A labour centre in the country, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sectors Union (BOFEPUSU) has threatened the former President Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama and incumbent President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi to smoke a peace pipe before things turn ugly for the country.
Khama and Masisi are currently embroiled in a political dispute centered on rights and privileges of the former president and current president’s role as well as the selection of Vice president Slumber Tsogwane against Khama’s wish for his brother Tshekedi Khama to take over the role. Khama is an influential and powerful figure in Botswana as the son of founding president Sir Seretse Khama and a paramount chief of the most populous tribe or region in Bamangwato territory while Masisi is a son of former cabinet Minister Edison Masisi who served under Sir Seretse Khama administration.
The duo, Khama and Masisi’s fight has led to BOFEPUSU calling a press briefing this week to raise the red flag on the continue state of affairs in the country. When speaking to the media, BOFEPUSU President Johannes Tshukudu stated that the former president Khama is taking the attention of the head of state who must focus on the management of the country.
“As of now part of his attention is taken by the misunderstanding between him (Masisi) and Khama. There are many problems in bedeviling the country including lack of employment that the current president must be focused on than the fight between the two,” Tshukudu highlighted from the onset. He pointed out that it is important for BOFEPUSU to say the two gentlemen must find a better way to deal with their differences because at the end, if it is not managed properly it has the potential to escalate into a national crisis.
“We never had problems with the previous heads of states who were as a result given assignments both at regional and international levels in appreciating their wealth of experience in assisting giving peace in other countries,” he added. Tshukudu continued: “and as BOFEPUSU, we had thought that, by taking the backseat as former president, Khama, would resume all such assignments given to him by the current government and therefore when they are not relating well with the current president – it’s not going to function well so there is really a need of an urgent attention to this matter.”
According to the BOFEPUSU leader, the central issue to the fiasco is therefore that they feel strongly that both Khama and Masisi are not advised properly by those given with the responsibility of advising them because it is clear they are taking the issues beyond board. “And therefore our request is that the advisors might get to task with the assignment to make sure that they give appropriate, relevant and objective advice to help the two gentlemen to see the need to work together and share responsibilities of running this state without noninterference by the other.”
He went on to point out that they believe the advice they get from those advisors maybe did not predict what the consequences may be in future and on the people. He said if there is a necessity that, as a federation they intervene, they will do exactly that but will do once they see that the two leaders’ advisors have literally failed as they seem to be. Tshukudu said it’s important to note that any sour relationship between the former and the current head of state has the potential to destabilize the peace, tranquility and stability that this country is known of.
“Therefore when things turn like that we need to be worried as citizens and wonder what future holds for us if the two highest people are in conflict. It’s an indication that we might very soon join other African countries that found themselves in turmoil because of the differences between leadership.” According the trade unionist the country never had problems with the previous heads of states as is the case with Khama as a former president.
“It is still fresh in our minds that previously under President Khama’s administration there was also a dispute between him (Khama) and former Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae but Khama was too quick to remind them that their time to rule has elapsed and that he be given a chance as he never interfered in their presidencies. And that it was his time to rule.”
But since Mogae and Masire listened to him and obeyed, Khama should listen to Masisi as well, Tshukudu said adding that if Khama doesn’t listen this time around BOFEPUSU will remind him that Masisi is the one who is ruling at this point and “that time where we will tell him is slowly drawing nearer.”
Meanwhile the federation also emphasized that they will carry a thorough assessment of all political parties and candidates to see which ones to support for 2019 general Elections, similar to what they did in 2014, which they believe had a great impact in assisting UDC win the seats in Gaborone and by extension the south side of the country where their members are dispersed.
Tshukudu stressed: “we will peep into these political parties to see which ones suits our agenda in the protection of rights of workers and the spirit of trade unionism in Botswana. The assessment will then inform our next course of action. We will be mobilising people to vote against such parties and candidates. A vote is the only weapon at our disposal.”
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.”