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Kwelagobe finally bows out

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) stalwart Daniel Kwelagobe has finally decided to bow out of the BDP centre of power, and will not seek any position in the party Central Committee at the upcoming Tonota Congress.


Kwelagobe confirmed to this publication recently that he has decided not to contest after an illustrious and controversy riddled career in the ruling party. “It is up to the party [BDP] to use my wisdom if they need it, but I will not be seeking any position in Tonota,” he said.


DK as he is popularly known in political circles burst into the scene in the late 1960s after being recruited by the founding president of BDP, Sir Seretse Khama. The country’s first president was impressed by the then Radio Botswana journalist’s eloquence and work rate, therefore did not waste any time in luring him to politics on the side of his party.


Kwelagobe, who lost his constituency, Molepolole South, to Dr Tlamelo Mmatli of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will go down in the history books as a Member of Parliament who served most terms in the Botswana Parliament.
Kwelagobe had been the MP for that area since 1969 and had defended the constituency on eight successive occasions. The fall of Kwelagobe also saw the UDC taking Molepolole North from BDP as Botswana National Front (BNF) veteran, Mohammed Khan dethroned former Kwelagobe ally, Gaotlhaaetse Matlhabaphiri.


Kwelagobe has served in the central committee since 1967, first as the Deputy Secretary General, Secretary General and Chairman of the party until 2013 when he voluntarily stepped down from his position and announced that he was not seeking re-election at the Maun Congress.


As the Deputy Secretary General, Kwelagobe was Quett Masire’s understudy and was later propelled to the position of Secretary General in the wake of Seretse Khama’s demise. The unexpected death of Seretse meant that Masire ascended to both the party and country’s presidency, allowing DK to fill the post left vacant by Masire.


It was during his time as the party secretary general that he endeared himself to the country plain folks and along the way became the party’s favourite son. There is a popular belief that in terms of popularity, Kwelagobe is only second to Seretse Khama as the party’s favourite son.


Kwelagobe remains the only MP to have served under all the presidents of Botswana. It is in the 1980s after Seretse’s demise that Kwelagobe emerged as the most powerful man in the party. With Seretse gone, Kwelagobe became synonymous with the name BDP. A hardworking and charismatic individual, Kwelagobe was known to have the impetus to traverse the country in an effort to build party structures and canvass for support.


The father of factions in the BDP


After the arrival of Mompati Merafhe into the political scene in 1989, Kwelagobe had always found himself at loggerheads with the former military man. With President Masire having been expected to retire from office after the 1994 general elections, two factions emerged from the party. The Big Two led by Kwelagobe was rooting for Peter Mmusi, who was then Vice President, while the Big Five consisting of Chapson Butale, Bahiti Temane, Roy Blackbeared and David Magang were pushing for Merafhe. These factional wars led to polarity in the party.


The worst time of party polarity crisis was at the 1993 Kanye Congress, in which the factions tore each other apart for two years. The watershed moment was the Kgabo Commission, a land investigation into the allocation of land in Mogoditshane and other peri-urban areas. Mmusi and Kwelagobe were ensnared by the report findings and the duo was forced to resign from cabinet. The two and their supporters believed the report was a witch hunt by the Merafhe faction. Merafhe who was then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration supervised the commission.

 
In his memoir, ‘The General: In Service of My Country’, released soon after his death, Merafhe contended that Kwelagobe’s problem was that he wanted to dictate terms and he was too strong and wayward. “On coming aboard the political bandwagon in 1989, I was amazed at the influence Kwelagobe wielded in the BDP,” he argued. “Exactly how he came to appropriate such disproportionate power was beyond me,” he further questioned. Merafhe said the media also played a role in moulding Kwelagobe into the giant he was by referring to him as a “BDP strongman” something which Merafhe noted had gone to Kwelagobe’s head.


“Kwelagobe was not necessarily a liability to the party; he had quite a palpable rapport with the grassroots. If there is one person who could rally them to the Domkrag banner, it was Kwelagobe,” observed Merafhe. Merafhe viewed Kwelagobe as a man who put more effort on party work than he did in his ministerial remit, “He was implacably intolerant of even constructive views different from his own,” asserted the former Foreign Affairs minister.


Merafhe said hell broke loose when he started challenging the views of Kwelagobe and his cronies regarding what he called ‘one sided’ democracy. Merafhe argued that Kwelagobe seemed to believe that his position on any issue was canonical and therefore had to be tamely embraced by everyone in the party, “Everybody was expected to toe his line- If you did not, if you showed a principled independence of mind, woe betided you.”


Merafhe referred to Kwelagobe, the then Vice President Peter Mmusi and Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri as “troika”. Merafhe said the troika called the shots in the party at his time of arrival in the party. “Clearly, the party was in desperate need of reform. I was convinced of this that I decided to challenge Peter Mmusi for the position of chairman of the party in 1991,” he contended. However Merafhe lost dismally against Mmusi.  That feat repeated itself again in 1993 at Kanye Congress, the second most divisive elective congress after the 2009 Kanye Congress in the history of BDP.


Merafhe said BDP factions were not necessarily stemming from philosophical or strategic differences but were based solely on the clash of egos and certain, inexplicable propensities.”To attempt to point out the error of its ways amounted to insubordination,” he wrote. According to Merafhe, “The Big Five” faction was not a faction formed by a deliberate design. It was a group which did not agree with the dominance of Kwelagobe and his allies in the party.


He insisted in the book that the name “The Big Five” which was used to refer to him, David Magang, Roy Blackbeared, Bahiti Temane and Chapson Butale was a creation of the press, and never deliberate, “Sadly, when a lie is repeated often enough, it graduates to the status of truth. The Big Five was a figment of a fertile imagination. It was created to give an impression that just like the other faction we too had a pecking order,” he noted.


Magang also stand on the side of those who fought endless factional battles DK because they believed he was ‘too much revered.’ In his first memoir ‘The Magic of Perseverance’ Magang writes: “The one thing that more than any other put the two of us on a collision course was DK’s inflated sense of self worth, vis-à-vis the BDP. Somehow mysteriously, he and the BDP became synonymous, particularly with the departure of Seretse, and this sent his ego soaring into the supernova;

it literally besotted him. He so choreographed this view that all the party heavyweights, including Quett Masire, were hypnotised in the belief that he was the very pulse of the party, its anchor and cornerstone, even though popular support for BDP was gradually  dwindling. Even PHK, whose intellect towered head and shoulders over DK’s, made it a point that he was always on his side. The press dubbed him “BDP Strongman”, and they were right in a way. “

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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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