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Saleshando defends DIS boss

Opposition stalwart Dumelang Saleshando has stated that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General, Isaac Kgosi is absolutely right in the stance he has adopted at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) interrogation.

The PAC which is tasked with examining government’s books is interrogating Kgosi’s DISS involvement in the ongoing P250 million pula National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga. The fund is also the subject of a current High Court case in which prominent figures and political kingpin Bakang Seretse and two other accused Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang are charged for money laundering.  

In the PAC cross-examination, Kgosi’s subpoena follows the appearance of Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang as well as his Permanent Secretary Dr. Obolokile Obakeng. The spy chief has maintained his posture of out rightly declining to divulge vital information relating to his involvement in the NPF loot particularly issues surrounding the instruction from DIS and subsequent disbursement of the P230 million from the NPF to the DIS.

“I cannot discuss or comment on anything that is classified unless it is de-classified,” maintained the notorious Kgosi at the PAC committee. The chairperson of PAC who was caught between a rock and a hard place in dealing with Kgosi, Dithapelo Keorapetse summoned him (Kgosi) to give more evidence again this week with the possibility of compelling him to reveal the information he refused to divulge before the committee.

Keorapetse, who is also legislator for Selibe Phikwe West said the committee will also summon the Botswana National Archives and Records Services accounting officer to give evidence and advice on classified information, which Kgosi used as an excuse not to share information with the committee.

Keorapetse further stated that the committee will invoke the Standing Order relating to the Powers and Privileges of the National Assembly to compel Kgosi to give information that he refused to give, failing which it will be contempt, which will attract the wrath of the law.

In light of the PAC matter, Saleshando told WeekendPost, this week in an interview while defending Kgosi’s refusal to divulge more information he deemed “classified” saying he is not really the one to blame. At the time when the Act was passed in 2008, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) two-time law maker said people did not really apply their minds and they deliberately chose to be stupid.

“So, I think Isaac Kgosi has a point, he has been correctly advised,” the BCP leader told WeekendPost adding that if anything “he is simply abusing the Act which does not conform to the modern standards of mere checks and balances.”
Saleshando reiterated: “we can’t blame him for it, just like his mentor ex President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama when he looked at the loopholes in the Botswana constitution and used them to his advantage and benefit.”

He reminisced that when asked why he (Khama) was abusing the constitution, Khama insisted he did not write the constitution. This, he stressed, was Khama’s weapon from day 1 of his presidency. He said he then started applying the law willy-nilly by being the first to go on sabbatical leave. So in terms of utilizing the loopholes of the law, the former Gaborone Central legislator emphasised that Kgosi learnt from the best.

“So, Kgosi is just looking at the DISS Act. Anything he does not want to comment on, he “classifies” it. There is no provision if classifying was done in best interest of the organisation or country.” However Saleshando further observed that the problems this country has about corruption are bigger than the spy chief who he described as “just an individual”; adding that “he can either drop or die tomorrow”.

According to Saleshando, whoever assumes the position of DISS Director General after Kgosi under the current DISS Act and circumstances could also become a problem as allowed by the existing law. Saleshando therefore added that the real test for Masisi as the new president of the country is that: “he has a DISS Director General; and he walks in and there is a mess created by the DISS.”

“Does he have the courage to act by suspending Kgosi to allow for full investigations? Can he fire him? Is Masisi also afraid of Kgosi? If he doesn’t act I think it will also show that he (Masisi) is also afraid of him (Kgosi) as some Ministers have been purporting recently.” DIS Director General, Kgosi was appointed by President Khama on such terms and conditions as he, on the recommendation of the Council, determined. He is responsible for the direction, control, administration and expenditure of the Directorate.

Just last week, former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang revealed to PAC that members of the executive (Cabinet), the public and; corruption busting agency Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) “fear” the intelligence organ (DIS).

The organ was started through the unlawful assistance of the Disaster Funds which were diverted despite strong resistance from some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench like Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Botsalo Ntuane as well as opposition legislators like Saleshando. DIS was instigated following a strict instruction in 2008 upon ascension to the Presidency by President Khama.

Saleshando remembered this week that: “it was when their messiah, Khama was coming to the presidency so they wanted to pass the DISS Act come rain or sunshine as Khama wanted it so badly.” Saleshando said the problem with the said law, as its flaws started to play out in the public and lately at the PAC, is that there were no attempts to build on mechanism to provide checks and balances.

The BCP leader said the law does not force to reveal the classified information at PAC whereas the top leadership of the country supported the motion to review the NPF as moved by Mephato Reatile at the close of last year. Saleshando said it is a pity that Masisi, as Vice President supported the said motion together with Prince Maele, Guma Moyo, Botlogile Tshireletso and Polson Majaga for the parliamentary committee PAC to take up the matter “but PAC is now appearing helpless as we can all see”.  

Intelligence and Security Services Act prohibits disclosure of information

In light of Saleshando’s sentiments of the law, WeekendPost perused through the controversial Act and has some few highlights of the monster law with regard to prohibiting disclosure of information. In terms of section 20, outlining the prohibition of unauthorized disclosure of information subsection (1) states that “without prejudice to any other written law, an officer or support staff shall not disclose or use any information gained by him or her by virtue of his or her employment otherwise than in the strict course of his or her official duties or with the authority of the Director General.”

It continues at subsection(2) that “no officer or support staff shall be required to produce, before any public body other than a Parliamentary Committee established under the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, any document or other evidence where – (a) it is certified by the Director General- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class of documents or evidence, the production of which is injurious to public interest, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be injurious to public interest.”

The contentious section further posits that; “or (b) the Central Intelligence Committee certifies- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class the production of which is prejudicial to national security, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be prejudicial to national security.”  

According to subsection (3) of the said DISS Act: a person aggrieved by a decision of the Director General or the Central Intelligence Committee may apply to the High Court for determination whether the production, or the disclosure of the contents, of the document or other evidence would be injurious to the public interest or, as the case may be, prejudicial to national security.

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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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