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Wednesday, 06 December 2023

BPC gets biggest bite as Govt continues to bail out parastatals

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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.”

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BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

4th December 2023

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.

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UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet  

4th December 2023

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.

 

 

 

 

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Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper

4th December 2023

In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.

Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.

Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.

An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.

The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.

On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.

During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.

Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.

In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.

 

 

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