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Btv’s reject becomes Africa’s jewel

When the national broadcaster Botswana Television (Btv) opened its doors in 2000 they roped in one of Africa’s top talents, Chris Bishop as head of Current Affairs. A year later his unceremonious departure at Mass Media Complex engineered at the country’s top office exposed Botswana’s dosage of harsh treatment of Journalists.

But what was Bishop’s offence? His decision to air the controversial murder trial that caught the attention of the international media. The trial featured a white woman, Marietta Bosch who was prosecuted for the murder of her love rival. The Office of the President then had attempted to stop the airing of the Bishop produced content. A believer in press freedom, Bishop had no choice but to press ahead with his decision but it cost him his job. Sharing with an audience at the Avani Hotel on Tuesday, Bishop said the decision to terminate his contract left him broken, unemployed, broke and desperate

He recalls the events prior to his ‘firing’ as if it all happened yesterday. Packed at a gas station in the early hours of the morning in Gaborone, Bishop’s curiosity could not escape the large stacks of newspaper bundles that were delivered at the quick shop. He noticed that almost everyone who went into the shop grabbed a copy, the copies all finished in the blink of an eye. The top story that made headlines was the controversial murder trial of South African white woman, Marietta Bosch who was facing the death sentence.

It was at this instance that Bishop developed more interest in the story and the thought of broadcasting on Btv occurred to his mind. For the first time since working in Botswana, Bishop was headed for a whitecap; this was a story that will change the dynamics of Btv news anchoring. Bishop pursued the story, conducted interviews and chased follow up stories on the eve of Marietta Bosch’s execution. But before he could go on and air his story, his manoeuvrings leaked and he was summoned to the President’s office.

A directive was then impressed on him not to go on with the story; however Bishop would still stand his ground and run the story. He was more than determined to broadcast the reel that carried the landmark trial in the country. When his efforts were shot down, he had no option but to unwillingly opt out marking the end of an era. He penned down his resignation with immediate effect before re- uniting with his family in Johannesburg.

Speaking in Gaborone this week Bishop said he will always have a soft spot for Botswana. After leaving Botswana he worked for different media houses in South Africa before he was roped in to become the founding Editor of Forbes Africa Magazine, a post he resigned six months ago after a very successful tenure. He is currently working on his book which he says will touch on the Botswana story, where he will name drop the top officials who orchestrated his exit at Mass Media Complex.

The controversial story of Marietta Bosch

The Story of Mariette Bosch is about the first white woman sentenced to hang in Botswana for murdering her rival in love; Maria Wolmarans in 1996 using a gun that she had travelled to South Africa, her country of origin, to collect and illegally bring into Botswana. Mariette Bosch was 50 years at the time of her sentencing by the Court of Appeal at the end of January 2012. In sentencing Marietta Bosch, Justice Timothy Aguda, the Nigerian lawyer acting as president of the panel, said: "She was a wicked and despicable woman. The murder had been planned over a long period, no doubt as a result of jealousy and infatuation."

This is a story that touches on the controversial aspects of race relations and expectations on race relations and the views of the legal system when it comes to race relations. The story moves on to encompass in other formats the views of the ordinary man of how apartheid remains a huge part of the society yet so the society, especially our neighbouring South Africans remain in denial.

It is a story that to some degree did test the independent mind of the then President of the Republic of Botswana, Festus Gontebanye Mogae, a self-confessed retributionist. He was being petitioned by institutions locally, by Mariette Bosch Lawyers, by Mariette Bosch herself, by foreign governments who were all condemning the death sentence.  But there were many others who supported the death penalty.  

Capital punishment UK was quoted saying whether or not Mariette deserved death for this murder is a matter of personal opinion – but let us not forget Ria Wolmerans, did she deserve to be deceived and abandoned by her husband and to die by shooting because she was a bar to Mariette's and Tienie's relationship? She too had human rights.

After the controversial killing of Marietta Bosch many individuals from other countries started to fear Botswana for its notorious death sentence. But in the case of Botswana they never realised that they are dealing with a case of a white person until foreign media and human rights groups started talking and pilling more pressure. For Botswana it was a murder case involving a woman who murdered another out of jealousy and justice took its course.

Who is Chris Bishop?

Chris Bishop is an award – winning journalist who has been reporting from across Africa for 23 years of his thirty six years in the profession. He has interviewed numerous heads of state in Africa, among them Jacob Zuma, Robert Mugabe, Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano, Bakili Muluzi and Yoweri Museveni.

Bishop has worked for the BBC in London, CNBC Africa and became the founding editor of Forbes Africa in 2011. He won the Sanlam Award for excellence in financial journalism (broadcast) in 2011 and the Editor of the year at the Pica Awards in 2013. His first award came in 1987 for his story on the uncovering of a plot to assassinate the Queen on a royal visit to New Zealand. He is a dreamer and optimist when it comes to business in Africa.

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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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