President Lt Gen Ian Khama used his powers to save former party secretary general Botsalo Ntuane from sliding into political obscurity when he brought him back to the Central Committee as one of the five members nominated by the party president.
Ntuane lost his position to Mpho Balopi of the invincible Mokgweetsi Masisi faction. With Ntuane having already declared that he will not contest the upcoming 2019 general elections, there were fears that his defeat would effectively throw him into the political wilderness. However, Khama stepped in and practically saved his political career, effectively keeping Ntuane in the 2017-2019 BDP Central Committee, but much to the dismay of Masisi supporters.
“A lot of Masisi campaigners are shocked and disappointed because they were hoping to be rewarded with additional member posts,” revealed an insider. By deciding to stay out of lobby lists ahead of the Tonota Congress and ending his parliamentary ambitions, Ntuane could have impressed Khama as someone who genuinely serves party interest and cared not much about himself.
In the run-up to Tonota, Ntuane tried to coax Nonofho Molefhi to drop out of the chairman race and instead take over the secretary general position. Ntuane offered to sacrifice himself to pave way for Molefhi, but his proposal had no buyers in both factions. This publication has established that Khama has finally warmed-up to the idea of trusting Ntuane after a relationship characterised by mistrust since the latter returned from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) splinter which Ntuane co-founded in 2010. Ntuane, then Leader of Opposition in parliament rejoined BDP in 2012.
At the funeral of former President, Sir Ketumile Masire, Khama revealed what looked like confidential information that the two met to discuss the nitty-gritty of honouring the departed founding father. Ordinarily, such discussion would occur in the orbit of cabinet but on that day, it appeared Khama had extended an olive branch to the then secretary general.
The 46 year old former legislator has spent nearly 30 years of his career as part and parcel of BDP machinery. After a promising career in Journalism as a student at the University of Botswana (UB) in the 1990s, Ntuane joined the burgeoning GS26, a BDP cell structure in the university campus and later became part of the Student Representative Council (SRC).
Ntuane rose to political prominence following the 1995 BDP Congress in Mogoditshane in which he was nominated as one of the five additional members to the party central committee by President Masire. Ntuane would later resign his position to take up a paid post in the party’s secretariat as a political officer. In 1997, he ascended to the position of Executive Secretary, a post he held until he was nominated as Special Elected Member of Parliament after the 2004 General Elections.
Today, with the departure of Daniel Kwelagobe from the party central committee after a 40 year reign, only party Treasurer Satar Dada boasts the same party experience as Botsalo Ntuane. Although still in his 40s, Ntuane has virtually seen all the careers of the current crop of BDP politicians burgeoning. He was BDP secretariat chief when Khama was introduced to the BDP and facilitated his membership; and he was already at Tsholetsa House when the longest serving Member of Parliament currently, Slumber Tsogwane first entered parliament in 1999, he also served in the BDP at the same time with Edison Masisi, the father to the incumbent Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“I have seen many political careers beginning and ending. I have been witness to transitions and in my generation; I know BDP more intimately than anyone so much so that I am actively thinking of writing a book on my experiences,” Ntuane told this publication a few months ago.
The evolution of Khama/Ntuane relations
It was during his first term as an MP that he found himself at odds with Khama, who was then party chairman and vice president. Ntuane, a protégé of Daniel Kwelagobe, then belonged to the Barataphathi faction while Khama was associated with the A-Team faction. One of the most common clashes between Ntuane and Khama was in 2008 when Khama, new in his presidency introduced the new liquor regulations which brought among others, the alcohol levy and limited time for liquor outlets to operate. Ntuane vehemently opposed the development and irked Khama in the process. Ntuane had to restore peace by apologising to Khama.
The expression that there are no permanent enemies and allies in politics manifest accordingly in the Khama-Ntuane political relationship. Nothing describes their enmity best than the build up to the 2009 Kanye Congress in which the two found themselves in opposite sides in one of the fiercely fought political battles in the history of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Ntuane was rooting for Gomolemo Motswaledi and Khama supported all-women A-Team faction.
Ntuane and his team won, but barely a month after victory, his ally, Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days from the party and barred from contesting the Gaborone Central parliamentary constituency. Ntuane, who was Motswaledi’s sympathizer in chief, visibly hurt by Khama’s actions coaxed Motswaledi to take the matter to court. The matter ended in losses both at the High Court and Court of Appeal.
Following the court case loss, Motswaledi was slapped with a new 5 year suspension. The suspension set in motion a series of events which led to the formation of BMD. Ntuane, led the process of BMD formation as the chairperson of what was known then as EXCO, which oversaw the formation of the new party.
With him as Leader of Opposition in parliament later, Khama consistently pursued a policy of avoidance. The norm is that the head of state should consult leader of opposition occasionally on issues of national interest. Ntuane then decried that he was being sidelined from meeting head of states during their visits to Botswana. His only courtesy visit was of the Zambian President Michel Sata, a few weeks before resigning from BMD.
One of the defining moments of his relations with Khama was Ntuane’s response to the 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in which Ntuane called for reconciliation between the workers and government. Ntuane’s posture did not impress his colleagues in the opposition and since then, he started inclining towards BDP again. In February 2012, against his party wish, Ntuane attended the BDP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. He said he did so on his personal capacity and as the party’s longest serving Executive Secretary.
Although Ntuane returned to BDP a few months later, his arrival did not immediately ease relations between him and Khama. Last year Khama ignored a passionate plea to include Ntuane among the two names of individuals to be nominated Specially Elected MPs following a constitutional amendment which introduced two more posts for SEMPs in the National Assembly.
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.”