Botswana Power Corporation will by beginning of government spending in April 2017 be over a billion pula richer at least on their operations & tariff subsidiary fund, Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Matambo announced last week in parliament when delivering the national budget speech.
According to Kenneth Matambo the mother ministry of Botswana’s electricity supplier, Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security will be allocated 2.93 billion, 17.8 % of the total 16.52 billion development budget forecasted for the 2017/18 financial year. “The largest share of the development budget is proposed for allocation to the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security at P2.94 billion or 17.8 percent. This is in recognition that, reliable and efficient sources of energy are a prerequisite for achieving NDP 11 priority area of Development of Diversified Sources of Economic Growth,” said Minister Matambo.
The specially elected National Treasurer explained that the major projects under the ministry would entail Northwest Transition grid, Morupule A power plant rehabilitation and construction of Rakola substation. Furthermore Matambo revealed that under the ministry P2.94 billion, the financially ailing Botswana Power Corporation will be allocated a whooping 1.46 billion pula to splash on their operation cost. Matambo‘s proposition comes at a time when parastatals are dismally failing to recover their operational costs and continue to make perennial losses.
Last year‘s final parliament sitting which debated the National Development Plan 11 Minister Matambo announced a total of over 2 billion to be owed to government by losing making parastatals as unserviced loans and zero dividends pay . Botswana Corporation which hasn’t being an exception led the loss making parastatals in 2014 with P1.25 billion loss “Furthermore, it is proposed that the Botswana Power Corporation be allocated an amount of P1.46 billion to cover operational costs,” he said, explaining that it was imperative to allot such funds to BPC considering its transition quest and current operation expenditure to keep the electricity tariffs as affordable to ordinary Batswana” With the operation cost increasing due high expenses in maintaining the plants , refurbishing power station components and keeping up with increasing equipment prices,” said Matambo.
Botswana Corporation has been making losses and receiving bail out for the past financial years, in 2014 the Auditor General reported a loss of P1.25billion for BPC, incurred from P4.48 billion expenses which exceeded P3.23billion income , a balance sheet which government enclave resolved by a bail out billions of pulas for Batswana to continue receiving electricity at affordable tariffs.
Again in 2015 according to Botswana Power Corporation Annual report the corporation registered a loss before tariff subsidiary Grant of P1.986 billion, in a bid to reduce the corporation losses BPC adjusted their tariff charges beginning of 2015 , a move which saw average consumer price rise to 61 thebe per kWH an increase which was added on top of the previous year’s 10 percent hike.
Charges for Small scale business consuming 500kWh or less per month were increased by 10 % while 17.5 increase was applied for those consuming more than 500kWh.The corporation which heavily relies on Eskom for electricity supply after the failure of Morupule B was allocated P1.5 billion for tariff subsidiary and some operational cost during the 2015/16 financial years.
It incurred a net loss of P2.60 billion in 2015 compared to P1, 37 billion net losses in 2014 before a tariff subsidy grant of P2.33 billion. In 2016 BPC financial year which is currently under review, Motlakase house already recorded a loss P274.91 million which is a result of expenses amounting to over P5.63 billion against the income of P5.36 billion, For 2016/17 financial year which ends in April, government allocated BPC a tariff subsidy and emergency power grant of P2.33 billion.
otswana Power Corporation which is now under the stewardship of Sweden national Dr Schwarzfischer is reported to be moving into massive restructuring , a move that will see over 200 employees no longer on the corporation ‘s payroll when government spending begins in April 2017 for this financial year, sources from the January 23rd BPC media briefing reveal.
The national subsidized electricity provider which end of last year adopted a new strategy called Masa 2020 that intends to make it a profit making power distributor is said to be looking at relieving over 1000 employees off duties before the end of this year in a restructuring pursuit that will exe 50 % of over 2000 staff.
Currently Botswana Corporation is embattled with uncollected debts, non-performing assets, lack of borrowing capacity, amongst other challenges. BPC’s debtors currently seat at over P557 million from last year‘s over 400 million, largely due to non-payment of power bills by struggling mining companies choked by the international commodities crunch.
Talking of struggling mining companies, Botswana Power Corporation is reported to be one of highest BCL debtors, the corporation had BCL as its largest single consumer of its services, at least from the private sector. BCL is currently going through provisional liquidation. However there are reports that an Emirates company wants to buy the mine.
The budget speech which is currently debated in parliament also indicate that solar energy will be allocated a significant funding to facilitate the country’s quest to shift from non renewable energy, a source of energy which proves to be unreliable and costly as evident to poor financial figures by the country’s national power supplier. Besides extending Morupule B with units 5 and 6 and Refurbishment of Morupule A Power Plant as additional power sources, the use of solar energy has been identified as a potential alternative source of electricity supply in the country,” It reads.
According to Minister Matambo It was against this background that a comprehensive renewable energy strategy which is aimed at attracting domestic and foreign investments is being developed, and will be completed by February, 2017. Further, Government, in collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation is undertaking a Green Energy Feasibility Study aimed at providing alternative sources of electricity.
Water tariffs hike by April 2017
Mean while Water Utilities Corporation, another financially troubled state owned enterprise which is also undergoing business remodeling and administrative restructuring has announced that by April 2017 its services charge tariffs will go up. According to Assistant Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Mr Itumeleng Moipisi water tariffs were increased by 10 per cent in 2012 and 15 per cent in 2013.
He indicated that the tariff would increase by 25 per cent for government and 15 per cent for domestic and business effective from April 1. The national water services provider Water Utilities Corporation is no exception from perennial loss making parastatals, in 2015 the corporation recorded a net loss of 367.0 million from 361.0 million in 2014.
Finance Mister Matambo however informed parliament of slightly positive news on Monday when delivering the budget speech that the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services will be allocated the second largest share of development budget at P2.80 billion, or 17.0 percent. According to Matambo this amount will be used for implementation of water projects inclusive of the North-South Carrier II to supply water to the Southern part of the country and reticulation of water from the Thune Dam to nearby villages.
“Following the construction of a parallel pipeline to the existing line under the North-South Water Carrier Scheme, Government will fund the construction of various pipelines such as the ones connecting Thune Dam to Mathathane, Tsetsebye and Moletemane, which is expected to be completed in 2018, and the other connecting Kanye and Molepolole to the North South Carrier” he said.
Besides the implementation of emergency water projects throughout the country, other major water projects planned for 2017/2018 financial year include the rehabilitation of Shakawe Water Treatment Plant and its connection to Seronga, Gunotsoga, Beetsha and Gudigwa villages. In the mist of water tariff hikes all these projects are expected to provide adequate water supply to furfarial villages.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.