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Masisi’s surprise VP package

All factors remaining constant, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to ascend to the Presidency next year April, and like a natural occurrence, this has motivated ambition among some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) cabinet ministers who wish to become Vice Presidents next at the time.


A demonstration that a completely new dispensation is coming resonates in the Vice President wish list that has some surprising names, including but not limited to Slumber Tsogwane, Shaw Kgathi, Samson Guma Moyo, and Eric Molale. All these four individuals are serving or have served in Cabinet. As these names are suggested as potential candidates, some within the BDP are quick to dismiss it as a “joke” or “flattery”.  But by the look of things, there is credence in the reverberations.


Insiders point to the fact that the ongoing battle for the control of the ruling party is far bigger than the central committee positions. The current axis within the ruling party have nothing to do with the dismembered A Team and Barata Phathi factions, but rather personalized battles for survival as well as the general interest of saving the party beyond 2019. The bigger price could be the Presidency come 2019.


Masisi will definitely pick his Vice President from the current crop of Members of Parliament of his ruling party, at least for the period between April 1st and the 2019 general election. Insiders further indicate that the Masisi battalion is of view that the Vice Presidential pick should be a permanent appointment that can go beyond 2019 elections – they do not necessarily fancy a stop gap appointment for the period between April 2018 and 2019 elections – “why waste time?”, that is the question they are pushing.


This push however eliminates Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale who currently has no constituency. For a Vice President, one must be an elected Member of Parliament, Molale was Specially Elected by President Khama and his bid to get the public vote hit a snag when he was hammered by Barolong paramount chief, Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II.


Those close to Molale point out that he remains hopeful because he still harbours the interest to contest the Goodhope-Mabule constituency in 2019. Molale, a former permanent secretary to the president under former President Dr Festus Mogae and recently President Khama is not a popular figure within the ruling party. The fact that he struggled to against Lotlaamoreng in the bye-election sealed his fate in the party circles – all that remains is just his personal ambition.


Slumber Tsogwane’s motivation arises on a stop gap basis according to those close to the script. He is seen as a man who would not hurt a fly and would not want to cling to the position post 2019 election. However his short term ambition works against the agenda of the influential figures within the Masisi brigade who want a permanent appointment on the assumption that the BDP is winning the 2019 general election – “Why waste time?” is the question. But Tsogwane is said to be definitely on Masisi’s side and he is seen as a non-offensive figure who could be trusted to hold fort temporarily.


Shaw Khathi is the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, a very senior ministry under President Lt gen Dr Ian Khama. He is a member of the central committee, serving as the deputy secretary general and chairing one of the critical sub committees of the party – communications and international relations. Kgathi is a key member of the Khama cabinet and is in the good books of Vice President Masisi.

 

All these factors are said to have pushed his anxiety levels when it comes to the Vice Presidential race – the lobbying is on over drive. He fits both ways, at stop gap and permanent appointment because he has a constituency and he is confident he will get a return ticket from the Bobonong voters in 2019. Insiders say his fate will be decided by the BDP members at the July congress where he intends to defend his position of deputy secretary general.


Interesstingly Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma Moyo is seen as the real contender for the Vice Presidency post. Moyo is one of the known backers of Masisi, he catapulted the current Vice President to chairmanship at the last congress, bankrolling most of the campaign.

 

Moyo, a former chairman of the party himself who resigned unceremoniously before his term expired, is also an ambitious and calculative politician. Some inside the BDP believe that he is helping Masisi as a way of creating a fertile ground for himself when it comes to the Vice Presidency. BDP people speculate that Moyo could be having presidential ambitions beyond Masisi. At some point the Tati East legislator wanted to sponsor a Private Member’s Bill on Direct Election of the President, a law that would potentially widen the net for Presidential aspirations.


MOLEFHI’S “SYMPATHISERS” LEFT OUT


There is no doubt that Selibe Phikwe East Member of Parliament, who is also Minister of Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi has his own legion of supporters and well wishers within the party. He has expressed interest to challenge for the position of chairman of the BDP, a decision that pits him directly against Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi who intends to defend the chairmanship. Molefhi is seen or was seen as a potential Vice President pick under President Khama and futuristically under Masisi.

 

But insiders say his decision to challenge for chairmanship has scuttled his chances unless Masisi finds the strength that Khama drew out to appoint former Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe who had challenged him for chairmanship of the party before.
Tshekedi Khama is well known for his outspokenness and had expressed interest in standing for chairmanship and leadership of the BDP, but he has not acted, at least for now, on his ambitions yet. Because of his name and relation with the President, Tshekedi is seen as a potential leader within the party but political correctness has cast doubt on his ambitions. Indications are that both camps need his endorsement to score further points at the July congress. There is also no doubt that he remains a key figure in making the king or becoming one himself in the short to medium term.


Dorcas Makgato is expected to retain her position as chairperson of the BDP Women’s Wing at the weekend. Makgato, who is Member of Parliament for Sefhare-Ramokgonami and Minister of Health and Wellness has dug deep and solidified her political standing. Her name has always been pronounced along the Vice Presidential debate ever since she joined politics but her detractors have smeared her name and associated her with those who are against Vice President Masisi.

 

In an attempt to further push her down the abyss there was a lobby to motivate Francistown Mayoress, Sylviah Muzila to challenge her for the chairmanship of the BDP Youth Wing but she declined. Makgato is seen as opinionated and not afraid to say her mind on the state of the party and government. She is seen much a Molefhi sympathizer – her chance rests with the July congress.


Dr Venson-Moitoi recently returned from a bruising battle at the African Union Commission where she sought to become the Commission’s chairperson. Some within the BDP saw her as a potential Vice President, especially five years ago. But the assumption that she is not coming back to Parliament after the 2019 general election could rule her out of the ongoing lobby. As for the stop gap appointment – which is the only shot she has at Vice Presidency in the short time – Masisi’s supporters still ask the question, “why waste time?”. But she remains the best candidate for the period between April 2018 and 2019 general election date because she will be exiting the active political scene.


Phillip Makgalemele has ambitions for Vice Presidency and he could be lobbying somehow. He has served as junior Minister at the then Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administratio but his cold war with Molale saw him shipped to a different Ministry. The Shoshong Member of Parliament is not one to shy away from demonstrating his capability; he is expected to stake his claim albeit at a moderated dose.

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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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