A group of four Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) veterans; Daniel Kwelagobe, Charles Tibone, Satar Dada and Joseph Legwaila have emerged as power brokers in a move aimed at persuading former President Lt Gen Ian Khama to return to the ruling party.
According impeccable sources, the talks between the former President and the party stalwarts began three months ago, after party elders agreed amicably that the first reconciliation talks that were conducted by former President Festus Mogae, David Magang, Ray Molomo and Patrick Balopi collapsed — with no prospects of resuscitation. WeekendPost understands that the four BDP stalwarts have confided to Khama that they have not been sent by anyone but acting on their personal capacity as party elders.
“They are very much determined to see Khama abandon the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and retracing his steps to the ailing BDP,” a source said. Khama had in previous talks told them [party elders] that there is little that they can do, as he insisted that he preferred to meet President Masisi face-to-face to resolve the current stand-off. Masisi however rejected Khama’s proposal, maintaining that the two of them meet in the presence of party elders.
The deadlock have seen concerned party stalwarts initiating another talks to coax Khama to extend an olive branch to his successor. The talks are spearheaded by the party’s favourite son Kwelagobe. DK, as popularly known in the party spent 27 years as secretary general, and has served under four presidents. Kwelagobe and Khama, served for nearly 20 years together in the party Central Committee. The delegation also has BDP longest serving Central Committee member and Treasurer, Dada. Dada who has been BDP treasurer since 1995 is considered Khama’s close ally.
Adding to the delegation is leading businessman and former minister, Charles Tibone as well as Botswana's former ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and career Diplomat Joseph Manson Legwaila. This publication can confidently reveal that the four staunch members of the ruling party have been involved in talks with Khama for over three months. Tibone is however cagey, and has denied his involvement in reconciling former President Khama and his Masisi but has admitted to meeting the duo on different occasions.
“I personally do meet both leaders from time-to-time where we engage on various issues. They are both our leaders, why shouldn’t we relate and engage them,” Tibone told Weekend Post. The former Tati West legislator said he also met with both Dada and Kwelagobe because they are BDP veterans and they have also engaged on various topics. Tibone said recently Kwelagobe has been unwell and they met several times owing to his health and that that should not be viewed as an issue.
The BDP veteran said his wish is to see a positive solution to both leaders since the stand-off has the potential to harm the country’s economy, the political landscape as well as the country’s future. “If there is a solution, it would be best for the country,” said Charles Tibone. President Khama, when reached for comment, said he could not rule out the possibility of returning back to the BDP one day.Khama confirmed meeting Dada, Tibone, Legwaila and Kwelagobe several times over the past three months.
“We had discussion kind of where they still insists I should come back and re-unite with the party. I think they are concerned about the outcome of the general elections,” said Khama. According to him, this is still work in progress and he will continue to engage them further. Even though he hints at the possibility of coming back, Khama said that will not happen now while some within the party continue to insult him and his family. The former President said he however could not share the contents of the meetings implying that it is confidential. Khama maintained that the four elders cannot assure him of anything and insists that Masisi is the only one who can guarantee his return to BDP.
As the nation awaits President Mokgweetsi Masisi to announce the writ of the general elections which are expected in October this year, the BDP is reportedly pressing on panic buttons as their members are torn between their party and BPF which Khama is its patron. For the first time since Khama left BDP and joined opposition, President Masisi who is also party President announced at rally in Gaborone last week that BDP wants former President Khama back in the BDP fold.
Khama left the BDP unceremoniously few months back and later formed the BPF. Many of his loyalists within the ruling BDP left the party and followed him to the new party, and it is feared that his departure may result in BDP losing electoral support in the Central District, the party’s traditional stronghold where it is Khama’s sphere of influence. Khama and Masisi’s relationship broke down tremendously few months after Masisi took charge in a move which was observed by many as betraying his own master in Ian Khama.
The two men were involved in a number of public spats where they did not spare the rod for each other. Khama has now been going around the country and amassing support for his BPF and opposition in some instances. The BDP is now afraid of voter splitting that might give the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) an opportunity to romp to victory for the first time since 1965.
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.”