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BOCONGO new broom maps relevance

Following the major purge of staff seen to be resisting change with regard to the new Strategic Plan of Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), its new Executive Director Botho Seboko is undertaking a vigorous rebranding exercise at the organisation. 

The organisation, members and the board has been embroiled in disputes in relation to governance issues, role clarity, and power struggles that saw the former Executive Director Bagaisi Mabilo and all staff at the Secretariat being wiped out. The board, with the headship of Chairman Oscar Motsumi thereafter head hunted Seboko to persuade him to take the hot seat filling the shoes of Mabilo. Seboko is on a 3 year contract precisely to implement the new BOCONGO Strategy 2017 to 2020 subject to renewal in terms of performance.

In a one-on-one interview with WeekendPost this week the former Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) Secretary General who almost raised the oldest party from the ashes said he found BOCONGO in a similar case and is devoted to re-branding it. At BPP he introduced the slogan which caught frenzy in social media dubbed #RonaKoBPP. Since leaving the party, it slumped to sleeping mode.

“When I arrived in BOCONGO it was an organisation in limbo. Remember it did not have an Executive Director for close to 6 months. Neither did it have qualified people in the absence of the Executive Director except for its Communications Officer,” he said.
He continued to say that “it has lost relationships with donors, we have lost communications with key stakeholders, and we were not in dialogue and engaging with government.”

Seboko also said he found BOCONGO’s financial books in disarray and that at the last Annual General Meeting the organisation failed to present an audit. “We had so many creditors or debts,” he said, adding that they did not have any existent donor save for normal subvention funds from the Ministry on Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs.

According to Seboko, the new strategy was adopted in 2015 but due to a conflict between the board and then Director it suffered a one year loss so in 2016 there was literally no implementation until he occupied the position earlier this year in February 2017.
“My job coming into BOCONGO therefore was and is still to ensure that at the end of the strategy the organisation is back to its members; to ensure that there is a fresh look on BOCONGO in terms of the manpower that is employed in the inside organisation and the outward picture in the form of logo and branding material.”

In the 8 months in office, Seboko says BOCONGO has moved to a new office. “We developed the new branded logo, brought new phones; website is now functional, staff emails also working. We have a new staff of Executive Director, Programs Manager, Chattered Accountant, Communications Multi-Media and Graphics interns, Front Desk Officer and, Administration Officer.”

The new strategy states that there is a need to decentralize power from Gaborone to other areas where there are BOCONGO members around the country. In the strategy there are 7 regional networks; Gantsi, Ngamiland, Chobe, Francistown, Selibe Phikwe (BOMASE), Serowe/Palapye and Greater Gaborone. BOCONGO will also be divided into 4 thematic groups and there is need to align them with the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDG’s), National development Plan (NDP11), Vision 2036 and Africa vision 2063.

The thematic groups are; inclusive social policy, sustainable environment and resource management, economic justice and democracy and governance. Members will be now categorized in the groups and composition of the board will be chosen amongst the 7 regions while 4 will come from the thematic groups. As BOCONGO he added that they have also facilitated for the funding of a new NGO, Botswana Watch, at the tune of 50 000 US dollars from OSISA.

The Executive Director said time has turned and NGOs are doing the implementation of the projects while the Secretariat is holding the money for them. “As such the role of BOCONGO has changed. BOCONGO reports financially to the donor while NGOs report narrative.” Furthermore, Seboko revealed that BOCONGO has also requested for funds to resurrect the defunct Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana office. According to him, MISA will start operations soon as OSISA has approved funding for it at the tune of US$ 50 000.

“We did a proposal for EU as well for 2019 General Elections focusing on the disabled particularly the blind, for the first time in this Republic we will see documentation in Braille for the blind,” Seboko said. “The project was funded for 144 000 Euros to be spent in the next 2 years. The blind will be able to vote and teach others on how to vote in the next elections owing to the project.”  This, Seboko pointed out, will be done in conjunction with the Botswana Society for the Deaf and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA).

 “We have also approached the Canadian Embassy to lure them to fund us so that we assist hold Councillors accountable. They have thereafter funded us with 2 000 Canadian dollars. We need to develop for our communities a check list based on management system based on public office bearers at District level that the communities can assess and check what the Councillors said in their manifestos,” he revealed. Seboko also highlighted that for the last 10 years BOCONGO has received 1.2 million per year consistently from government through Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs as they are obliged to do in their partnership with Civil Society. He also said they will work harmoniously with the NGO Council.

He also pointed out that BOCONGO remains non partisan and does not even provide opinions on topical political issues. Seboko also stated that they have so far pulled 3 successful panel discussions being: controversial Electronic Voting Machines; Freedom of Information (for a build up to MISA resurrection); and a debate over who is funding our political parties. BOCONGO is notorious for an acrimonious relationship between the board and the head of the Secretariat (Executive Director) which often leads to the sacking of the latter.

Before Mabilo, Boitshepho Bolele was also unceremoniously kicked out while on probation. Prior to her, Executive Secretary Mosweu Simane also abruptly resigned from the position to be the General Secretary of an affiliate member Botswana Council of Churches (BCC). He was followed by Nobantu Kalake who also left for greener pastures at the British Council. The hot position has also seen resignations from Barulaganye Mogotsi to Debswana, Baboloki Tlale and Ketlhomilwe Moletsane were also in the mix.

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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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