Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Mpho Balopi is at the receiving end of the backlash, with some democrats accusing him of behaving in a manner that is likely to cost the party in next year general elections.
In an extra-ordinary year, BDP is scheduled to meet twice in congress; first for the Special Congress convened specifically for the purpose of electing and endorsing party president, as provided for by the party constitution— and secondly for the party’s biennial ordinary congress. It is reported that one time party chairman Samson Guma, will next year take his former ally for the position of secretary general. It is believed that Guma’s intentions are giving Balopi a sleepless night.
“There are talks that the man [Balopi] harbors to become the next vice president after 2019, replacing Slumber [Tsogwane]. Those close to Tsogwane should pinch him, because he will not see what hits him down,” warned a source close to developments. Balopi is also blamed for acting in a manner that have worsened the relationship between Masisi and former president, Lt Gen Ian Khama.
“If you analyse things well, Balopi has a hand in the war between the two. His first punch was to suspend Khama man, Tshepang Mabaila for five years. Secondly, he never invites the former President at any BDP event. Clearly, he up to something,” the sourced indicated. Few days ago, Khama openly hit on Balopi whom he believed has joined forces to undermine him. Khama cast aspersions on Balopi pedigree to win a constituency currently occupied by opposition.
“Even if he is vying for the presidency, he still needs to work hard because he needs people to follow him,”Khama told Weekend Post. “During my time we had a very good relationship but I don’t know why because of 1st April things changed. Even if I am not in the structures anymore but we can still continue enjoying the good relationship. If that is his objective it is going to be a hard thing, it will be difficult for him.”
Khama said right now the BDP is looking forward to postponing the elective congress next year but they can’t do that because that will be unconstitutional. “What interests me is that some of them I will not mention by name whose names are linked to the postponement are the same people who were commending me to abide by the constitution and not try to extend my term in office, they said I am a soldier and will not vacate the office but these are the same people who are said to be the ones who wants to change the BDP constitution so it can accommodate them,” Khama said.
Sources believed Balopi has failed to reinvent himself after past failures, and heading to 2019 general elections, BDP could be headed for more trouble under his guidance as head of secretariat. “After all, Democrats should find peace in that, The SG is not that a good game player on his own. He has surrounded himself with people with little or no political capital, which will work against him in the coming congress against Guma Moyo.”
Those who are against Balopi content that the BDP 2013 Primary elections and ultimately 2014 general elections would have taught democrats a lesson on who to vote into the secretariat office of BDP Central Committee in 2017. Balopi returned to the secretary general position at last year’s party congress when he contested under the invisible Masisi slate, which won all Central Committee positions.
In 2014, the BDP for the very first time since its inception registered a popular vote below 50 percent, garnering 46.7 percent of popular vote. Sources at Tsholetsa house blame Balopi for the mess which followed the 2018 primary elections, in which at 42 parliamentary candidates did not accept elections result citing irregularities.
“In 2013, just like now, the BDP bulela ditswe was marred with controversies and so many re-runs, it was the same bulela ditswe that bore fruit to so many independent candidates then; unhappy democrats who felt the party did not take into consideration their frustrations and efforts who then decided to vote against the BDP,” the sourced argued.
Reports indicate that political savvy candidate in the mold of Guma has identified that his rival, Balopi is politically weak, and his survival at the helm of BDP structures has been mostly been out of fortunate association with the right people. Balopi was a nonentity in political circles when he rose to stardom in 2011, replacing Kentse Rammidi as the party secretary general following the latter’s abrupt resignation from the party few months after assuming the position.
Balopi had been co-opted into the Central Committee by Khama at the 2011 BDP congress. In 2013, Balopi and his then business partners; Guma and Thapelo Olopeng took over control of the BDP Central Committee. The three men have since moved in operate directions. Last year ahead of Tonota Congress, Balopi showed-up at the eleventh-hour a slate involving Nkate as Secretary General and Masisi as chairman failed to materialize following the former’s declarations for presidential ambitions. Balopi was then listed as Masisi camp candidate for secretary general and won.
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.”