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Balopi warns against court actions

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Mpho Balopi has warned against aggrieved party members against dragging the party to courts of law. He described the actions as wayward behaviour and said it should stop in the best interest of the party.

Balopi said this at the backdrop of swelling number of party members running to the courts for remedy when they feel aggrieved by decisions made by the party. Recently, Kamal Jacobs went to seek relief at court following his controversial defeat by Thapelo Matsheka in the Lobatse constituency parliamentary primary election which he insisted was marred by irregularities and therefore outcome unacceptable.

In his court case Jacobs is challenging the legitimacy of President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in appointing any party structure including that which falls under the Central Committee, especially the appeals’ committee. His contention is that in terms of the BDP constitution, Masisi is not yet BDP president but that former president Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama still is, as there was no vacancy created.

In another case Member of Parliament for Tati West has also taken the BDP to court on the bases that there were also irregularities in the primary elections which he lost and therefore requested for a re-run but was turned down. Another BDP activist who took the party to court was none other than the son of the founding father of the party, Sir Seretse Khama, Serowe North West legislator, Tshekedi Khama who challenged the inclusion of Moemedi Dijeng as a contender in the primary elections arguing that he campaigned before the party ordered so therefore flouting the party rules and regulations.

In light of the mounting cases pitting members against their party, the BDP Secretary General told Weekend Post this week that the trend is disturbing and putting the party in bad light; adding that the matter is spiralling out of hand hence members maybe forced to tore the line.   
“The trend is not going to help the party or those that have conflicts with the party. The solution is not putting the party at risk. This is not good for the party. First members should be concerned about the party, how they will hurt it, before they can consider themselves,” Balopi fumed to such party colleagues in an interview with this publication.

He stressed that “it might be a trend that some party members enjoy but it will stop at some point.” According to Balopi, once you bring parties that are fighting in a court matter and bring those issues with third parties (court) you automatically bring the party into disrepute.
Balopi’s main concern is that, as a member you don’t give up on the institution without having explored all internal processes you have to go through in the institution which he said the members failed to do in that regard. “You know we have conflict resolution processes in the party but they failed to utilise them,” he emphasised.  

He however acknowledged that of course every Motswana has a right to ask for a remedy at court within the confinements of law. But if you belong to an institution like the BDP which has values, rules and processes, then a member has to fully comply with such, he added.  
He gave an example about a recent prominent case when the party was taken to court to challenge the legitimacy of Masisi as president which he said was ill advised.  

“People should always remind and familiarise themselves about party constitution, rules and regulations, before embarrassing themselves,” the BDP SG pointed out. He continued: “there is one thing that I always say, if somehow one wants to challenge the constitution saying President Masisi is not a legitimate BDP leader to appoint a BDP committee – then it is done in bad faith.”

According to Balopi, in terms of the constitution, when the BDP is in power, the Vice President automatically becomes president of Botswana. The BDP constitution further says VP takes over as president of the party, he said. Balopi emphasised that although Jacobs was free to go court route but he failed to engage the party on the matter. “That one is malicious,” Balopi told Weekend Post point blank.  

Balopi further explained that “my argument is that there is a way to sought interpretation from the party without going to court to avoid putting party into disrepute. Like I always say, BDP is bigger than all of us.” He said however that the party will not be in a hurry to take action against the individuals who have been dragging the party to court because as a party they “should understand the motives of those members first. We shouldn’t hurry to take action. We won’t act impulsively from the media or other people.”

On whether Tshekedi has not set a bad precedence by being a key figure to take the party to court and action not taken against him like in the same manner in which it was exerted on the late Gomolemo Motswaledi who took the then president Khama to court, but was punished, Balopi could not be drawn into the discussion. “I am not privy to such information. I don’t understand it. So I would not want to respond to it,” he said.

Information reaching this publication suggests that the failure by the party to discipline Tshekedi Khama after he dragged the party which was founded by his father, to court has given some party members a nerve to do likewise going forward with the intention to see if double standards will be applied to party none entities, unknown faithfuls and novices.

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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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