned against claims that the opposition is dead. He said a limping opposition is dangerous.

Published in News

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