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NDB sinks as financial crisis hits hard

The beleaguered National Development Bank (NDB) has started the process of retrenching staff owing to financial crisis that has hit the bank, Weekend Post has established.

Information gathered by this publication indicates that P31 million has been budgeted for the retrenchment exercise, which will start next week following a meeting with the staff union. Weekend Post has been informed by insiders that between the 21st-25 of March management will issue employees with letters indicating the bank’s decision to layoff some staff. “The union had a meeting with with its members informing them about the development, the mood was sombre today [Wednesday],” said the impeccable source.

“The meeting for for the unionised employees was on Tuesday, for the non-unionised was today [Wednesday] — the letters are coming this month end.” The source further indicated that management will then proceed to inform the Commissioner of Labour as well as the minister [Finance and Economic Development] with regard to the imminent retrenchments.

In 2016, NDB requested government to inject capital amounting to about P1 billion in the next three years in order to transform the bank and prepare it for commercialisation.  Last year, it was offered P400 million by government, P10o million of it being a grant while the remaining P300 million was a loan.

Chief Executive Officer of the Bank, Lorato Morapedi informed the parliamentary committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises in 2016 that she wants government to inject P400 million in the next financial year, followed by two governments guaranteed loans of P165 million and P250 million in subsequent years.

Morapedi said, in total, for the NDB to stabilise and be in a competitive state, it would need P1 billion.  The committee learnt that NDB problems have been caused by various factors, among them its source of funding and inability to recover its loans. However, NDB has fallen short of the other P600 million initially required by the bank. Sources have informed this publication that NDB has made plans to request another P1.3 billion from government, but the new president is reluctant, and wants a new board at the NDB and CEO first before making considerations. Failure to secure more funding from government means that the bank only has P10 million to disburse as loans this financial year (2018/19).

CRITICISM OF NDB FUNDING MODEL

NDB has been warned that funding its loans from the money acquired from commercial banks is not sustainable for a development bank. The current funding arrangement was brought about by government’s decision to stop issuing bonds to NDB to raise the funds, according to Morapedi. WeekendPost understands that NDB is sourcing its funds from BIFM Capital, Barclays Bank and First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) at interest rate of 8.5 percent, and 9.5 percent for BIFM capital.

When presenting before the parliamentary committee Morapedi conceded that the arrangement is not sustainable given the fact that they are also competing with commercial banks. She informed the committee that NDB has approached government for subsidized funding.
In 2016, NDB’s loan book stood at P1.3 billion, and out of that P600 million had been placed under doubtful debt, of which P300 million will be written off.

Samson Guma Moyo, the chairperson of the committee said the amount which the bank marked as provision for doubtful debt is too high, and the bank should work on reducing that. Morapedi said part of the problem was inherited, and the bank is putting forth monitoring tools to ensure that it improves the loan recovery. She further said the bank currently is doing minimal loaning, as its turn-around strategy focus on non-performing loans.

NDB has also borrowed their staff a total amount of P130 million at interest rate of 5 percent for mortgages and 8.5 percent for personal loans. This has however been questioned by committee member, Pius Mokgware who said though he believes in staff welfare, the bank was borrowing its staff at an interest lower than the interest they are charged by the commercial banks. Morapedi informed the committee that, after turning around the bank, they want to bring on board an equity partner or technical partner as part of its commercialisation strategy.

Government has adopted a commercialisation strategy similar to the one used by BTCL, in which government retains 51 percent in the entity and 49 percent is offered to the public, of which 5 percent will be offered to the NBD employees. She said even after privatisation, NDB will continue to focus on agriculture and SMME funding, and further noted that it will complement other government development institutions such as Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) which is moving away from SMME funding.  Forty-six percent of NDB portfolio is Agriculture.

NDB reports to both Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and Bank of Botswana (BoB). NDB has been able to meet six months regular deadline for the ministry, while failing the three months deadline requirement by BoB of submitting audited financial statements.
Another committee member, Ndaba Gaolathe had said going forward the bank should review source of funding because the current arrangement is not ideal. He said, the bank should also deal with legacy issues and clean out a lot of things.

EMPLOYEES WANT THE BOARD AND CEO FIRED

Several NDB employees who talked to this publication have stated that one way to save the financially riddled bank is to boot out the Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer as well as senior management. One of the complaints that employees have against management is that, there are responsible for the mess at the bank, therefore, part of correcting the problem is bring new management. NDB boss is accused of refusing to listen to suggestions from employees on how best to turn around the fortunes of the bank.

“NDB is at Cul-de-sac as we speak with only P10 million to disburse for 2018/19 financial year. Only government funding will rescue the situation, but if government is to finance NDB this year, they must first get rid of those who made the loss. It will be futile to finance NDB again under the same people,” said one employee. This publication is reliably informed that the bank’s Head of Strategy has tendered her resignation, and will leave the organisation at the end of the month.

Another bank manager, responsible for Maun branch has her contract coming to an end at the end of May 2018, and employees want her also to leave the bank. Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies committee member Ndaba Gaolathe had previously accused the NDB of lacking ambition and not having a clear vision.

He said as a development bank, they should have a clear vision of what they want to achieve and the impact they want to make in the next years. “NDB should be creative with the products it is offering and diversify the products as well,” he said. In the three years NDB has made losses; P87.8 million (2015) to P48.4 million (2016) and P168.2 million (2017).

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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