The drama of heists in Botswana's political history reached another act as the 11th Parliament drew to a close. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) traded whatever faint principles once held dear, in the process betraying what held the party together for P900 million. Honourable Igantious Moswaane earned respect.
Moswaane and the Finance & Estimates Committee (FEC) discovered belatedly the art of reaching beyond parliamentary precinct to people. The opposition says the current BDP is a rat’s nest of ruling class interests stuffed full with pocket liners barging their ways to the next loot. And the 100 km Masama Direct Project exposed that.
That the attempted heist is another huge milestone in our Parliament is beyond doubt. In the resulting noise too much of the country remains uninterested when it should be asking for accountability. The ignorant have concluded that FEC misled Parliament.
The attempted thievery has since tumbled into a farce earning Honourable Kefentse Mzwinila the title of a heavy weighted champion in bullying. Embarrassingly, Mzwinila seems to embellish an unsavoury attitude bedevilling today’s BDP, a self-styled belief of a political right to win, regardless of how utterly reckless.
Losing Bulela Ditswe to Molebatsi Molebatsi and failing to secure the P900 million loot has exposed Mzwinila. For him, trampling over the most basic tenets of democracy comes easy.
To believe in the sanctity of Parliament and understand the dangers of the current moment involves a certain mixture of humility and deference. And it says something about the decay of BDP, a one-time embodiment of democracy. Mzwinila’s idiotic decision to report Moswaane to the hollow chamber that is Mpho Balopi exemplifies the horrid deed of the absence of psychological safety in the workplace.
This is a classic act of bullying: giving a body of people an impossible job; and then raging at them for their ability to do it.
Parliamentary Committees are a composition of MPs appointed by the House through the Committee of Selection. They are miniature Parliaments with the same powers, immunities and privileges as the House itself.
They are means to provide the public and other stakeholders the opportunity to make representations to the Assembly on certain matters. Parliamentary Committees hold the Executive accountable, ensuring expenditure is synchronised with national priorities.
This watchdog function has FEC scrutinise supplementary funds requested by various ministries for unforeseen and emergent expenditure. Central to this function is to guide against poor administration, minimise waste and fraud, and reduce corruption.
On August 8, 2019, Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo presented Financial Paper No.1 of 2019/2020. Amongst the requests, was an obscene need from Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLMWS) for a project to be named “100km Masama Direct”.
In Matambo’s speech to Parliament, the construction of a separate pipeline from Masama to Mmamashia would see MLMWS redirect funds from approved projects such as the Lobatse Water Master Plan Implementation and savings from delays in the implementation of the budgeted North South Carrier 2.2 works packages. And that is where the attempted heist lay.
Matambo acknowledged FEC’s non approval, but emphasised that the water situation in the South was projected to worsen as there are predictions of a drought spell. The predictions of a dry spell are blatant lies told by Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) officials to motivate hastily for the 100km Masama Direct.
And indeed, the supplementary budget was rejected. Moswaane’s committee decried the butchering of laid processes. WUC floated a tender without first securing its funding. When giving reasons why the project was not an emergency or unforeseen, the committee approach was two pronged.
Matamabo’s speech to Parliament was in August 2019. A letter written by Grace Muzila, for the Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Finance to the PS Thatayaone Dedede, Minstry of Land Manamgement, Water and Sanitation Services in April 2018 was the first to highlight this irregularity. What is the BDP trying to cover up a year after the event?
Muzila in her letter highlighted that 100km Masama Direct was not in NDP 11. When P6.4 billion was approved on the
The biggest of the crimes however lay elsewhere. Muzila bemoaned with a heavy heart that the project had already been awarded without approved public funding. God of holden (Modimo wa tshwaro). Even terrible, is the unpunished act of encumbering government with a P900 million liability against the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) and Section 36 of Public Finance Management Acts. Government procuring entities do not float tenders when funding is unavailable.
FEC also called on the responsible Ministry to expedite the awarding of a tender for the NSC 2.2 Contract 1, a component unbundled from the entire scheme from Palapye to Mmamashia and with respect to Masama to Mmamashia.
When Mzwinila became the Minister of MLMWS work on the NSC II had long been underway. The first NSC budget was approved in 2015 and supplemented in 2018 after scoping of the project. Tenders were floated for NSC 2.2 Contract 1, evaluated, and then re-evaluated on Mzwinila’s instruction and before being submitted to PPADB for awarding. There is however, reluctance in the procuring Ministry to see the tender awarded for implementation.
On September 3, 2019, Department of Meteorological Services shared for the first time Seasonal Rainfall and Temperature Outlook. Nothing cries a drought or dry spell, further blemishing the record of the WUC officials. After Parliament rejected the supplementary funding, WUC officials went on multiple radio stations citing drought spells as motivation to favour the 100 km Masama Direct Project.
Reeling from the rejection of a project shrouded in corruption, Mzwinila who certainly felt his incompetence exposed, reported Moswaane to Balopi. It would appear Mzwinila hasn’t dispelled virtues of mischief making and chicanery. The BDP once expelled Mzwinila for alleged elections rigging. He has also been at the centre of protesting youth wing elections, when they didn’t favour him.
Bullying in the workplace is well known and documented. Mzwinila represents a new frontier of systematic engagement of interpersonally abusive behaviours that negatively affect the Moswaane, the BDP, Parliament and the BDP as a Party in Government. As all other victims of bullying in this saga, poor Moswaane has suffered intimidation, degradation, and humiliation.
And so to something even more insidious. Upon receiving the letter, Balopi – a fellow who seems to have rented his brains away - ran rampantly to the BDP kangaroo court. It is wrong for the ruling party to rage at Moswaane when an incompetent Minister behaves arbitrarily and unaccountably. It is not surprising, Balopi, a weak link in the executive of the BDP, thrives on volatile amoral politics. In truth, Balopi did not comprehend the contents, despite trying to get into the same Parliament he wants to undermine.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has on many occasions fashioned himself an ardent observer of the rule of law. The PPADB Act and Public Finance Management Acts were butchered – and it would appear with impunity. A trite and powerful axiom originated in 1734 by Alexander Pope says, ‘just as the twig is bent, so grows the tree’. Natives will say ‘lore le ojwa le sale metsi’.
In the absence of any wind an arrow will fly on the course set at the beginning. Just this week President Masisi suspended erratic Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi. The media, including Friday Thoughts called the lootocracy as early as February 22, 2019.
Hopefully President Masisi’s axe will cut this log proficient in bullying soonest.