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.”
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”