Recent news of BCL having attracted lucrative buyers from the cash spinning economy of Dubai was received with mixed reactions by both Selibe Phikwe residents and Batswana at large. The Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization strategy, launched last year November is also facing a number of challenges in delivering on the expected jobs.
Controversy surrounds BCL sale The landing of Arabic Tycoons and their constant visits to Botswana has stirred controversy, particularly on social media, media commentary and the political fraternity. The government is accused of privatizing BCL without consultation and following proper democratic steps to dispose a national asset of BCL’s magnitude. WeekendPost gathered from BCL liquidation critics that government had long wanted to privatize BCL but wanted to trick employees and Batswana by staging a fake insolvency.
“This is by far day light robbery, looking at the money used to liquidate this company and few months later we are told someone is going to buy it, why didn’t the government put BCL under judicial management and scout for investors without being harsh to employees and tricking Batswana,” commented Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse.
According to Keorapetse, government had long drawn up a blueprint to loot BCL as BCL ore deposits are one of the high grades in Africa. Reports link BCL disposal masterminding to Mineral Development Corporation Chief Executive Paul Smith. Smith and his Mineral Development Corporation team have been meeting Dubai investors for the past two weeks now. According to reports associated with BCL privatization, liquidation will be manipulated to accommodate fast-tracked handing over of BCL assets to Emirates Investment Group (EIG) led by Abdulla Mangoosh.
“The Tycoons have met Liquidator Nigel Dixon Warren and we are going to witness different kind of events post March 15 after the court sitting, it is expected that final liquidation will not go through,” a source revealed. According to sources the government enclave through Advocate Sadique Kebonang is moving against time to present an attractive deal to the Arabian.
“The arrangements now are moving towards closing everything up to the favour of this Emirates, there will no longer be auction and open bidding of BCL assets as many have been made to believe for the past month, it appears the highest bidder is the Emirates and it is a done deal”
However the unclear undertakings surrounding the BCL disposal have raised eyebrows. Former Minister of Education and Botswana Ambassador to Japan, Jacob Nkate is of the view that selling of BCL assets should have been made a public knowledge, “The Minister responsible should be repeatedly reporting to parliament, to at least put the public and leaders to terms with events surrounding their assets selling,” he said. However not disputing the selling of the company to private investors, Nkate argues that some Batswana and local entities would have been better placed to pop out a stake towards reopening of the mine.
Meanwhile Minister Kebonang, who is in charge of breathing new life to the former copper nickel giant told WeekendPost that the emergency of the matter to strike a deal with the Emirates was of paramount importance before they moved to a different country. “A statement will be delivered to parliament once a direction is clear as to where the investment undertaking is going, we need Batswana’s support, let’s stay away from politics, we are looking at creating jobs here,” he said.
Meanwhile, some in Phikwe are optimistic about the possibility of the mine reopening, regardless of who the new owner is. “BCL sustained Phikwe’s economy and we really don’t care who opens it, whether it’s Motsepe the rich South African who owns Mamelodi Soundowns or the President’s friend, le one maArabea a siame (even the Arabs are fine), we just want our mine to open so as we have business,” said Philip Ngwenya, a taxi man who also hails from the SPEDU region in Bobonong.
Some Phikwe residents however expressed worry that the Arabs might come with their own labour and huge machinery hence few jobs for Phikwe locals. “The other question is will we get our jobs back?, kana manong a ja ka losika (blood is thicker than water) the Arabs are known for keeping it within the family and empowering their own,” a former BCL miner said.
Delayed implementation of revitalization projects Last year November at the commemoration of African Industrialization Day Government through Ministry of Investment, Trade& Industry unveiled the Selibe Phikwe Economic Revitalization Strategy to be implemented under the coordination of former Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mhohlo with the first quarter of implementation expected to be evident March 1 2017, however some Selibe Phikwe Councillors have decried that the promise is yet to be delivered.
Councillor Sethulwa questioned the Mayor about the promised employment opportunities “Your Worship isn’t this the time we should be seeing job adverts and our youth queuing up since we were told that by March over 2000 jobs would be created ?” Earlier this year Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Nonofo Molefhi who is also Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East told residents in one of his Kgotla meetings that Phikwe locals especially the youth should prepare their C.Vs for over 2000 jobs geared up for the first payout at the end of March 2017.
Councillor Evelyn Kgodungwe advised the authorities to engage residents and communities more to come up with inclusive ideas that are tailored for them. “We only hear of seminars and hear say about these investors, this projects, initiatives and all, whereas our people are not consulted and engaged further in revitalization undertakings.”
According to Phikwe residents and SPTC Council members it was important for even Mhohlo to have an office in Selibe Phikwe and engage residents, the business community on daily bases to get first hand information on the region’s economic issues.
Poor sanitation and drainage system Selibe Phikwe Councillors are aggrieved by the state of the town’s sanitation and the poor drainage system and say it will hinder efforts to turn the town and region into an investment attractive parameter. Speaking at a full council meeting this past week responding to Mayor Amogelang Mojuta’s address, Councillor Moses Serite of Sesame-Kagiso ward in Distance Township told the council that bad smell caused by drain spills will scare away potential investors.
“When rich people come here to scout for investment opportunities, one drive around town will scare them off because there is a disgusting smell, drainage spills, running waste water and generally poor sanitation in town,” he said adding that the situation would even chase away the Arabians. “Even the wealthy Arabians were about on newspapers will run for their health if the status quo is not changed,” he added.
The full council pleaded that a significant skate from the money allocated to Selibe Phikwe Town Council in the 2017/18 budget be allotted to fixing the town’s sanitation infrastructure and drainage network to ready the town for investors. “ It will be of no use for government to draw up an investment attraction blueprint that entails incentives under the Special Economic Zones initiative at the same time leaving the town in this state,’’ councillors told WeekendPost on Monday after the session
More trouble at Pula Steel Information reaching this publication indicates that Pula Steel Casting & Manufacturing, Botswana’s only steel manufacturing entity, is on its last legs. Currently, government financial lender Citizen Entrepreneurship Agency (CEDA) which is expected to inject capital of over 20 million pula to resuscitate Pula Steel, the brain child of BCL Polaris II and the Verma Family is thinking otherwise. Reports indicate that the Thabo Thamane led agency is objecting to pumping more money into the company under the leadership of Verma who on the other side declined giving up the company’s stewardship.
It is understood that CEDA is gearing up for an application to put Pula Steel under judicial management , although information is still sketchy, this publication was tipped off that Thamane has already put his signature to the paperwork that will be presented to Gaborone high court in a week’s time. Pula Steel, as a project put up to diversify the economy of Selibe Phikwe from mining has faced challenges since its inception and is currently being troubled by creditors who want their millions from the indebted entity.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.
The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.
The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.
Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.
The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).
Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.
Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors. Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.
Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.
In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.
The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.
The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.