Botswana: Steve Harvey Appointment, a Betrayal of Public Trust

The direct appointment of a company owned by President Mokgweetsi Masisi's friend, Steve Harvey Global by PPADB (read Botswana Government) with all the critical details kept secret and hidden from the public is mind-boggling.

Now Government is clutching at straws in a miserable attempt to explain away why over P470 million of public money should be spend on one man whom they claim is the Lord of Radio and Television Broadcasting. This cannot and will never be acceptable - because our equally gifted and qualified people who would not require to be taught about our culture have long been waiting. Officials are pitifully embarrassing themselves in the process of trying to justify such crockery.

By telling us that there is neither a Scope nor an ITT, yet PPADB has already given an approval to directly appoint Steve Harvey Global (SHG) not only raises red flags and is self-incriminating. Is that how PPADB operates, or how contracts are awarded in this country? For what is worth, the toothless Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) should jump to action and investigate the SHG contract approval by PPADB because it goes against the basic norms and rules of procurement.

How, on earth, can an approval be granted to SHG to come and do a job we don't even know its specifications or how much such contract is likely to cost? In short SHG has been given a blank cheque, to decide what figure they sign in there. The PPADB Act stipulates when the direct appointment method can be used, among others during emergencies or if for whatever reason there happens to be only one service provider in that field. In the Botswana television productions contract case none of those apply. SHG is not the only entity that can provide this service and there is no emergency at Btv. No wonder perhaps, they want to do away with PPADB as it is - they want to open the floodgates of corruption!

The only logical conclusion is that there are some exceptional reasons only known to our leaders, which are not for public consumption. The end result of a prolonged State of Public Emergency, is it? Could this be the ways of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government? Until proven otherwise, those who opine that these are ways in which millions are siphoned from public coffers using unscrupulous backhand deals, are onto something.

Let's refresh our minds a bit with a flashback! Back in 2014, one Jeffrey Atkins (commonly known as Ja Rule), a disgraced convicted felon who could not sell a single CD in his homeland, struck gold in Botswana. Brand Botswana splashed undisclosed amounts, estimated at U$ 23 000 in the hope that after being taken on a whirlwind tour of our precious Jwaneng mines he would market our diamonds in the US... not just rough stones, the best diamonds in the world by value! Never mind that the felon was convicted of heinous crimes among them gender based violence, drug abuse and tax evasion. Botswana just could not be bothered about the checkered history of such a character.

In another case, what quantifiable benefit have we derived from the P30 million Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) poured into that Mma Ramotswe sham back in 2007! A few extras, who appeared in that ridiculously boring excuse of a movie and that dilapidated Kgale View set? Has Botswana sent anybody to star in Hollywood movies as promised yet? Zero, zilch!

Elsewhere, the Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU), in a recent statement on citizen economic empowerment (CEE) in the mining sector, when reacting to the termination of Majwe Mining JV Cut 9 contract with Debswana Diamond Company and the looming resuscitation of BCL mines by Canadian firm PNR still rings loud and true. The mine workers posit therein, convincingly so, that there will never be any meaningful citizen economic empowerment until locals are given big multimillion Pula contracts in mining rather than being roped in (by foreign entities) at the tail end as sub-contractors to do menial jobs and mop up leftovers/crumbs.

BMWU proposition is that big value mining contracts must be awarded to citizen companies, for what it is worth even if it is to build the very capacity often used as a barrier for locals. Citizen contractors, will in turn find partners in case they lack capacity in some areas just like the multinationals that have dominated mining contracts have been doing over the years. Even then, such shortcomings or lack of capacity by citizen contractors are and will be an indictment on Botswana government that after 50 years of independence we have failed to develop requisite capacity among ourselves in the very sector that anchors our economic being. Such a shame!

Through SHG, one can only assume that our leadership wants to acculturise us - to Americanise Batswana. This money should rather be reserved for local producers who should bid to produce high quality products. We can only doubt their ability once we have given them the opportunity.

Even more critical at this stage is the question - where did Government suddenly find money to splash on SHG when it has failed to bug Covid 19 vaccine and is appealing for private sector support. Key infrastructure projects, including supply of water to residents, have been put on hold - only for Steve Harvey to raid the bank.

Perhaps Government should just own up and say they were pulling one of the Harvey jokes on us! Anything else, will be a betrayal of public trust placed on Government to do things properly and above question!

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