Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Botswana’s reconstruction after Khama will be a tall order

Evidently Botswana is fast turning for the worst. The country’s economic fortunes are regressing daily. Life is becoming extremely unbearable for the ordinary Motswana. While inflation is generally on the decline and within the Bank of Botswana target range of three to six percent, disposable income is far from meeting people’s daily needs. Except for a few privileged, scores of employees are finding it extremely hard to make ends meet.

The Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) that was established under the New Public Service Act of 2008 has been rendered impotent by President Ian Khama’s unilateral pronouncements of salary increments.
On June 8 the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will move an application at the High Court seeking a decoration that Khama’s conduct, along with the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM) Ruth Maphorisa and Attorney General Dr Ataliah Molokomme,┬áin respect of the 2014/15 four percent wage was unlawful and in breach of their duty to negotiate in good faith by following PSBC procedures.

BOFEPUSU further seeks the court to declare the conduct of government in implementing the unilateral four percent salary increase as constituting breach of their duty to bargain in good faith and unlawful.
The application extends to the granting of salary increments to the non-unionised cadres of the civil service.

To compound matters, most luxuries that were enjoyed before Khama ascended to the presidency are dead and buried. There is an acute shortage of free meals at public schools and unemployed parents are compelled to provide pre-cooked food for their school going children. The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) is the least bothered. Nobody is taking charge to ensure that children do not attend classes on empty stomachs. Teachers are helpless and disgruntled. Their principals don’t give a damn. This is the real Botswana that we have come to know and live in.

Civil liberties have been seriously eroded and free internal debate within the ruling party and the general public is non-existent. Fear is the order of the day. The country is quickly sliding into the abyss that most African countries endure.

Corruption is at its highest despite the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC)’s campaign for zero corruption. The presidency’s deafening silence on alleged corrupt activities is way beyond imagination. The future is just too ghastly to contemplate.

With so much damning allegations in the public domain that his cronies are looting public funds and ruining the economy willy-nilly, Khama’s silence is deafening and many are baffled that instead of taking action he opts to embark on his favourite errand of doling out blankets and chairs at kgotla meetings. Meanwhile, top ministers and high raking businessmen continue to evade prosecution and conviction after being charged with corruption. Social workers have resigned to twiddling their thumbs as Khama is at the forefront of performing their employment functions.

They are folding their arms in anticipation of a day when they will be able to do their job without undue executive interference. Some have even opted out of the public service in frustration to seek employment elsewhere. Job satisfaction has become a pie in the sky. The few remaining in the public service are simply waiting for pay day which brings much agony in light of deplorable working conditions.

┬áIt also remains unbelievable that the presidency has to date not uttered a single word of caution or taken action against compelling allegations that the Director General of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), Isaac Kgosi is ‘looting’ public funds with impunity.

If the president is at all serious about eliminating corruption, he should have by now interdicted Kgosi from his plum post and instituted a public enquiry into the allegations. His silence into the matter equates him to a plausible accomplice in the commission of the alleged crimes.
Against public expectation, the eleventh parliament that was sworn in after the 2014 general election has not moved a single question or motion seeking the interdiction of Kgosi as is normal practice with most civil servants.

Khama is on record defending his actions saying with the maxim that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Corporate governance in most parastatals which were established by Acts of Parliament leaves a lot to be desired.  

If the presidency surely shuns corruption in accordance with the pronouncements that Khama made when he ascended to the presidency in April 1998, heads should have long started rolling. He should be cracking the whip to prove to all and sundry that he is in charge. Instead, things are falling apart and there is no hope for many Batswana. It would definitely serve the nation right for Khama as the appointing authority to interdict Kgosi from public office pending a public enquiry into the allegations. The opposition’s voice should be thundering amid all these shortfalls that are engulfing the country.

The multi-billion Pula Morupule B project should be a serious cause of concerns for the political leadership. Persistent power cuts are killing the economy. Promises that the project will deliver were made but have never been fulfilled. Nobody seems to care. The presidency is not even concerned. Although the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MEWR) Kitso Mokaila under whose portfolio falls the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), has made numerous assurances of restoring the electricity supply situation, it is getting worse by the day.

The persistent power cuts have affected water supply as Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) needs loads of electricity to power its pump stations to supply the nation with water. Provision of water is a fundamental human right that should never be compromised. Lack of water exposes the nation to untold misery.

WUC is pointing an accusing finger at BPC. Without electricity, there is nothing the water utility can do to operate its pump stations and feed the public with water. The presidency is mum on water shortage despite huge investments made in the construction of dams. The disquiet defeats the purposes for which massive public funds were invested in the construction of dams. The country stands to lose a lot of water due to evaporation.

Very soon the dams will dry and there will be no return on the huge investments made on the construction of the dams. Mokaila is on record telling the nation that they are in the process of recycling used water for human consumption. As the country grapples to recover from the recent economic recession, there is no reason why there is no political will to get the fundamentals right. The funds invested will never be recovered. Instead government has been quick to increase electricity and water tariffs despite persistent shortage resulting in water rationing and power supply load shedding. The tariff increase is a serious burden to most Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet Government is not accounting for the huge expenditures that are not benefitting the public.

It is important now than never that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that with dwindling public coffers, everything possible is done to ensure tangible returns on huge investments in the construction of dams of power plants. It is little wonder that one can safely conclude that whoever succeeds from Khama will be faced with a mammoth task of reconstructing the economy. Unlike most Africans in other parts of the continent, it is fortunate that Batswana are docile and not war minded. Theirs is simply a resigned fate despite the untold prevailing economic misery. Botswana’s reconstruction will need a government that without hesitation embarks on a serious paradigm shift and change of mindset that can sustain the country in the future. Hard times are looming and the list for what will be required for reconstruction is endless after Khama’s reign at the helm.

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