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Ramsden keeps AP guessing

Former Minister of Transport and Communications, Frank Ramsden is keeping the newly formed Alliance for Progressives guessing over his political future. Indications are that there is a possibility that he could be joining them soon.

Ramsden, according to sources could have been among multitudes which the party unveiled last weekend at the party’s North West region launch in Maun. However sources reveal that Ramsden left AP hanging as he was unsure whether to join them. The negotiations though are reportedly still ongoing and the party will not pressurize him, a source pointed out.

The party’s deputy Secretary General, Moalosi Sebati could not reveal the names of big wigs the party has recruited though sources maintain that Ramsden who has been in the political wilderness is highly likely to resurface at AP. “I can’t reveal who we have managed to bring on board but we have been in a massive recruitment drive. Some of our captives are politicians, former politicians and other opinion leaders,” said Sebati.

Ramsden who was kicked out of the cabinet in 2011 by President Ian Khama, and a former Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) stalwart and Kubung/Kgosing ward councillor, Galaletsang Mhapha were expected to be displayed last weekend at the party’s launch in Maun as some of the big fish. “We have been going around doing some mobile recruitment, the national organizing secretary has been pushing that and the results have been promising.  This is to show that the party is not only a Gaborone thing but rather a Botswana party.”

Nonetheless it is said; Ramsden will not take any senior position in the party but will be an ordinary member. “Maybe as an advisor or something but he is not expected to take any influential post. He is an experienced politician and his presence would be a big catch for the party which is still at an infant stage,” said a source.

Another promising possible recruit, Mhapha on the other hand has somersaulted and is reported to have joined the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). It is said he is likely to be BCP’s candidate in the Maun West constituency. Mhapha, has been without a political home since the BMD debacle in Bobonong.

AP leadership, including Chairman Pius Mokgware and the Secretary General, Dr Phenyo Butale held an in-house meeting with members before the launch. Details were sketchy as to what was discussed except the fact that members were encouraged to recruit more members.
The Batawana chief, Kgosi Tawana Moremi who has categorically declared that he is non-partisan and would not take part in politics lived up to his word as he was expected to be among the influential figures at the event.”

The party leadership including Ndaba Gaolathe, Wynter Mmolotsi, and Margret Nasha also graced the launch. The Maun launch was to consolidate the party leadership ambitions of winning the Maun West constituency in 2019. The constituency is currently held by independent Member of Parliament, Kgosi Tawana. The AP deputy secretary general, Sebati is expected to represent the party in Maun West at the 2019 polls. He is said to be enjoying backing from the incumbent and Kgosi which could simplify things for him under the prevailing circumstances. 

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Batswana owe banks P79 billion

27th March 2023

The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.

Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.

“As at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),” said Serame.

She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.

On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.

It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.

Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.

According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31st of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.

Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.

“It is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswana’s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,” said Serame.

She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks it’s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.

“A significant portion of Batswana’s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesn’t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side. There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.  Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,” said Keorapetse.

He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswana’s financial sector.

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How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor

27th March 2023

The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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