The SADC Observer Mission has noted areas of the electoral process that require improvement in Botswana. While declaring the 23rd October 2019 elections Free and Fair, the Mission also observed areas of the electoral process and system that require perfection.
Interestingly they also touched on the role of Traditional Leaders in politics urging the Government to institute national consultations to review the role that traditional leaders may play in politics given their current multiple roles. According to Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of the Republic Of Zimbabwe and Head of the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), the Mission observed that traditional leaders, particularly the Chiefs, have multiple roles which include an overlap between executive, judicial, and legislative powers.
“Above this some traditional leaders are also politicians, and even where they are not politicians they exercise a significant influence in the political/voting choices of their subjects, which may not be desirable in the democratic context,” he said. The Mission also commented on counting of votes imploring that consideration should be given to amending the Electoral Act to make provision for polling station-based counting and displaying of results at the polling station.
“The Electoral Act provides for polling station-based voter registration and voting, and once polling is closed, for the transportation of ballot boxes to counting centres across the country. The Mission noted that this procedure exposes the ballot boxes to insecurity in the process of movements between polling stations and counting centres. The Mission noted that the Electoral Act does not make provision for the less risky and more transparent system whereby ballots are counted at each polling station and provisional results are posted outside polling stations for the benefit of all stakeholders,” observed Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo.
On the hot subject of Regulation of Political Parties funding, the Mission called on Government and all stakeholders to consider consultations on the possible regulation of political party financing, particularly in the context of regulating private foreign funding and the safeguards that may be adopted in the national interest. According to the SADC team, “the Electoral Act limits campaign expenditure to a maximum of P50,000 per candidate. In reality, however, the law and the limits imposed therein are not reflective of the existing dynamics observed in the current financing of political party campaign activities. The injection of foreign money has the potential to cause undue influence and external interference in domestic politics thereby compromising the sovereignty of the country.”
The Mission also urged the IEC is urged to enhance its communication with stakeholders and the public, especially by reviewing and updating the content on its information communication technology platforms. The Mission took note that given modern dependence on information and communication technology, access to critical electoral information from the IEC is generally limited. Furthermore, the Head of SOME said there is need for the IEC to develop and implement general standards on how the polling staff can assist and prioritise voters who require assistance, such as the disabled, elderly and expecting mothers.
They advised that polling stations should be located far from bars and other places where alcohol is consumed. The Mission also questioned the lack of use of indelible ink and of translucent ballot boxes. “The Government is urged to amend the Electoral Act to make provision for the use of indelible ink to minimise the possibility of double or multiple voting and the use of translucent ballot boxes to enhance the transparency of the electoral process.”
The SADC OEM touched on the issue of Voter registration and education. According to the Mission in order to improve voter registration and voter turn-out during elections, “the Government is urged to amend the Electoral Act in order to make provision for the continuous registration of voters up to the cut-off date before an election; and to legally mandate and financially empower the IEC to conduct voter education. In addition, the issue of voter apathy should be duly addressed by all stakeholders.
The Mission noted that the total population of Botswana is 2.2 million, of this 1,592, 350 are eligible voters and the IEC targeted to register 1,273, 880 voters. The actual figure achieved for the 2019 elections was 925, 478 registered voters. The total voter registrations in 2019 were marginally lower at 73%, than in 2014 where it was 77% of the total eligible voters. This is reflective of voter apathy.
“The Mission noted that the Electoral Act does not make provision for the continuous registration of voters up to the cut-off date before an election. Further, the IEC has no legal mandate to conduct voter education, and consequently lacks dedicated funding for this purpose; it is the observation of the Mission that more could have been done by the IEC and all relevant stakeholders in conducting voter education.”
On Gender representation the SADC Observer Mission called on all stakeholders and the Government are urged to take measures to address the gender imbalances in elected political positions, particularly at the level of the National Assembly. “Although this may require comprehensive constitutional amendments, political parties are also urged to take the lead and implement affirmative measures. This will be in conformity with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2016) and the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).”
Giving background information on Gender representation Lt. Gen. (Retired) Dr. Sibusiso Moyo said while women account for 55% of registered voters in Botswana, the 2019 elections represent a downward shift in the representation of women in political leadership, particularly at the National Assembly level. “In the 2014 elections Botswana registered five female Members of Parliament, four of whom were elected at their constituencies, and one was specially elected. This brought the percentage of female parliamentarians after the 2014 elections to 8.7% of the total. Furthermore, in the 2014 elections, out of a total of 192 Parliamentary candidates, 17 were female, representing 8.9%,” he said.
He noted that in 2019, however, only 11 out of 210 Parliamentary candidates were women, representing 5% of the total, which demonstrates a downward shift from the gains of 2014. This requires national reflection to address the gender imbalance in politics, he observed. The SEOM observed that the pre-election and voting phases of the 2019 General Elections were well organised and were conducted in a peaceful and free atmosphere, and the environment enabled the voters to express themselves in a transparent manner.
“The Mission commends the IEC for the professional manner in which they conducted the elections, and the people of Botswana for the political maturity demonstrated during the electoral process. The Mission urges Batswana to maintain this spirit until the conclusion of the process when the results of the elections are announced, and after, and to implement the above recommendations in preparation for the next electoral cycle.”
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”