President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is a man on a mission to convince Batswana that he needs a fresh mandate, and indeed last weekend’s BDP all candidates retreat chronicles the ambush that the party is plotting in an effort to white-wash the opposition in the general elections expected in four months’ time.
Records compiled at the recent closed door meeting of the BDP in Gaborone suggest that the ruling party goes into this election with doubts and has a deep-seated fear of the opposition. It is apparent from the evidence before this publication that the BDP is wary of the uncertainties they face in the upcoming elections. According to the compilation, some of the party’s foot soldiers bluntly said it before President Masisi that this year’s vote will not be an easy one for the BDP as he may think.
This fear has forced the party leadership to come up with a robust electioneering four months grand-plan ahead of the highly contested polls. The grand-plan covers a wide spectrum of national issues with a sharp focus on ‘problematic areas’ like availability of water, decentralization of health services, corruption, review of the constitution and the public perception of Masisi’s government amongst many others.
According to the party communique, the retreat was a chance for the candidates to not only bond, engage, debate, but also to share knowledge, ideas and skills. The National Strategy, Communication & International Relations (NSCSIR) team facilitated the session and also made some presentations to train and equip the Candidates with key strategic skills. Apart from all the 57 candidates, the party also invited veterans including Daniel Kwelagobe and former ministers; Kavis Kario and Jacob Nkate.
MASISI WANTS VOTERS PRIORITISED
The BDP strategic meeting exposed in order of chronology, the BDP’s fears going into this election and at the fore front is the servicing of voters. Masisi has pleaded with party members that with four months before elections candidates should sweat to ensure that electorates are pleased so the party could retain state power in October. “I have taken a decision to allow ministers to work with Batswana, I want politicians to work with the electorates, and we should service our people.
Same thing with me, I will also work three days in office as times goes on will take two. Everywhere I go I will be having my office, we have a very mobile presidency.” He said with ululations and whistles following him. Masisi said he will also visit the constituencies so that he can see how the members relate with voters and other party structures. “I will also visit your constituencies un-announced, and invite myself to relevant structures meetings so that I could audit. I want to remind you that you should obey party orders, no one is immune there are times where you have a choice and sometimes you don’t because it is a political formation after all.”
Shortages of drugs and medications in public clinics and hospitals which have been going on will have to be corrected four months before polls. This according to the president will call for the decentralization of management. “We are also about to decentralize the health system. We want to decentralize management of the health services, so that decision could be taken at a local level and they are capacitated by a budget.
So when we prepare for budget in July we are going to ensure that with my competent cabinet and it looks like they will agree with me.” He said there should be no shortages of medication as that tarnishes the BDP and it will be a thing of the past in the coming months. “Re rogakwa ke batho mo dintshong mo, gotwe ga gona dipilisi tsa high-blood, this should stop.”
INVESTORS WANT OPPOSITION WHITE-WASHED
In a startling revelation, Masisi told the candidates that he has been approaching the business community for possible funding and is glad to tell them that he has received a lump sum of cash from investors. “We have received pulas for campaign and we are going to test you. All who are here you will get something those who are not present won’t get anything. You must be disciplined. I don’t want to see the attitude of the past five years which has worsened now to an extent that you tell our rivals how we operate.”
Masisi said he is happy that the likes of party treasure Satar Dada, Indians and Chinese investors assisted the party. “If they got all the money legally like we now our treasure is doing and whoever you know it could be Koreans or Africans if it is clean then there is nothing wrong.” He further told the democrats that the BDP was broke. “This party was P50 million on the red. The banks are not willing to lend us money, we have to rely on being transparent. Dada gave us 60 cars, we would have not managed this if it was not Dada and use these cars wisely they are not yours they are for constituencies and for the party.”
Masisi who was closing down the retreat continued; “I want to inform you what the party has done for you. We are expecting before Vice President’s launch another trench of t shirts. Every constituency will have 10,000 t-shirts don’t worry about our visibility. Every constituency will also have 3000 umbrellas, there will be more umbrellas in BDP than in the Umbrella, deliberately so. Bandana for the youth and caps will be 2500 as well as flags. There is a lot we are getting from the goodwill,” he revealed.
It is pointed out that some of the donors prescribed the condition that the money be used to fight opposition-held constituencies; while the other said his money be used on marginal constituencies while the other gave the money with no conditions. Masisi further revealed that he is expecting more money around September, “so everyone will be receiving something to give you a boost and a push. So share the money amongst yourselves. All who are here will get something those who are not ba jelwe,” he said.
NO WATER RATIONING FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS PLEASE
Candidates have since last year been appealing to the leadership to suspend the electricity and water cuts as it has become a hot potato attracting the public’s wrath on the BDP. They said it has been among the opposition’s favorite subjects. Members requested that water cut should be suspended and maybe be brought back after the elections. Masisi promised them that leading to the elections that would be water under the bridge. The BDP will, if push comes to the shove amend Water Utilities (WUC) act and also engage council to pump and avail water to Batswana.
“We want to do the same (decentralization) for water, lea bokolla ka metsi mo go lebaneng. But we will be very sensitive to the budget implications. Because in reality part of failures with water, is procurement. PPADB act needs to and it is reviewed. Information is leaked; and this is corruption! What do you want to achieve when you leak information about the multimillion tender? That must stop! Some of you who leak this I know you. This will also not grow our private sector. We might amend WUC act to allow council to pump water so that we can have water in our taps, but you should know that water is a scarce resource”.
CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN TOURISM
The lament that locals are pushed to the woods when it comes to the meaningful participation of the economy is another matter that will be pushed and implemented before the October elections. “The BDP government is also concerned by the way Batswana are participating in tourism and will in July implement Citizen Empowerment law and Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) law”.
President Masisi says this is for the locals to be included in the economy of this country. We will have citizen participating in tourism economy and we will also push for economic diversification law, we want them to buy and sell what is produced locally. We cheat our fiscals by supporting people who are not helping the locals, VP (Slumber Tsogwane) note them this will be implemented in July”.
The retreat also saw Masisi revealing to candidates that as a party, plans are underway to revise the constitution as some quarters of the society have demanded. He asked candidates to tell voters that the constitution will soon be revised. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue and all the stuff.
The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.” He cited example of Ntlo ya Dikgosi saying some feel they are not included arguing that everyone should be equal. “The intention is not to break anyone but rather unite us as Batswana,” he said this amid thunder of applause from fellow democrats.
CORRUPTION MUST STOP
Masisi who has branded himself a man who has zero tolerance for corruption and respects the rule of law, wants to be remembered as such. “The other thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption” he specially told this to his cabinet ministers. “If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it.
Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work for, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospitals whilst you know you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), lenna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP),” he warned with passion.
THE JOB CREATION QUESTION
Masisi, from the records, says he is aware that some candidates want him to commit as to how many jobs he would have created in his first five year term if he could win. “I hear from the report that I received that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such. What do we do when South Africa stops our container import, what do we do? Wage bill going up without any returns coming in.”
President Masisi also went on record that he and businessman Strive Masiyiwa will sweat until at least 3000 youth are employed. This he says will be anchored on the ICT as it has proven that it is the only tool that could emancipate the youth from trenches on joblessness. “Before the next five years elapse Rwanda will be behind us. But we need political commitment and it should be Batswana running these ICT projects not underhand deals of tenders. We will have to involve them (youth) in town hall meetings just like we did with Masiyiwa some years back. Will be carrying out another one where we are expecting 6000 youths,” he said further reiterating that, “Government does not create jobs but rather create enabling environment. We want to open this economy and this needs us working together”.
NO LIVING WAGE FOR NOW
Unlike the main opposition, UDC, BDP President and his party are for now not considering minimum wage but maybe in the future when the economy is sustainable. “If you think we have money under UDC or BNF it will diminish because they want to pay P3000 without any productivity in the economy. We want sustainability and to grow the economy so we can actually pay even P5000, or even P10, 000, we don’t have any upper limit, we want affordability and sustainability,” he said. Masisi indicated that he is glad UDC publicized its manifesto, “but add them up and tell me if it’s sustainable. Rapid increases in wages lead to inflation like you have never seen and become uncontrollable like in Zimbabwe”.
MASISI SAYS EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REVAMPED
The deteriorating performance of students at schools is another matter that Masisi says deserves attention. However, unlike others, this will not be rushed to achieve results in the next four months but will be in the pipe line. “Are we getting value out of investment we make,” he asked rhetorically. He says a standard one pupil needs more time from a teacher than a standard seven student.
“In our education we have not responded to the way we should have especially to junior school students. We have created prisons which are not good for human development, this is my professional view.” Masisi disclosed that he will engage the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) to do school mapping. He also revealed that plans are underway to resume double shift. “Concentration of kids is not four hours it is too much. We will engage MOBE to commit to double shifting.”
MASISI LECTURES CANDIDATES ON POLITICS
With four months before elections, Masisi taught candidates on the tactics to win their constituencies. He told the members that victory in all the constituencies is possible but can only be achieved through hard work, prioritizing voters and unity. “Let’s make people happy, the BDP should make Batswana happy. There are many attributes to it. Let’s not shout, hate and critique people. You are not representing the party.
If you do that Le jelwe, he said. “Polotiki ga se maikgantsho, don’t come with your fancy car at rallies because it might depict you as motho yoo maikgantsho. Fancy cars belong somewhere. We are about people feeling good, not yourself. Many of you should become politicians”. Masisi who leads the party that performed dismally in the last elections amassing 47% of popular vote directed the members to brand BDP. “Some of you are averse with party colours, this thing must stop. It is not about putting on red merchandise, it’s about the brand. Even oppositions are better than us, it is embarrassing, and this should stop.”
He went on to advise candidates that with few months before the polls they should use P10 million for constituency fund to lure votes. “You have P570 million of constituency funds including opposition constituencies and what are you doing with the money? You should use it strategically so that you can show tangible results to voters. You should have charm so that people are happy. Campaign is like menstrual cycle.”
BOGOSI, MEDIA WILL NOT BE HARRASED
Masisi blames part of the dismal performance of the party in the last election to the relation with other institutions especially Bogosi and the media. “This party was not created to harass our tradition and we should ensure that Bogosi remains a strong foundation for us. If Dikgosi harass you in politics then don’t hit back, roll on with the punches. BDP is committed to deliver a stable government. We are not hunting anyone. “O Bolele mogoloo,” Masisi told Tshekedi Khama.
The president went on to reveal that he will not rest until he brings back Kgosi Kgafela in Botswana. “A lot of tribal leaders were also unhappy with us. The other even went to the extent of dumping Botswana for South Africa-Kgafela of Bakgatla. And we know very well that our country is not complete without our tribal leaders. We must accept this reality. I will not rest until Kgafela is back home, I will not.” He says the media should also be allowed to do its job without fear as they are the fourth estate. He says as a party they have taken a decision for the media to regulate itself.
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.”