BCL which was put under provisional liquidation last year October is not about to resume operation anytime soon. This was revealed by Nigel Dixon Warren the company provisional liquidator on Tuesday the 17th at a media briefing in Selibe Phikwe.
According to Dixon Warren, the 2017 February 7th date contrary to the belief of many is only a return date in which the liquidation period does not end. “It is not usually the procedure within liquidation dealings for the liquidator to address media and issue out information to the public, but considering the amount of public interest in this matter, I have seen it fit to assemble the media and clear out certain misconceptions and misunderstanding making rounds in the publication circles that are also polluting public knowledge consumption’’ explained Dixon Warren.
He unpacked that on February the 7th, 2017, the High Court will decide if the companies being BCL Limited, BCL Investments, Tati Nickel Mine should be placed under final liquidation or the initial reasons presented to the Court can be dismissed. “The order granted in 9th October 2016 to wind up the companies was only a provisional liquidation or rule nisi” He said.
“Per the court order any interested party may apply to high court to prevent the Court not to grant the final order which winds up the company’s “According to Warren the court can decide to extent the provisional liquidation period and delay the final winding up (complete liquidation) order if it believes necessary.
He further noted that for the final liquidation order to be delayed or not be granted, that would require a clear demonstration satisfactory to the court that the companies were not insolvent “That’s to say who ever the interested party logging that application would be, will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt why the winding up petition should be dismissed, of which according to my assessment all the three companies are fatally insolvent, like there have no money or funds or whatsoever and have been making massive losses” he said.
BEYOND FEBRUARY 7TH 2017
Nigel who is a well experienced professional housed under KPMG Chartered Accountants Advisory observes that it is in the best interest of all the creditors that the companies be finally wound up into liquidation process followed to its conclusion. Further lecturing on the processes after February 7th, Dixon Warren explained that after that date the real liquidation is only beginning.
In his terms “After February the 7th this year formal liquidation process commences” He observes that the winding up process includes holding meetings of creditors and sale of assets, a process he revealed takes months to over a year. “What happens is that at the return date if there is no application to dismiss the final liquidation order, the Master of the High Court who oversees the liquidation now takes the reins and convene a formal meeting of creditors’” he said.
The creditors meetings are held so that they the creditors can prove their claims against the companies (ie have them recognized as the creditors in the liquidation) so that they can issue instructions to the liquidator and ultimately receive payment against their claim (a dividend) at the end of liquidation process if there are sufficient funds realized in the sale of assets to cover the costs of the liquidation and pay a dividend to creditors. Warren also revealed that erstwhile directors of the companies will be required to attend the two meetings of creditors so that they can answer questions by creditors and the liquidator.
“I am only a provisional liquidator appointed by the High Court, at the 1st meeting of creditors, the proven creditors now nominate the final liquidator, this doesn’t always be the same person as provisional liquidator but in many cases creditors appoint the same person for continuity as the provisional liquidator would have already be familiar with the liquidation and insolvent company records” he explained.
He also indicated that at that meeting, he as the provisional liquidator will present a report written in terms of Section 44 of the companies Act. “This report provides creditors with details of assets and liabilities of the companies and a reason to why the entities failed in the first place. It was also observed that if the BCL companies are put on final liquidation on the 7th February 2017 it is expected that the first meeting of creditors be held in April 2017.
Dixon-Warren noted that the date of the meeting is not set by the provisional liquidator but by the Master of the High Court. “I have to prepare a report and submit claim forms to all known creditors, considering that these companies creditors are relatively many I will need time after February 7th to undertake this” he further stipulated. The BCL Undertaker Warren further added that the second meeting of creditors of which the reins will be on the final liquidator who might not be him, will give an opportunity to creditors to further prove their claims. “Ordinarily this second meeting occurs between three to six months after the first, and the final liquidator will report on the affairs of estate and will be given direction from the creditors as to the sale of the assets”
THE RUSSIAN NORILSK MATTER
The Liquidator also cleared misconceptions on the Russian Norilsk matter which has been making rounds , BCL had entered into an a share purchase agreement with Norilsk Nickel Mauritius and Norilsk Nickel International Holdings Limited to acquire Norilsk interest in South African Nkomati Mine and Tati Nickel Mine in Francistown.
Dixon Warren explains that prior to the liquidation there was a dispute between parties to the agreement as to whether the conditions precedent was met and therefore whether the contract has full force and effect. “Since Norilsk has taken the matter to court at the High Court of Botswana and in London, there are no further comments I can make on the issues” he said observing that once the issue is dealt with at the court of law, if the case went in favor of Norilsk they can approach him and claim their rightful argument as a creditor Dixon Warren revealed that BCL has a number of creditors which the company had entered into operational contracts with.
He further clarified that Pula Steel contrary to the belief of many is not part of BCL or BCL Investment, stating that it’s a separate entity which BCL has shares not affected by BCL liquidation. “As a matter of fact Pula Steel owes BCL millions in dividends , it is actually one of the few debtors which will have to pay us soon “ he explained adding that RealZim , MTO, Glecon , Zimbabwean Copper companies also owe BCL a few chunks of millions , but emphasized that BCL creditors seat at billions all together.
THE FUTURE OF BCL MINES
Further clearing the air on BCL recommencement of operations, Provisional Liquidator Nigel Dixon Warren unpacked the status of affairs at the mine sites, company assets and potential investors. “There is absolutely no intention to restart operation at the mines , no prospects or what so ever, not anytime soon ,either after February 7th or 1st meeting of creditors , and we are looking at possibly beyond 2017” he said emphasizing that currently there are no resources available to finance operations.
“I have currently placed the mines under care and maintenance, that decision was very paramount to safeguard the assets and preserve the company value” he explained. Dixon Warren revealed that he was advised by professional smelter experts to shut down the BCL smelter which is the most valuable asset of the company, explaining that it would be very costly to keep it running until final liquidation is complete.
“When I arrived here the Smelter was shut down from 7th October as per order by the main shareholder the government , but the BCL engineers advised me to restart it and operate it at a warm temperature as it gets damaged and looses value when it’s not operational” But I later engaged an expert who consulted the manufactures of the smelter and we arrived to a conclusion that it would cost us 5 million pula per month on fuel alone to keep the smelter operational , thus I decided to shut it down , because the finances I have cannot accommodate that” he explained.
The BCL assets custodian stipulated that there is 24 hour security at both Tati and BCL sites to secure the valuable assets and equipments at the company plants and sites. “I have had instances where it’s said that someone calls the local companies claiming the assets of BCL are auctioned requesting deposits payments , I need to clear the air on that and emphasize that members of the public must be aware of these scams, formal communication of asset disposal will be advertised.
Though no formal offers has been made yet and far from being put forth it was revealed that a number of interested parties have come forth to make their interests known, the liquidator observes that the interested firms and investors are both local and international entities and persons. “No formal offers has been made, you see BCL has been profitless , hence it currently has no value and no investor will make any offer on such bases , we will have to asses and look deep into what opportunities can be salvaged from these companies” he said, adding that such processes and assessment as well as investigations is part of his job and it will take time.
According to Warren any conclusion to sell will be considered after the second meeting of creditors observing that it will only be looked into if it’s at the best interest of the creditors . Said Warren “To further attest to why I am saying the mine will not reopen soon ,even after sale of BCL or investor agreement ,it will take time to do restructuring , refurbishment of equipments and re-designing of shafts to start up the mine on profitability” , “No sane investor would rush to put their money in a company that has been making losses “
FORMER BCL EMPLOYESS
“As we all know I was forced to terminate over 4000 employees contracts, I have paid terminal benefits to almost all of them, only just over 180 have not yet received their benefits” explained Warren adding that reasons to that being the 180 are still being contacted ,some changed addresses amongst other reasons. He observed that he initially retained about 400 employees to help him with care and maintenance but have reduced the number to just over 350.
“I have fired some of my stuff and rehired some of the initially terminated, because I operate under a limited budget and time so I cannot afford incompetent stuff” he explained, Dixon Warren noted that all former BCL employees who occupied houses have been allowed to stay in the house. “We have signed lease with them up to 31st October 2017, and as per our agreement the occupants will not be paying rent in return we want them to keep the houses in good shape and suitable state, however as stated before occupants will pay for their own utilities bills, ie water and electricity ” he said explaining that the date will be probably when selling company asserts will begin.
Nigel Warren noted that having paid terminal benefits to former employee’s there was nothing more he can do as far as health services and other incentives are concerned, um told the government has taken over. BCL which has been in operation for the past 40 years was put under provisional liquidation last year October 9th after operations were halted 2 days earlier, The decision which is believed to have been orchestrated by state owned Mineral Corporations Limited put over 4000 miners to the streets jobless and thousands households without breadwinners and consequently shutting down the economic nucleus of the whole eastern bloc of the country.
However as reports indicate that cooper and nickel prices have bounced back by 20% the man mandated to dissolve the BCL Group told weekendpost after the media briefing that resident and settlers this side of this country should not put the mine in their plans of survival for the next few months as there is still lot of work to do ,adding that if at all investors put money the mine will only resume operation in 2018 realistically
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.