Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will have to battle against the axis of an invigorated Umbrella for Democratic Change Plus (UDC+) [inclusive of Botswana Congress Party (BCP)] and Botswana Federation of Public Private and Parastatals Sector Unions (BOFEPPPUSU) as the two are in collision and are adamant to unseat the BDP in 2019.
The BDP will for the first time since independence face a single opposition party at the polls and will also have to divert some of its attention to BOFEPUPPUSU which has also resolved to launch war in a bid to “defend workers’ rights in Botswana.” BOFEPPPUSU, a consortium of four public sector unions; National Amalgamated Central, Local & Parastatal Workers' Union (NACLPWU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Teachers Unions (BTU) and Botswana Land Board & Local Authorities & Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU) at its Special Congress last weekend passed a few resolutions aimed at aiding the removal of BDP from power in 2019.
After deliberations by delegates on the way forward amid an unending frosty relationship with government, the congress resolved among others; that the federation should resort to mass demonstrations as of the beginning of 2017 to make the public and all stakeholders aware of the government’s infringements on workers.
The congress also mandated the leadership of the affiliate unions’ regions and branches to move urgently to resuscitate the regional structures of the federations that would drive regional membership mobilisation and information dissemination. The delegates agreed it was necessary to keep the federation structures vibrant as they prepare for the 2019 general elections. It was suggested that affiliate structures should engage on house-to-house campaigns in order to make the federation’s presence felt. BOFEPPPUSU have a membership base of over 70 000.
BOFEPPPUSU (then BOFEPUSU) had a fallout with the ruling party in 2011, in the same year, the federation staged the historic public sector industrial strike which lasted for more than two months and led to over 800 employees losing their jobs. Ahead of 2014, the federation endorsed UDC, then a coalition of three opposition parties; Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP). It then urged its members to shun the ruling BDP and BCP, which had declined to be part of opposition coalition following collapse of initial talks.
BOFEPPPUSU became famous for its ‘hit list’ in which it released names of politicians running for parliament who are believed not to be pushing for the agenda of the working class. In 2014, a 14 name list was released and six of the 14, being Dumelang Saleshando, Botsalo Ntuane, Mephato Reatile, Olebile Gaborone, Daniel Kwelagobe and Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri lost the general elections.
BOFEPPPUSU is adamant that government wants to destroy the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) also to take away the union’s right to collective bargaining. BOFEPPPUSU has not taken kindly to government’s decision to place a number of cadres in the public service under the essential service category; contrary to International Labour Organisation (ILO) requirements.
BOFEPPPUSU Secretary General Tobokani Rari said it is clear that since the 2011 strike, government has become ‘angry’ and declared war on the labour unions. He said the recent development, under the leadership of President Lt Gen Ian Khama has reversed the gains government made during the leadership of President Quett Masire and Festus Mogae.
Rari mentioned reforms such as ratifying ILO statutes in 1997, pledging to support freedom of association and protection of the right to organise by workers as progressive steps. This was also accompanied by ratifying the right to organise and collective bargaining statute, Rari said. “Parliament also passed Trade Union and Employers Act, which allowed formation of unions and transformation of associations to unions,” Rari noted.
“But under Khama’s leadership we have seen reversal of those gains and the government now wants to take away the right of workers to strike, which is a necessary tool for the workers in the process of bargaining.” BOFEPPUSU congress has endorsed the proposal to challenge the decision to amend the Trade Dispute Act which has been signed into law. The Act lists a number of cadres in the public service in the ‘Essential Service’ category among them Department of Broadcasting, teachers and Veterinary employees. The new Act essentially takes away this cadre’s right to engage on industrial strike.
NEW OPPOSITION PARTY: UDC+
Following a dismal performance in 2014, which threatened the party’s future in governance, BDP is determined to prolong its stay in power. BDP scored a paltry 46.7 percent in popular vote, its worst since independence. BDP also surrendered its strongholds to opposition, a development which saw opposition moving to unprecedented 20 seats in parliament. (MP Bagalatia Arone has since defected to BDP, reducing opposition seats to 18, another seat being vacant following the death of Tlokweng MP Same Bathobakae).
In 2014, 13 of the BDP seats where won with the aid of vote splitting within opposition parties. Such marginal seats include Selebi Phikwe East. Francistown West, Francistown East, Gaborone South, Bobirwa, Lobatse, Thamaga-Kumakwane, Lentsweletau-Mmopane. Cooperation talks, which have eluded opposition parties for a long time now, finally became successful pending resolution on just two constituencies. The development will see BDP facing only one opposition party and having also to deal with the militant BOFEPPPUSU which is expected to throw its weight behind the opposition bloc.
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.