Former cabinet Minister, who was at some point a leading candidate for the portfolio of Vice President in the former President Festus Mogae administration, David Magang has again took a shot at the government of Botswana for lack of sight and vision with regard to the beneficiation of her mineral resources.
Magang shared his assessment of government at a public lecture organized by the University Of Botswana Department Of History on Thursday where he was the guest speaker. As a key presenter, his particular focus was to lead discussion in interpreting and interrogating a quote “A nation without a past is a lost nation” as extracted from a speech by Botswana’s founding President Sir Seretse Khama which he delivered during the 1970 University of Botswana (UB), Lesotho and Swaziland Graduation Ceremony in Swaziland.
Magang said he has been singing the same song to government since 1978 until 2006 when government heeded and implemented the long call for diamond beneficiation. “In Botswana, the one great lesson we have learnt is the belatedness with which it dawned on us that it was time we beneficiated our mineral resources, an imperative I obsessively kept calling attention to as far back as the early 80s and to which the powers-that-be were so lackadaisically resigned,” he lashed out at the government during the deliberation to the audience who were almost full in capacity at the state of the art new UB conference facility in Gaborone.
He continued to point out that sadly, in addition to the diamond beneficiation fracas, there is still a whole host of lessons that government has chosen to simply ignore. For example, he said Botswana’s examination-based educational system has on balance been resoundingly vain owing to its archaic emphasis on rote-learning instead of spontaneous internalization of the inculcated knowledge. “It should have been discarded a long time ago, like the Scandinavian country of Finland has, but why we continue to cling to it so boggles the mind as to numb the senses altogether,” the suburban Phakalane township developer maintained.
The business mogul also revealed why there was suddenly a need for a Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) which was later established in 1994 – in order to combat corruption and economic crimes in the country. Economic prudence and a characteristically peace-loving bent on the part of Batswana are not recently nurtured virtues, he observed. He maintained that, “of course we have over the years seen the emergence of a level of greed and self-aggrandizement in certain quarters that is eye-poppingly brazen and blatant – necessitating our putting into place graft-bursting institutions such as DCEC to provide the necessary checks and balances – but that is more of an anomaly than an all-encompassing national trait.”
The property magnate said that in terms of the education, he also points a finger at government for not having listened to the late Patrick Van Rensburg in relation to embracing education with production at an early stage. The 79 year old hailed Patrick Van Rensburg as a pioneer educationist who founded the highly efficacious Brigades movement in Botswana at a time when Batswana were desperate for the barest vocational skills. He said “if we had keenly embraced his concept of education with production, the country’s unemployment levels would not be this acute. Although a vociferous proponent and practitioner of vocational education for self-employment, Patrick van Rensburg did not advocate for marginalisation or abolition of history in the school system as seems the case currently.”
He continued to take a shot: “yet all the above fair-skinned personages are not spoken of in the same glowing terms as the equally illustrious indigenous Batswana. None of them has been put on a particularly towering pedestal by the chroniclers and savants of our national history or merited a posthumous nominal honour after a national landmark,” he pointed out in his 1 hour 30 minutes long lecture to the audience.
According to the former ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, the blame, as far as he is concerned, “lies squarely on those who devise the curricula in the history departments at both the high school and university level. I need not stress that those who perform sterling in any facet of national progress must be equally lauded and proportionally projected irrespective of skin pigmentation. Colourbar must not be allowed to factor into the appreciation and salutation of our national heroes.”
When hitting at the UB academics on equal token as he did to a large extent to the government of the day, Magang highlighted that “my own hosts today, the University of Botswana authorities, bear their share of this oversight I regret to say.” He said he is given to understand that there is a long-held tradition at the national university whereby buildings and other constituent facilities are officially known by mere numbers instead of being named after national heroes some of whom he had made mention of in his address.
“Maybe the recent re-naming of the hospital at the University of Botswana after the recently departed Sir Ketumile Masire is a signal on the part of the university authorities that they are intent on making amends in this regard.” The former Lentsweletau Member of Parliament reminisced that once he asked the late Professor Thomas Tlou also why most of the theses of Botswana’s indigenous historians were based on research conducted in other countries when ideally their own country ought to take pride of place.
“The professor laid the blame squarely on Government: he told me whereas other governments were prepared to avail funding for research to even non-citizen historians, ours didn’t seem to care an iota,” he said. Magang continued: “almost every University of Botswana lecturer I have had occasion to talk to over the years bristles at the stigmatic absence of a printing press at a university that prides itself as one of the best on the continent. An in-house printing press would make information dissemination by way of books easier and cheaper. It would open the floodgates of indigenous bibliographical output, which presently comes only in trickles as international scholarship arbiters repeatedly lament.”
Magang asserted that Africa is rich in an indispensable amount of epoch-making history and yet Caucasians, who document much of world history, typically dismiss the continent as inconsequential by any stretch of the imagination. He said this same cynicism was directed at Botswana by the colonialists, who regarded the country as far from historically worthwhile when he cross-examined Sir Khama’s appeal for Africans to break-away from the shackles of mental oppression, and become masters of their own destiny by writing their own history. Magang asked to what extent are efforts made to see to it that certain misconceptions or seeming ambiguities do not hold or are clarified.
For example, he wondered why most Batswana continue to cling to the erroneous position that The Three DiKgosi went to England to ask for British protection when the fact of the matter was that the protectorate – or a profaketorate as he calls it – had been imposed on the country, suddenly and unheralded, by the British government a decade earlier in 1885 and that the object of The Three DiKgosi’s mission was to register their revulsion at the planned handover of our country to Cecil John Rhodes. In the 1960s, he stated that Botswana was perceived as a country which was virtually without history which made the country earn a tagline: “happy is a nation that has no history. By this standard, there can be few nations happier than Bechuanaland.”
Part of the Sir Seretse’s speech reads: "we were taught, sometimes in a very positive way, to despise ourselves and our ways of life. We were made to believe that we had no past to speak of, no history to boast of. The past, so far as we were concerned, was just a blank and nothing more. Only the present mattered and we had very little control over it. It seemed we were in for a definite period of foreign tutelage, without any hope of our ever again becoming our own masters.”
“The end result of all this was that our self-pride and our self-confidence were badly undermined. It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own history books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was a past that was just as worth writing and learning about as any other. We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past are a people without a soul," it continued. Magang interrogated the famous speech, and how it was subsequently misread or misunderstood, in order to be able to explain Sir Seretse Khama’s vision of Botswana’s development with the country’s history as a cardinal aspect of nation-building.
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.”
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.
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.”