Over the last few weeks, the nation of Botswana has been overwhelmed with reports of corruption, wastage of government funds and incredible administrative blunders executed by the current government. These blunders seem to form a big part of the current administration’s modus operandi. The litany of blunders includes wastage of money that was supposed to be used to fight the Coronavirus pandemic where toilets at primary schools were built at exorbitant amounts. To add salt to injury, senior ministers in the administration then went on the rampage lamenting and criticizing this waste that is done under their watch!
Other unprecedented blunders of the regime include the actions of a President who is currently in quarantine and has been quarantined more than three times for behaviour that could easily been avoided. The President holds the world record for the individual with the most quarantines during the COVID 19 lockdowns. These blunders are concerning and point in the direction in which this country could be heading.
Lately there have been reports of the COVID-19 subsidy scheme not being credited to companies to pay workers despite the government publishing information to the contrary. Lowly-paid Batswana have sacrificed so much during the lockdown and to-date many have not been paid their subsidy salaries, not to mention those who are suffering in the informal sector who were not catered for at all. Some companies are yet to receive salary subsidies for the months of April and May. These unprecedented blunders are proving too heavy a burden to carry and are now weighing down on the conscience of the nation.
There is a very serious court action in the offing with legal papers of demand that imply that the nurse who seemingly precipitated the hurried adoption of the state of emergency earlier on in the year might actually not have had COVID-19. There are serious allegations that the whole debacle was contrived. Should these fears be found to be true, this would constitute the lowest point of our leadership’s moral deficit.
Two days after the state of emergency laws were passed, the spokesperson of the Botswana Patriotic Front, Justice Motlhabani, was arrested at 2200hrs at night by over 20 armed police officers who came after him as if he were some armed and dangerous bank robber. All this drama for what we learnt were trumped up charges ostensibly to do with some benign social media stories! We condemn this delinquent behaviour in the strongest possible terms because no citizen should be arrested at night, stripped naked and hand and ankle chained like an animal.
This is reminiscent of how Madam ‘Butterfly’ was escorted to court over trumped up charges by tens of heavily armed security personnel. She was charged with another suspicious offence of stealing P100 000 from the Bank of Botswana. These trumped up charges are seemingly going to cause Botswana to be blacklisted in the international financial community in October this year. Motlhabani and his colleague, Dikologang, were subsequently tortured whilst in police custody allegedly by members of the Serious Crimes Squad. The cruel and inhumane torture and everything that they went through during their detention and interrogation will come out in court as we call out some ministers and influential figures in government to testify.
This was the first time in the history of Botswana that political activists were tortured by state apparatus. Another ugly blight of the current regime seems to be undoing all the good reputation of Botswana that was built over decades. The idea seems to be to make Botswana a truly ‘African’ country in the mould of Kagame and Munangagwa. These actors have for some reason become our new best friends, together with the Chinese Communist Party that had a keen interest in the last general elections that were rigged.
The current President was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Botswana soon after ascending to the presidency in a curiously unprocedural manner. There are intimations that some in the government now want to add a new title of ‘Father of the Nation’ to the doctorate.
We as a party have no qualms with the penchant of African leaders to have bizarre titles like Conqueror of the British Empire, but we would like to caution that now is not the time for peculiar titles. This is not the time for personal aggrandisement. This is the time for the nation to be united in fighting COVID-19 and ensuring that we win the war of our generation. We believe that the focus of government should be to cater for all sectors of the economy, especially those that have been ignored like the informal sector. It is a time to ensure that vulnerable members of our society are catered for with food rations on a non-partisan basis and for strategies be implemented to resuscitate the collapsed economy.
But corruption has skyrocketed in recent months and we have heard of tenders running into the tens of millions of pula being awarded to newly formed companies. The question in many of our people’s minds is how these ‘new’ tenderpreneurs knew about the opportunities to tender when we were all under lockdown and could not conduct business. Nearly all of these tenders were not advertised, most were by direct appointment to the ‘new’ companies. This state of affairs leaves a lot to be desired and flies in the face of good governance.
The finance minister recently announced that the Botswana Government, through its embassies abroad, had purchased medical goods to the tune of P2.4 billion and that these supplies were on their way to Botswana. We want to know what was being purchased and when these goods will arrive in Botswana. All these happenings are a concern because Batswana have given a of money to the COVID-19 Relief Fund to assist our government, only to learn that this goodness could have been erased by the most corrupt period in the history of this nation.
The Moody’s Rating Agency report recently downgraded Botswana from a stable outlook to a negative one. No doubt that even Transparency International is going to downgrade this country, looking at the recent corruption allegations lamented by even senior ministers. Amnesty International is also keenly looking at our reports of torture meted out to our activists. There has been violation of lockdown regulations by the leadership in the BDP led by the President who is not embarrassed and who goes into his third quarantine and sees nothing wrong. Imagine if any essential services employee had gone for their third quarantine! That’s more than one month of being indoors at this time of need.
In conclusion, we call upon the BDP government to start taking the nation seriously by taking actionable steps in fighting the cancerous corruption that is eating away at our economy and stability. And that we can’t continue like this when we are faced with an economic crisis and possible job cuts. This is the time for leadership to emerge and for our country to resume its long held place in the league of great nations of the world.
Biggie Ganda Butale
President of the Botswana Patriotic Front