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Khama is a threat to regional stability-Boko

Leader of Opposition in parliament who is also president of the main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Duma Boko has characterised President Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s military expenditure as having a possibility of triggering an arms race in the sub region.

 

Boko stated this on Wednesday as part of his response to Khama’s State of the Nation Address delivered on Monday. He stated that during both Khama’s tenures in the army and as head of state; he presided over extremely wasteful and ill-advised military expenditure. 

 

He further alleged that expensive military hardware that bled the country hundreds of millions of Pula is gathering dust in the armouries of Botswana Defence Force (BDF):

 

“There is, as we speak, over 500 tons of Mark 82 bombs and F5 Rockets that have gone past both their operational and shelf life without ever being used. This is military equipment that has set the country back by over 300 million Pula. It is money gone to waste while our people are down in the dumps, catching hell.”

 

Boko continued: “He is the same person who nearly sparked off an arms race in the region by seeking to purchase F4 Phantom fighter aircraft, with inflight refuelling capability, from Turkey, an acquisition that was prevented when South Africa raised alarm.”

 

“It means they can go from here to DRC. Who are we trying to impress? What it can only do is trigger an arms race in the region. It’s extremely dangerous. It renders the whole region volatile,” he said. Boko who likened Khama to an emperor claimed that the BDF has 8 Bell 412 helicopters, three of which are set aside for the president’s exclusive use.

 

“These are the H 04, which is an Augusta Bell, the H 07 and the H 08. These are very modern helicopters available for his exclusive use.” He continued:  “Yet what does this emperor do? At a time when the country is facing economic hardship which results in closures of mines and massive job losses, he purchases an EC 225 Supa Puma helicopter for his own exclusive use and enjoyment.  

 

Our people are caught up in the death grip of poverty and unemployment, yet their president is abusing their resources on himself and his eccentricities. State owned enterprises are retrenching and sending many people into a bleak future, and our president is busy feeding his frenzy and satisfying his extravagant pastimes; buying a luxury helicopter for over 300 million Pula!”

 

He further stated that the cost of transporting the helicopter to Botswana in the Antonov aircraft that brought it here was well over 5 million Pula. He continued to say that as if that was not enough, Khama then took over 10 Billion Pula and applied it to the purchase of Grippen Fighter jets that the country does not need.

 

“A single Gripen jet equates to the combat power of a whole battalion. Such combat power and capability is not only totally unnecessary, it is prohibitively expensive, considering we will never get to use it unless our belligerent conduct angers our neighbours and triggers an arms race that will leave the security situation in the region highly volatile and dangerous.”

 

Boko further stated that when Khama ascended to the presidium on April 1st in 2008, he inherited a country whose institutions were genuinely the envy of the world. He stated that while they were not perfect his predecessors bequeathed to him a sound foundation from which it was possible to build world class institutions which would transform the country’s socio economic and political fortunes.

 

He said that what happened next, however, is that the Khama regime chose to squander the advantages handed to it, “and offered us a dead-end disguised as a path. In many ways our nation is worse off today than it was when the current administration took over the reins.”

 

Boko further noted that Khama does not bear the blame alone stating that all those who comprised his team are equally culpable. “All those who elected to be safe and cozy in their timorous silence are equally to blame,” Boko levelled the accusation.

 

Boko further continued to state that the Khama administration is either reluctant or unwilling to set any targets for itself.

 

“To date no one knows how many jobs the administration hopes to catalyse each year during the 11th Development Plan period; no one knows how many engineers, artisans or technicians the administration hopes to churn out; how many professionals, business people and other experts our immigration system will grant residence to assist our economy to grow. No one wants to commit to just how much and by what order of magnitude to diversify our economy as well as our export base.”

 

He also further stated that the executive branch of government thrives on projecting to the outside world an image of a well-functioning, three-arm democratic set up when in reality it has weakened the other two arms.

 

He explained this by stating that the country’s parliament by tradition reports to the Office of the President, and has no budget office of its own or fully fledged bill-drafting units. He also stated that parliament of Botswana cannot make its own economic projections or carry out its own sector impact studies.

 

According to him, the unfortunate reality is that even the ruling party back bench lacks the courage to exercise frank and plain speech, except sometimes for Francistown MP, Ignatius Moswaane and ruling party Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay, whose position as Chief Whip is however under threat.

 

He further described the executive branch as an albatross that chokes the other branches and lacks any commitment to genuine democratic ideals and practices. “The consequences of this imbalance are dire: an unaccountable and incompetent Government that lacks the will and disposition to transform the lives of our people,” he said

 

He also waded into the contentious topic of the four suspended High Court judges, when he said, “Does the fact of their favourable treatment by the same President that suspended their brethren not compromise them and render them favourably disposed toward the executive in some quid pro quo? How can the ordinary citizen or any litigant trust such a judiciary to dispense justice without fear and without reproach?”

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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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