Back in April 2017 Minergy Limited listed on the main board of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) with the objective of utilising its 100% owned 390-million tonne Masama Coal Project in the Mmambula Coalfield to become a preeminent coal mining and trading company in southern Africa.
As the Company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andre Bojé successfully steered the Company through its listing and mine development after having conceived a company strategy that has positioned the Company to achieve its objective of becoming a significant player in southern African coal mining and trading. On 14 May 2019, Minergy announced that Bojé would be retiring but importantly that he would remain involved in the company to retain oversight and strategic responsibility for group coal marketing and sales for a period of 12 months.
He will also remain part of the team tasked with ensuring the successful listing of Minergy on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange. Boje said: “The project is at a stage where it needs hands on executive attention so it’s the right time to step back” and added that “there is an excellent team in place to progress Masama to where we have consistently believed it should be, one of the leading coal suppliers in the southern African region”.
Mokwena Morulane, Non-Executive Chairperson of Minergy, said that Bojé had been the driving force behind taking the project through a multitude of steps, both regulatory and physical, including the listing on the BSE. “Thanks to this, it is now a viable operating coal mine. Andre’s outstanding management, deep understanding of the coal industry and his tenacity are the reasons why we have a workable project today.” He added that retaining Bojé’s expertise in the business for a period of time will allow a smooth transition and cement the establishment of the Masama Coal Project and CEO succession.
Following this, the Minergy Board has announced that Morne du Plessis has been appointed as CEO designate and will step into the position of CEO on 1 August 2019. An extensive candidate selection process, led by Minergy’s Remuneration and Nomination Committee, included both internal and external candidates, ensuring that the Board was in a position to appoint the most qualified and experienced person to fill the role previously held by Boje.
Mr. du Plessis, currently the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has extensive experience in southern African coal mining and trading sector, particularly in South Africa. He is a chartered accountant with an MBA from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland and has held top management positions for several coal mining and trading groups, including contract mining and beneficiation service provider Genet SA, junior coal miner Umcebo Mining Group, and Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed junior coal miner and trader, Wescoal Holdings Limited.
Du Plessis has been a Director on the Board of the Minergy since January 2017 and has been an integral part of the operational team that developed the Masama project. Commenting on the new appointment, Morulane said that du Plessis’ extensive experience in coal mining and trading, particularly in southern African but also internationally, and his significant listed public company director experience was a significant factor in the Board’s decision to appoint him as CEO.
“He also has a deep and practical understanding of the requirements to implement a modern mining project, with his tenure as Minergy’s CFO giving him in-depth knowledge of Minergy’s flagship Masama Project, in order to bring it into full production over the coming months.” The commitment to growth within Minergy is further underpinned with several additional appointments having been made recently, including those of Financial Manager Julius Ayo, General Manager of Mining Siyani Makwakwago, and SHE Manager Herbert Kebafetotse.
“I am extremely proud of these appointments for a number of reasons,” said du Plessis, adding that these senior managers are highly skilled, knowledgeable and embrace the Minergy culture of ensuring training across the organisation in order to fulfil the company’s mandate of ensuring a viable coal sector in Botswana.”
“Work is demanding and at the same time very rewarding. I feel that I am part of something big which will create opportunities and transform the lives of many Batswana,” said Ayo. He went on to indicate that that a goal for the finance team is “to ensure the mine remains financially sustainable through effective cost management, disciplined adherence to financial systems, and prudent revenue optimisation”.
New colleague Siyani Makwakwago added to this, saying he believes that the Minergy culture allows people to express their views openly, thereby promoting a diverse approach to resolving any potential issues. “Minergy has afforded me an opportunity to explore my capabilities to the fullest in dealing with varied experiences in a brown field project. Every day is different, interesting and challenging, and I always looking forward to the next day.”
He and the team are looking forward to the day they start feeding coal sustainably and safely through the washing plant and have quality product out through the mine gate onward to customers. SHE Manager Herbert Kebafetotse believes that employees at Minergy have a once in a lifetime opportunity in terms of being part of the construction, commissioning and operation of a potential giant in Botswana’s coal mining history. “The euphoria created by the prospects of bringing an open pit coal mine to its full potential has created a culture of togetherness and team work that will collectively ensure the commissioning and operation of the mine is successful.”
Kebafetotse added that, from a personal perspective, being part of a new operation, with the excitement of starting things from scratch came with a lot of pressure to do so successfully, was what he enjoys most. “From a SHE team perspective, we intend making this the model mine in Botswana by achieving an LTIFR of zero in our first year and thereafter improving on this performance to go beyond the philosophy of ‘zero harm’. To achieve this, we need commitment from all employees, supervisors and managers, and the team is eager to provide a framework for managers to lead the way towards a safe culture at the mine.”
Above and beyond these senior appointments, Martin Bartle, the Managing Director of Minergy Coal (Pty) Ltd has responsibility for the overall performance of the company embracing profitability, mining operations, processing and safety. Minergy has furthermore opened local offices in the villages of Medie and Lentsweletau primarily to ensure that detailed skills audits are conducted and also provide a contact point for various communities to interact with the project. At the moment, of the 246 employees on the mine site, 236 or 96% are Batswana.
Training at the mine site is taking place, mainly through subcontractors, and primarily involving machine operation. “As we transition from the project phase to full production, a vast amount of training will continue to take place and, in this phase, we will really be building coal expertise within Botswana,” du Plessis assured. Bojé said that the company and the mining operation is in good standing and that executive management, as well as mine and technical management, are well equipped to take the project forward successfully.
“I am confident that the operation is in good hands,” he said. In conclusion, du Plessis reiterated Minergy’s ongoing commitment to foster skills development in Botswana, coupled with ensuring the company’s social conscience is directed at uplifting the surrounding villages, such as the recent connection of the local Medie village to the Botswana Power Corporation electrification grid and other planned projects. “This is the right thing to do and we will ensure that we are remembered for our care as well as our knowledge of the coal sector, which we want to ensure remains a skill set that can be sustained in Botswana.”
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”