Embattled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Sidney Pilane has vowed not to allow any mediator in the party impasse to allow them to hold a congress re-run following the recent disputed Bobonong one.
The umbrella of opposition parties in Botswana, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is expected to mediate between the two after receiving communication from both parties claiming to be the legitimate National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, with one led by Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe.
In his inaugural press briefing this week after the disputed congress, Pilane maintained that they will not allow for a re-run of the congress as they won fair and square in line with the constitution of the BMD. “Let me make it clear that we had a lawful congress at Matshekge CJSS in Bobonong. It has been called in terms of the constitution of the BMD by the National Executive Committee. All was done in accordance with our constitution and so, we will not agree to any suggestion by anybody to call another congress,” the BMD leader insisted to journalists earlier this week.
He however said they are prepared to compromise in terms of matters regarding which they have power to compromise that are outside the ambit of the movement constitution. He thus emphasized that: “what we cannot do is give anybody anything that we do not have the power to do. And what we cannot agree is to anything that we do not have the power to agree to it, and so even others we agree that they are thinking about us and might want to assist and it will be grateful, but they must understand that we are limited by the constitution of the BMD. We work within it, we stay within it, we live within it and we act in accordance with it at all times. It’s a matter we do not compromise.”
The Advocate asserted that they told Batswana that they would like to run this country and therefore should show to them that indeed they will run the country according to the law. The Constitution is never compromised, he stressed adding that Batswana need to know that when they elect them into government they will obey the law and run government affairs in terms of the law, and nobody should ask to compromise on the law to suit any party end.
In terms of suggestions that the UDC will intercede, Pilane said he does not recall UDC leader Duma Boko talking about two factions in the BMD. Instead, his recollection is that Boko pointed out that they have received two reports from two groups, both of whom claim to be BMD. And that he said they might call them. “The question now is; are we going to go there if the UDC calls? Yes, if the UDC calls we would go, to see what they would have called us for,” the highly decorated lawyer highlighted. He however assured the briefing that no one will call BMD without its authority or blessing.
“We run this movement by a constitution. We have a constitution which governs the affairs of the movement. No other constitution does. And no other individual does. So anybody that wants to mediate between us obviously we would be very grateful. We will go wherever we are called. We shall hear whatever we will be called for. We have a discussion according as we might be invited. And we will state our position,” the controversial politician warned. Pilane also reiterated that in terms of the calls for a re-run of the congress, even if they are given money to hold the congress they will not hold that congress as they have already held one. “We have too much work to do to rebuild our movement,” he asserted.
Pilane discusses his association with DIS Director Isaac Kgosi
It is the Advocate’s contention that indeed he has relations with Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director Isaac Kgosi and he has represented him as a lawyer, and never did so for the DISS. “I practice law. I represent people who require representation. I do not care about your political affiliation or where you work, it is a matter which I have never compromised and I will never compromise,” he said of Isaac kgosi when quizzed by a pack of journalists who wanted the predicament explained. The quandary has mainly pitted him against some BMD members who despise his re-admission into the party citing his connections/relations with the notorious DISS.
Pilane also maintained that it was true that he had represented Isaac Kgosi and other BDP members when he was still a BDP member and added that he is still representing some BDP members, despite now being with the opposition. He stated that he can still represent the leader of the Secret Service, Kgosi should he need his services as a lawyer. He continued: “I can also represent President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama if he also requires legal representation even though he has destroyed our country.”
Says Ndaba faction approached a Judge to utilize for forum shopping
The Pilane faction has made speculations that the Ndaba led faction has approached a certain judge to place their case for forum shopping. However, Pilane has refused to name the said Judge. He said that the Ndaba faction had notified them of their intention to declare the recent congress nullified and call for a re-run of the elections. “In terms of the said Judge, we know the name of the Judge in question but we won’t reveal the name to you. But when they do go to court if they do go court we will know whether they got the judge they want or have failed to do so. And they should get the Judge who we know they want, we will act accordingly at the time,” Pilane told the press.
Pilane attacks opposition MPs in parliament for poor performance
The BMD leader expressed concern over the lack of vibrancy by the current crop of opposition legislators as opposed to the past. “There was a time when the opposition parliament was strong and vibrant. It was speaking for the people, expressing the feelings of Batswana, articulating them vibrantly in which they had an impact on the audience, Batswana in general. We need to hear you more. Perhaps we do not hear this or assess this issue the same way. But we don’t hear you comrades. We hear you too little,” he said.
The contentious politician also observed that “we need to hear you and see you make a difference. We need to be inspired. I am afraid I am little inspired. We want you to be as vibrant as the opposition parliament of Kenneth Koma, Paul Rantao, Maitshwarelo Dabhuta, Robert Molefabangwe, and others. They made noise and were vibrant, but were just a small number. But today, you are so much a larger number. Please be vibrant, with your intelligence, articulate issues that affect Batswana.”
The Advocate also weighed options of running for parliament in 2019
When asked on whether he has ambitions of running for parliament in the coming 2019 General Elections Pilane was cagey in his carefully articulated but loaded response. “Do I intend to run for parliament in 2019? I do not know. It’s not a matter I have thought about. It’s not a matter I have considered. I do not think the time for that decision has come. When the time comes, I will make it. I will see whether there is a constituency which I am interested in running. I will see whether people want me to run. And so, I have not yet made that decision. O mpotse tsa ko ke go tswang. Tsa ko ke yang ga di itse (I only know of my past but I cannot say the same about the future.)”
Other BMD issues…
He also warned that those other members from the other faction who are not entitled to call meetings, or call meetings without anyone’s authority will be dealt with when that time comes. “Those expelled also should re-apply into the party; I believe they will be re-admitted. But of course anyone joining the BMD, expelled or otherwise, has to commit their self to obey the constitution, and being disciplined. It goes without saying. They should always follow BMD constitution, rules and regulations as well as respect the structures.”
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.”