Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) interim President, Masego Mogwera has stated that her union will not re-join Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatal Sector Union (BOFEPPPUSU) any time soon or until such a time the membership resolves to do so.
Mogwera, who ascended to the top position following the departure of long time serving president, Andrew Motsamai, told a press conference this week that a lot will remain the same under her leadership. ‘The decision to leave BOFEPPPUSU is a 2015 congress resolution,” she said, “Until such a time that the congress makes another resolution to re-join BOFEPPPUSU, BOPEU will not rejoin.”
Motsamai has left the presidency to take up a post in the commercial wing of the union, as Executive Chairman. In the run up to the 2015 Palapye congress, long time soul mates, Motsamai and Mogwera found themselves on opposite sides. It is reported that Mogwera was against the idea of BOPEU de-affiliating from BOFEPPPUSU while Motsamai led the campaign to take BOPEU out of the federation.
At the time the conflict was over BOFEPPUSU’s decision to support a newly formed opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) at a disadvantage of other contesting parties, Botswana Congress Party and Botswana Democratic Party. BOFEPPPUSU apparently did so to safe guard its interest by supporting leadership which was pro-federation.
The union played a big role in the formation of the UDC ahead of the 2014 general elections, but after BCP pulled out from the unity negotiations (building up to UDC formation), talks of BOPEU’s intention to pull out from BOFEPPPUSU became rife, Motsamai, in particular is said to have initiated the idea.
However Mogwera allegedly held a different view, hence when the union went for its Palapye congress, there were reports that the federation was throwing its weight behind Mogwera and Sikalame Seitiso, who was then challenging Motsamai for Presidency. Both Seitiso and Mogwera were viewed as supporting the decision to continue being part of the federation.
The differences between Mogwera and Motsamai led to both contesting on opposite camps. The two were able to secure their seats at the congress. Mogwera defeated Motsamai’s ally, Tlotlang Bakoko to win the 1st Deputy President position. Motsamai on the other hand defeated Sikalame Seitiso for the presidency.
Both Mogwera and Seitiso were against BOPEU leaving BOFEPPPUSU but it was Motsamai’s team which garnered enough support for the de-affiliation, but now with Motsamai having left the leadership of the union, it is widely believed that Mogwera’s sympathetic stance on BOFEPPPUSU will set in motion a process which will lead to the union returning to the federation.
Mogwera played a sterling role in the establishment of BOFEPPPUSU and becoming its president for a period of 5 years. It was during Mogwera’s reign that BOFEPPPUSU engaged in the massive 2011 strike in which public servants downed tools for a period of two months. During that era, Motsamai was the federation’s secretary general.
Mogwera has however denied having knowledge of BOFEPPPUSU’s support ahead of the elections. BOFEPPPUSU had also at one point denied its involvement in the BOPEU elections. That notwithstanding, last year at the 2016 BOFEPPPUSU Special Congress held in Tlokweng at Oasis Motel, Labour Secretary, Motshwarakgole hinted to the delegates and leadership that the federation should not keep the door closed for its former affiliate.
Motswarakgole was quoted as saying as the federation engaged in massive mobilisation in preparation for the crucial 2019 general elections, there is a need to extend an olive branch to the union. This was at the time Motsamai was still president of BOPEU.
MOTSAMAI/MOTSHWARAKGOLE FALL OUT
It has been widely reported that the fall out between veteran unionist and BOFEPPPUSU Labour Secretary, Johnson Motshwaragole, and his protégé Motsamai, led to the departure of BOPEU from the federation. Ever since the fallout BOPEU and BOFEPPUSU have been at loggerheads in the battle to outclass each other.
The two unions have been involved in squabbles, the latest being the bargaining council membership battle. The court has resulted in BOPEU bowing out of the council owing to its failure to meet the threshold needed to qualify for membership. Although Mogwera has stated that she would not singlehandedly take a decision to take BOPEU back to BOFEPPPUSU, that BOPEU was no longer part of the bargaining council would haunt her.
BOPEU was initially part of BOFEPUSU Acting Jointly Agreement, which allowed it to be part of the bargaining council as a result of Manual Workers Union, an affiliate of BOFEPPPUSU qualifying for the bargaining council membership. As things stand, Manual Workers Union is the only union which meets the threshold for bargaining council membership.
BCP INCLUSION IN THE UDC
Mogwera was part of the BOFEPPPUSU team which facilitated for the formation of a united opposition bloc. The idea of a united opposition was based on forming a political movement which will enjoy the backing of the working class and the trade union. However, Mogwera broke ranks with many when she distanced the federation from the hit-list prepared by his colleagues to de-campaign politicians who were viewed as not pro-workers. Among the list was BCP President, Dumelang Saleshando.
According to sources, Mogwera who is allegedly sympathetic to BCP reneged on the earlier promise because BCP withdrew from the coalition following the collapse of the initial talks. With BCP in the coalition, it is believed, BOPEU may loosen up on its decision to de-affiliate from BOFEPPPUSU.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.