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BMD proposed reforms revealed

The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) faction led by President Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi is lobbying for support for proposed reforms to dilute the powers of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and give members power to vote on major decisions.

This publication has established from highly placed sources within BMD that the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction has tabled a host of proposals for the imminent Special Congress. Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction won support from branches to convene a Special Congress for the beleaguered movement. More than 24 branches, from the required minimum of 19 have written a letter to NEC requesting for Special Congress.

WeekendPost has established that, top among priorities of Gaolathe/Mmolotsi group, which is believed to be enjoying the support of ordinary members is the review of the party constitution. The NEC will be stripped some of its privileges, including that of making major decisions.

“The party wants to introduce a mechanism which will allow ordinary members to participate in major decisions, not just allow a few people to decide,” said the source.

The party, this publication has learnt, is planning on introducing a referendum where members will go on a voting exercise to show consent or disagreement with a matter which will be the subject of discussion at the time.

The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi group is reportedly rubbed the wrong way by the status quo, where they believed the party is held at ransom by a few NEC members at the expense of the aspirations of the general membership. The party’s top two believe that the BMD NEC has been captured and is controlled by outside forces.

“The concern is that Pilane is dictating terms and gives instructions on what should be done and what should not be done,” the source added.

Pilane’s association with the country’s top spy, Isaac Kgosi has been the major reason for him being rejected. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi group are of the view that allowing Pilane to control BMD will be tantamount to being controlled by the regime they are fighting.

Forming part of the reforms is giving the party president powers to instil discipline within the movement. The president will be given the power to suspend any member but there will be restrictions with regards to the expulsion of members. The power to expel members will solely be left to the party’s national congress.

Initially, the group had proposed that the president be given both powers to suspend and expel members, but Gaolathe was in opposition of the proposition, arguing that it would be if the party president is also given the power to expel members.

Disbanding of lobby lists   

BMD also wants a system in place, which will discourage aspiring NEC candidates from contesting using lobby lists. The party will introduce candidates’ debate and give branches and regions the power to summon candidates and stage a debate, in an effort to give delegates the opportunity to choose candidates to support based on what they promise to offer to the party.

“The branches or regions will not be allowed to host only one candidate if more candidates are contesting, unless the other candidates chose not to come for the debate,” said the source.

The lobby list arrangement has become popular in Botswana, and through it, candidates are voted in mostly through a group manner rather than individually. In most cases, Central Committee or executive party positions are won through lobby lists, resulting generally in marginalisation of the losing team.

The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi group are of the view that the lobby list, though permissible currently has the potential to polarise the party in the long run.

The Modubule/Mangole faction is however of the view that, the current impasse in the party is a result of failure to accept defeat by the group sympathising with Gaolathe at last year’s national congress. It is however believed that ahead of the 2015 Gantsi Congress, Mmolotsi sympathised with the Modubule/Mangole team but broke ranks with the faction when the issue of Pilane’s return to the party cropped in.

Mmolotsi has been instrumental in the presidential tour, which has resulted in him and Gaoalthe winning support for the convention of a Special Congress.
Modubule, Mangole will not be expelled

Although tempers are flaring within the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi camp, with some calling for the expulsion of Modubule and Mangole, Gaolathe has reportedly told his team not to overreact. This publication has been informed that, his priority has been to have a new team, which he believes without Modubule/Mangole would be able to run the party affairs in the interest of party members. 

However, Goalathe is said to be feeling ‘disrespected’ by the duo and agreed that the party president should be given some sort of privileges to restore unity in the movement.
Modubule, Mangole resist congress

The Modubule/Mangole faction has made it clear that it does not support the Special Congress for fear that it will not solve the infightings but widen the rift. Alternatively, the group had preferred for the factions to be brought to one table in an effort to reconcile them.

Modubule/Mangole group had hinted that, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President Duma Boko and Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) could intervene.

This publication has however gathered that Boko and BOFEPUSU are clear that BMD should refer the matter to its members through the Special Congress. Weekend Post has also established that, Lebang Mpotokwane, the convenor of talks which led to UDC formation and key member of the party is in support of a solution which would come from party members.  

With branches having already written letters calling for a Special Congress to be convened, the Modubule/Mangole faction has been disarmed, a result which may see them thrown out of the NEC after the congress.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

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.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

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.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

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.”

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