MPs refuse to vacate parley flats
Members of Parliament (MP) who are currently residing at Parliamentary Village flats have rejected an order to vacate the houses two weeks after the dissolution of parliament, arguing that their families will have nowhere to stay.
As President Masisi prepares to dissolve the parliament, government has taken a decision to refurbish the flats so that the incoming legislators find them in better state. Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) which has been given mandate, is set to re-paint and fix a number of structural damages. The flats’ windows, tables and other properties which were damaged during the 11th parliament will have to be replaced. WeekendPost however at time of going to press was yet to establish the total budget for the renovations.
A memo reminding the legislators to leave the flats has long been issued for them to see how they will rescue themselves but they decided not to respond until this week when they now approached President Mokgweetsi Masisi on the matter. Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators led the request at the party’s last caucus meeting on Tuesday citing schools as the main reason.
Three MPs who spoke to this publication said it is not possible for them to vacate the houses with two months before the general elections. “There is no way how it can happen, our contract elapse in October. As far as I am concerned, we can only leave in October because our contract runs for five years,” said Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi. Mochudi East MP Moagi Molebatsi also said: “We have families and some of my colleagues have their kids schooling in Gaborone so to vacate these houses is not practical.”
“As MPs we have requested President to leave us and our families to remain in these houses until end of November because we do have school going kids and some of them will be writing national examinations later this year. So we have requested to be left until then. And I must tell you that President listened to us and we will be here until then. So the renovations will maybe commence in December when the 12th parliament goes for recess,” BDP Chief Whip Liakat Kablay said when asked about this matter.
Masisi is expected to dissolve parliament anytime and apart from vacating their houses, the legislators will also be given two weeks to have cleaned up their offices located at government enclave. Not only that, constituency offices will also be closed as current legislators will cease being MPs. “Our constituency officers’ contracts will automatically elapse after that two weeks and even us as MPs this month we are likely to be getting our monthly wages for the last time depending on when the President dissolves parliament,” Kablay who is a candidate for Letlhakeng-Lephepe constituency said.
The Parliamentary Village is a residential complex in Gaborone where MPs are housed free of charge for their entire term of office to execute their duty with ease. Earlier this year, it was revealed that MPs are failing to pay electricity bill amounting to around P200, 000. It was said since 2015, the MPs defaulted and it appears that those who have already lost primary elections or could lose during this year’s general elections intend to leave Parliament without having settled their bills. It is not clear which mechanism the government would use to force the MPs to pay the bills before parliament is dissolved for the general elections.
Parliamentary sources on the other hand told this publication that MPs have received letters requesting them to pay the bills with July set as the deadline for all to have paid. The arrangement between MPs and the government is that the cost of electricity used by an individual member should be borne by the member in full. It is said they should foot the bills every month something which they did in the formative months in parliament before defaulting. However, in some instances it is said some legislators claim not to be aware of such agreement despite almost five years residing at Parliamentary Village.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month. Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”