Leader of Opposition (LOO) in Parliament and Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president, Duma Gideon Boko, this week issued a stern warning to the government of the day for what he termed “preying” on tax payers’ money.
Boko promised to shake up the system when UDC takes over the reins of power from the more than half a century ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which enjoyed un-interrupted government since the country gained independence in 1966. A lawyer by profession, Boko asserted that implementing the rule of law will top the agenda for his government while adding that he would jail perpetrators who unlawfully drained government coffers and cannot account for the looting.
The UDC president made the scathing revelations when addressing a well-attended rally at Rasesa over the weekend to present a Botswana Congress Party (BCP) candidate, who by virtue of cooperation agreement, will represent UDC, Tshenolo Buisanyang. “You know, at the time when there is a change of government, that is, when we gain power, we are going to issue to them (government looters)a three months ultimatum. They will kneel before us for amnesty. They will arise and make pleas before us – without even having to follow them,” the non-conformist opposition leader said to an applause by party enthusiasts and adherents alike.
He cited that, “I give you only three months Mokgweetsi Masisi, I give you three months Guma Moyo, I give you three months Tshekedi Khama, every one of you, all who were part of government, we only give you three months only for you to make your plea.” The LOO stressed that at that time; there should be sufficient evidence, in black and white presented to them by those in question.
He advised that then, they should be decent and honest enough to concede their wrongdoings and looting of government’s coffers. He said they should be frank enough to acknowledge that “yes I drained the tax payers’ money but I had wanted to return it back at a later time but then I forgot.”
He maintained that: “we will consign you three months only to make all these pleas. So when these three months elapses we will instigate a thorough investigation into how government money was consumed and where, who owns what and how, and if we can find out in our investigation that which you have not revealed during your plea and interrogation -there will be a big problem.”
He also highlighted that: “I would like to emphasize that I am not threatening anybody. But I am simply underlining and accentuating these things because this is tax payers’ money we are talking about here, and it is not owned by certain individuals governing the country but it belongs to the people – all the people.”
He later then went on to point out during the massive rally that the tax payers’ money and all government properties should be accounted for. “There should be accountability when we take over government,” he told the audience. “It should therefore not appear like we are laying some extortions to anyone or in some sense acting like we are being punitive to them because like I said we need to inform you and educate you about these things,” he said.
He then added that in case there are some who have been doing things accordingly in government, in terms of being economically prudent, the UDC government will retain them to continue playing that crucial role which they have executed diligently for the benefit of all Batswana. “And to those who are truthful, we will duly allocate them their property and take that which does not belong to them. And remember we will also pursue peace and reconciliation in the process.”
Boko made it abundantly clear that “but if you have done so and benefitted unduly in the system, we will put you at the Gaborone maximum prison so you reap what you sow.” The ruling party dissident insisted that: “you can go tell them, I still maintain that subsequent to the elapse of three months after taking over government, we will execute this task and UDC would be in no way being cruel to the victims.” He said those in power now will at the time have to exercise due diligence and be truthful during the process of reckoning and plead for all their wrongdoings under his government.
“I promise you that if those three months elapses without those concerned coming forth, they will be in trouble. And you should not take me for granted if I talk about issues that deals with the law,” the Harvard law institute graduate stated. He continued: “and this takes me to the much talked about issue concerning Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s). I am suppressed to talk right now about the EVM’s because when I do I will do it right at the court of law.” “There are times when things take precedence, or another level, and when that time creeps in, we will do so at the court of law,” he concluded his message.
Rasesa hold by-election to vote new Councillor
Meanwhile, council candidate Buisanyang, who Boko was officially launching will face Dan Molokwere of the BDP in a two-horse race. The by-election was necessitated by the death of its area councillor, Seasebeng Monyake who died in a car accident late last year. In the 2014 General Elections, the BDP won the ward by 717 people, against BCP’s 396 and the UDC ‘s 338. In this by-election, the BCP is cooperating with the UDC. The elections will be held today (Saturday).
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.”
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.
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.”