The Land Tribunal has this week dismissed an appeal following an objection raised concerning the controversial allocation of some ranches located near Banyana farms in the vicinity of Southern District Council (SDC).
WeekendPost has turned up information suggesting that the members of Basimane Syndicate; the Secretary Makgekgenene Neelo Kwape and Chairperson Lephatsimile Kwape were questioning the allocation- in particular of a ranch dubbed JN14A. Basimane syndicate’s contention was that the allocation of the ranch, which was since allocated to a well known Kanye business mogul Stephen Phirinyane, was irregular and unlawful.
They said he was disqualified on equitable considerations as he failed to disclose that he was a member of a syndicate known as Tsepane, which held rights over an existing borehole point. They further said he had also not applied for the disputed ranch but had only applied for ranch JN 14 B. Both ranches are in SDC locality in Rajakopo in the Ngwaketse tribal area. However, when making judgement this week Messr. Kebalepile Rutherford dismissed the appeal saying it lacks sufficient evidence and was full of unsubstantiated allegations.
Rutherford made the ruling subsequent to heated arguments made before him, Tribunal President Boitumelo Kaisara and Messr Gordon Lecoge, who were also part of the bench of the matter. According to Rutherford, from available records, as at December 2005, the Tsepane Syndicate borehole, which Phirinyane was said to have used at the time, belonged to the Council (SDC). He said in terms of the records, it was used by the Syndicate on leasehold basis from Council.
“The court is therefore not convinced that such constituted a right that could disqualify an applicant from allocation or warrant disclosure. This ground therefore fails,” Rutherford said when reading the judgement. The court maintained that there was insufficient evidence also on whether Phirinyane was a member of the syndicate at the material point stressing that it was upon the appellant to prove the point. The Judge however further pointed out that, following the findings that he is not a member of Tsepane syndicate, the argument therefore automatically falls away.
This was said after allegations were made by Basimane Syndicate to court that Phirinyane held borehole rights at Tsepane Syndicate at the time. Another point they alluded to was that, the allocation was contrary to the spirit of equitable land allocation as contained in section 10 of the Tribal Land Act. Rutherford in return stated that in terms of the advert, syndicate applicants did not necessarily have an edge over individual applicants and therefore the argument failed.
Basimane Syndicate had argued that in allocating, Syndicates should have been preferred over individual applicants. It was however explained that the advert package did not even categorise applicants as such. The tribunal was required to determine whether the business tycoon’ cum farmer’s allocation of the disputed ranch was proper in light of the points raised by the appellants (Basimane Syndicate) in objecting to the allocation.
During prior arguments, Counsel Kgalalelo Monthe on behalf of Basimane Syndicate had maintained that the allocation was irregular, unlawful and contrary to the provisions of Tribal Land Act on equitable allocation, and that the allocated applicant did not adhere to the advertisement prerequisites. Monthe argued that the allocation be set aside as a nullity. Further, he said that the Tribunal should make appropriate orders such as allocating the appellant the disputed ranch or an alternative site.
“He said the appellants deserve to be allocated as the only party before the tribunal and also as only two applicants applied for the disputed ranch.” On the other side, representing Ngwaketse Landboard at the time, Counsel Laba Mokete, stressed that in terms of Ngwaketse Landboard minutes, on the procedure used for allocating ranches, there was no particular procedure which they failed to follow. In addition, when speaking on behalf of Phirinyane, attorney Doreen Khama said it would not be fair for Phirinyane’s allocation to be set aside when he had developed it over 10 years.
Justice Rutherford emphasised that the court is required to determine the validity of the disputed allocation based on applicable laws and procedures as opposed to the magnitude of improvements on site. “To illustrate this, in the selection process, allocations were not based on the ranches applied for but rather on the scoring system. Ngwaketse land Board’s explanation in this regard prevails. This also means the issue of addition of farm JN14A to Phirinyane’s application form becomes irrelevant,” Rutherford ruled.
Ngwaketse landboard advertised 4 ranches for allocation being KN33A, KN33B, JN14A and JN14B on 16 July 2006. A total of 104 applicants’ responded to the advert. The four successful who were later called for interviews includes Popagano Syndicate who scored 38.83 points, Stephen Ntirelang Phirinyane (37.33), Kgosikhumo Gofhamodimo (36.50) and Thomas Mhenyi Kwape (36.50).
Phirinyane was one of the 4 successful applicants to be allocated based on marks scored, and was consequently allocated. Basimane Syndicate then objected to his allocation. The objection was however dismissed by Ngwaketse landboard, but the Syndicate then appealed to the Tribunal under case no. 10/2007. In October 2011, the tribunal later on, in turn remitted the matter to Ngwaketse Landboard for “re-consideration”.
Ngwaketse landboard then resolved to, at its meeting of February 2015; dismiss the objection made by Basimane Syndicate on the basis that the Syndicate failed to substantiate their allegations concerning Mr. Phirinyane’s allocation of ranch JN14A. The land board felt that the allocation was in order. Aggrieved by the decision, Basimane Syndicate filed the Appeal which consequently was disimissed this week in favour of business magnate Phirinyane and Ngwaketse landboard.
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.”