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We broke the law to please Khama – Morupisi

Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Carter Morupisi has admitted on Friday (yesterday) that government has gone overboard with regard to the law just to please former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.

Morupisi made this startling revelation at a media briefing in Gaborone which was aimed at discussing the pension and benefits of former presidents especially with regard to Khama. The public service chief said former presidents; the late Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae never wanted special treatment extended to them from government with regard to pensions and benefits, but Khama continues to expect preferential treatment.

 “In all honesty I will be not fair and authentic to the late ex-president Masire if I state that he wanted the government to treat him with kids gloves and extended his benefits beyond what is in the rule book,” he stated. According to Morupisi, Masire never troubled government, even though he had many financial shortcoming and needs. In addition to Masire, the PSP also highlighted that even former president Mogae was welcoming and engaging.

“Most importantly he never wanted more than we can provide. When he had some displeasure over something he would rightly say it out to us without reaching such news into the public domain. We spoke in-house and resolved issues amicably in-house,” he pointed out.
The PSP confirmed that there is absolutely nothing special out of the ordinary known benefits and privileges that government has done for both former president Masire and Mogae, unlike Khama, those of which they can speak of.

PSP confirmed that government has awarded former President Khama 13 additional home and office staff against the law. “In other words if he was supposed to have four, we have given him 13 additional staff which is against the law. We broke the law here. It was just to help to second Khama,” he explained. He added: “There is a senior catering officer, a chief catering officer, which ordinarily only should work in the State House. But since Masisi has not moved into the State House we borrowed the staff to Khama.”

According to Morupisi, the straw that broke the camel’s back is now when government asks the staff to return stressing, “that is why we are in disagreement with Khama.”  At home, a former president is entitled to, in terms of the law, 2 maids, 1 gardener, and 1 bursary worker. So, it is understood that, with Mogae it is like that and its fine but for Khama, instead of having 2 maids, he was also awarded a chief catering officer sand senior catering officer on top of 2 bursary workers.

Morupisi tried to justify why he broke the law: “so, to avoid an out lash from tax payers and Batswana in general, I have employed a clause in the General Orders that speaks of secondment. I conferred the staff of the president to a secondment to office of the former President.”
The PSP said they admit being wrong with regard to the fact that, they did this when Khama was still president. In other words, he added that, Khama took decisions concerning the office he was heading to, of former President, while he was still president.

“He took away the prerogative of the then incoming president, to take such decisions as the law provides for that. A sitting president now, is the one entitled to take such decisions with regard to the benefits of the retired president (office of the former president.)  Morupisi emphasised that by then it was a very amicable understanding as they could not anticipate the hullabaloo that they are currently faced with regarding the fight between Khama and Masisi.

Even when he came into power, Morupisi stated that the incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi also asked where the PSP was getting the powers to take such central decisions.  “I failed to answer this key inquiry. And I said we were doing this with the then president to facilitate his exit, and acknowledged that we were wrong and asked the president for forgiveness and understanding,” Morupisi said.

“There is no one that we are going to sue. In fact, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is waiting to hold us accountable on this, in terms of who authorised the payment of additional staff that assists the former President Khama. That’s where they are going to catch us.”
I advised Khama, Morupisi highlighted adding that but Khama did not take the advices and the buck stopped with him as president. That is why, Morupisi continued, am not divorcing myself from those decisions that were still taken under Khama.
And to put more blame to him, the PSP admitted that the secondment was done as an advice from him as he wanted the staff to work for Khama and return them to their respective previous offices after 12 months.

Government also favoured Khama on overtime allowances

Despite admitting that the former presidents have to be treated equally, Morupisi conceded that with Khama it was not the case. We, he said, normally give overtime allowances to former president to use them on staff when circumstances requires to do so and they realised that, in 2018/19, Mogae’s office was reimbursed 160 000 for overtime while Khama’s was awarded 650 000 signalling the disparity between the former presidents.

“Out of that amount, Mogae only utilised 109 000 and Khama used a whopping 546 000. When you look at the records, Khama spent most money on villages to give away bread and soup as well as assisting his team, Super IV to play football. You be the judge on how this money is used,” he said.  

Morupisi also broke the law to accommodate Khama’s Pvt Sec Tlhalerwa

In another turn of events, it appeared that Khama’s Private Secretary Brigadier George Tlhalerwa earned for a salary scale that he was not supposed to be earning. Morupisi explained that: “Khama’s Tlhalerwa was awarded a three-year contract on May 2016 running for three years. But in 1 April 2018, was redeployed to be a Senior Private Secretary to former President Khama but he still retained all his benefits.”

But in a normal case, he added that when one becomes a Senior Private Secretary to former president it is a lower position than a Senior Private Secretary to a sitting President. “The former is Deputy Permanent Secretary Scale and the latter is Permanent Secretary Scale. So Tlhalerwa was paid the way he was previously, although in June 2018 he resigned on unclear grounds and we accepted,” he said.

Why government rejected Isaac Kgosi as Khama’s Pvt Sec

Tlhalerwa’s exit created a vacuum, and that is then that Khama asked government to hire for ex Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Director General, Colonel Isaac Kgosi as his Senior Private Secretary.  “But it was turned down because Kgosi has been expelled by President Masisi on controversial circumstances so it was for government to re-hire him again and we explained. However the matter is currently before court.”

Every new president presents a Policy shift

According to Morupisi, every new president comes with agenda that should be respected and followed. It is lawful, he said that every new president may come with a policy shift while they ascends to power like President Masisi is currently doing.  A leader of the Executive he directs the direction that a new government should take, the PSP emphasised. 

As examples, “from 1982 to 2017, at Ministry of Agriculture there was ALDEP. It was later reformed to ARAP until 2008 when it became ISPAAD under Khama. Masisi will review it to improve it. There was also SLOCA 1982 – 1987 it gave birth to LIMID. In 1978 – 1994 there was Constituency Community Programe, LG 70 to LG 110, at Ministry of Local Government. So with every new president comes with new direction.” 

Presidential Housing Appeal was started by Masire – PSP

The president housing appeal was started by not Khama, but former President Masire in 1994, and then it was named Small Borrowers Fund, Morupisi told the press adding that it assisted with a lot of things like school fees. “So the truth is Khama, you did not start this housing appeal,” he lashed out. According to Morupisi, Khama only made it to appeal to the private sector.

He justified: “the destitute housing programme, from 2006, it built 3336 houses and 1972 in some areas. We did these, from the Office of the President, even under Khama. But now we took an action, to avoid personalising programmes, that we started presidential housing appeal funds.”   

Dalai Lama visit: Khama’s security personnel was unlawful

In 2017, the 14th Dalai Lama, the head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala, India was invited to Botswana and cabinet discussed his visit 2 to 3 times in cabinet. Morupisi stated that they advised Khama against contravening one China policy and that as a sovereign state Botswana should meddle in other countries affairs “but Khama had the last word, as he wanted Lama to come saying he is human right activist.”

The PSP narrated that China assists Batswana with scholarships, they loan Botswana with little interests, send their specialist doctors to Botswana while paying for them. Most importantly, he revealed that as Debswana deputy Chair, 20% of Botswana diamonds are sold to China. “They also threated to close their Embassy. We urged Khama that the national interest far outweighs his interest. But Khama went ahead with his decision despite all these. He took security personnel with him.”

Morupisi confirmed that the security personnel that accompanied Khama to India, against governments order faces disciplinary hearing. “All security personnel must know that their allegiance is mostly to, nobody else but a sitting Commander In Chief. All the disciplinary forces, the ultimate responsibility and direction, they take them from the President. When he orders them they should take such orders without hesitation through his operatives. When he says go to war you go to war, when he says don’t you should not.”

Khama wants Morupisi to account for his retirement gifts 

Against what he said at Serowe, Morupisi told the media that when Khama retired Batswana gave him gifts those gifts he said, Khama should ask Tlhalerwa and his team about them not him. Meanwhile on Khawa, the PSP also reminisced that Khama said they are refusing his team to play at Khawa. “I want to clarify that his team is not owned by government but is for him as an individual and therefore government can’t spend on it.”

On transport, Morupisi pointed out that there is where they disagree, as government believes that the law states that former president can be availed transport on a case by case scenario as determined by a sitting president and that it is the prerogative of the president. “Now Khama interprets it differently that it’s a must for transport to be availed to him upon request,” he said. 

On transport, the PSP also confirmed that “out of 13 requests made by Khama, Masisi accepted 7 and rejected 4. Now all these issues are before court; Khama is using government.” When narrating this, the PSP wants the nation to make a sound judgement on whether they are on the right track or not treating Khama well – in terms of the law.  

What the law says: benefits of former presidents

The Pensions and Retirement benefits Act provides that; a former President is, upon ceasing to hold office, entitled to receive a tax free monthly pension equivalent to the monthly basic salary attached to the office of President the time that he or she ceases to hold office, or 80 percent of the incumbent President’s salary, whichever is greater.“The President shall upon dissolution of Parliament, or immediately ceasing to hold office as such, be entitled to receive a gratuity equal to 30 percent of his or current monthly basic salary multiplied by the number of months completed by him or her as President,” it further provides.

The Act states, however, that the benefits will not be paid should the former leader of state pay allegiance to a foreign power or State. When they are sentenced to death or to serve a prison term and the sentence has not been wholly suspended, a sitting President may withhold the benefits if he sees it fit. The gratuity, pension and all other benefits will be stopped in case the former President dies, or in case of marriage of the surviving spouse or when their dependent child reaches the age of 21 years.

The bill also states that when the former President, spouse or their offspring is ruled to be bankrupt, the pension, other benefits and their value shall not form part of the assets of their insolvent estate. In addition, the former President is entitled to a number of security officers as determined by the sitting President, two drivers, one private secretary, one secretary and one office attendant. It states that first class air travel is extended to international trips up to a maximum of 4 trips per annum(including a spouse if accompanying)and per diem for each trip as may be determined by a sitting President.

For transport needs a former president receives one sedan (Mercedes Benz or an equivalent or similar class of motor vehicle), one 4 wheel drive station wagon and one pick-up van and they will be replaced as and when necessary, like other government vehicles, albeit being in the permanent disposal of the former President. Every former president also receives entertainment allowance determined by a sitting President, telephone expenses as well as water and electricity expenses for the office and residence.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

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.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

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.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

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.”

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