Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President Dumelang Saleshando has challenged President Mokgweetsi Masisi to investigate his predecessor Lt Gen Ian Khama if at all he is serious about sanitizing corruption in this country.
Saleshando who is also a leader of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) revealed this at the party’s breakfast engagement with the media on Thursday. In his remarks, he is clear that BCP has no appetite for corruption, naming and shaming high ranking officials he would like to see hauled before the courts of law for looting the country. BCP is disappointed on the way President Masisi is addressing corruption which has milked this country a lot of billions. Borrowing from a South African politician, Saleshando said Botswana need a new bus altogether not a new driver.
“Masisi and his predecessor Lt Gen Ian Khama are the Siamese twins who are tied together by the BDP corrupt activities and therefore there is no reason to herald him as a messiah,” Saleshando said in a cloudy morning at Falcon Crest suites. He said Masisi is aiding and abating corruption, challenging him to investigate the Khama family on the billions of pula tenders they benefitted from through their company Seleka Springs at BDF. "I want former president Ian Khama charged for corruption and I want him charged for Mosu.
A lot of this corruption that took place was under his watch. I want him to answer gore ditshweetso tse dingwe o ne a di tsaa a lebile eng (How he took some decision). Who didn’t know in this country that Isaac Kgosi was ill equipped to lead any institution?" The BCP president said. Masisi’s maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year was not committal and very mild on dealing with corruption, BCP leader who is also candidate for Maun West constituency said.
“It is because he is also implicated in corruption activities including the National Petroleum Funds (NPF). P3 million was transferred to Masisi, and there is no hope of turning a leaf under this leadership. We have moved from worse but now we want to glorify the bad.” Saleshando said Masisi’s inner circle is also on the red. He cites the examples of his Permanent Secretary Carter Morupisi who was highly involved in trail of the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) missing P 200 million.
“Masisi should come clear and tell us. Like he said in some media outlets he should waive his presidential immunity and account. But we know he won’t because he is protecting his interest,” the former Gaborone Central legislator added. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President Dumelang Saleshando has come out clear that the law should take its course if it is proven that his President Duma Boko has committed any transgression over his ‘tax evasion’ allegations.
“The Ketla-swaepa [I will swipe] Range-Rover remarks I thought was made in jest, Boko is a human being and he was throwing a joke. I have engaged him on the matter and it is not tax evasion,” he said. “But if it is a tax evasion let him be charged because we are tired of these shows. I hope President Mokgweetsi Masisi is not using public institutions to fight political wars, there are more serious issues than this.” He said this referring to Boko’s remarks that he will swipe a brand-new Range Rover after it was compounded by the tax authorities amid reports that he has evaded tax.
BCP CALLS FOR DIS AUDIT
As a party consistent with zero patience to corruption, BCP calls for a forensic audit of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS). They say they are tired of ‘shows’ and now want former Spy Chief Isaac Kgosi to appear and answer for his actions at the courts of law. “It is not enough to have Isaac Kgosi investigated, we need to see him being prosecuted. It is long overdue and investigations have been going on for too long. Action needs to be taken,” he said.
The issue of Kgosi BCP takes seriously such that they want government to outsource capable legal minds to assist. “We are dealing with a complex money laundering case and we expect government to bring those legal representatives like they normally do with other cases they desperately want to win. But the desire for conviction is very low on this one,” Saleshando added.
CONCERNED BY MASISI-CHINESE RELATIONS
The decision by the Masisi led government to extend a loan to Botswana for rail and road infrastructure as well as agreeing with China to write off some debt, has BCP concerned over the consequences. In addition to the loan and a debt cancellation of P80 million, China has also offered a 340 million pula ($31 million) grant. “There seems to be a secretive transaction. Chinese shackle from Beijing and Tsholetsa House and we know this deal come with behind the scene dealings. We should do a democracy alert on Chinese loans. We are tied on poverty by this leadership,” Saleshando posits.
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.”