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Batswana ex-miners in 3 billion rands windfall

Close to 3 billion rands is sitting in the bank accounts in South Africa and are destined for the ex-mine workers including Batswana who have worked in that country whom will be able to be traced to get their dues.

 

Weekend Post has established that the R3 billion was mobilised for the South African, Botswana governments as well others in Southern Africa to come up with the plan to compensate the ex-miners who had worked at SA mines.

 

In fact there was a large number of claims that were unpaid of labour miners particularly the ex-miners mostly who were originally from the neighbouring countries like Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi.

 

Therefore the Weekend Post has gathered that the World Bank is funding a pilot project that instigated in November 1st in which they have gathered that the ex-miners are facing some challenges that were affected by their jobs in the SA mines particularly contractual occupational diseases.

 

This publication has also gathered that their issues other than occupational matters that the ex-miners encountered while working at SA mines include injuries although were never compensated, and non-payment of insurance and pensions.

 

According to a Senior Health Officer under the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, under Tubercolosis (TB) Program, Thandi Katlholo the delayed claims are a  priority for the World Bank and they are getting assistance to look for the ex-miners and dully compensate. Katlholo also coordinates a project called TB in the mining sector in Southern Africa which is directly responsible for the ongoing compensation process.

 

Katlholo told Weekend Post on the side-lines of a meeting in Molepolole that most of those who had submitted claims have not yet been paid so the South African government through the World Bank said they have around 3 billion rands on the bank account that must be disbursed to the ex-miners.

 

The Ministry of Health official emphasised that Botswana already has around 105 people who are due for the claims – although the project and registering is continuing.

 

“When you also look at our records, they illustrate that in Botswana we have about 105 people that are due for second degree compensation. Second degree compensation can be up to R100 000. So out of the top of the head when we calculate that’s close to R11 million due for Botswana ex-mine workers that is if we get these and trace the 105 people so that they get their dues.”

 

Katlholo explained that a second degree compensation can be up to R100 000 and then there is first degree which can be up to R40 000. She said the medical doctor, after assessment determines the compensation looking at the amount of damage and disease stage. 

 

Katlholo continued to explain that the 3 billion rands is from World Bank and the Global Funds is in the amount of 30 million US dollars which will be disbursed to 8 countries and that the projects are running parallel.

 

The World Bank, she said it is covering the pilot program that ran from November which will later become a national project and, the long term project is covered by the Global Fund which is in the mining sector and that they are already looking at the miners and their occupational disease in the project.  

 

“World Bank comes in after realising that we have a list of people who have been submitting applications over the years which delayed because of our bureaucratic system of our government and that of SA,” the Ministry official pointed out. 

 

World Bank is in the 5 countries and Global Fund is for the 10 countries excluding Namibia and Angola. World Bank disbursed funding to track ex-miners and the Global Fund money is managed by Wits University.

 

“We had limited time and money for administration costs and therefore World Bank got the governments together to pay the former miners,” Katlholo further told Weekend Post.

 

In addition, a South African partner and Project Manager at Medical Bureau for Operational Diseases (MBOD’s) which falls under the National Department of Health which falls under the regulation called occupational disease in mines which governs the entire occupation process for ex and current mine workers, Aretha Naidoo, stated to this publication they have built a backlog that needs to be fast tracked.

 

She said that over the years they have built up a backlog because of various systems and processes and the difficulty they had in contacting the ex-miners as previously they did not have contacts like cell phones for the mine workers and that is why they have now built up a backlog of 100 000 claims that are due to the mine workers.

 

“We have started on various processes of restructuring the MBOD’s and in the last 3 or 4 years we have changed the processes around so that we can have a close contact and we can begin to have the mine workers that we are looking for who has an existing claim on our day to day basis,” Naidoo told this publication.

 

She said as a result to that the World Bank has given them funding to go out to track and trace as this time around the funding involves areas of Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. “We will register any person who has worked at the mines at SA as we also want to build a data base. We are also assisting the ex-miners do a chest x-ray and lung infection test.”

 

She also highlighted that Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA) is on registration exercise on door to door in the country to track these ex-miners.

 

According to the Project Manager for the SA MBOD’s the criteria of how much they compensate is legislated. “Whatever disease is calculated on the client’s salary, the type of work and the number of risk shifts they had that is how many times they have been underground and the duration,” she pointed out.

 

So 2 mine workers having different jobs and salary scales and having different diseases do not necessarily get the same compensation because it based on a calculation on individual bases, she added.

 

A Coordinator for the project at BoLAMA also said in a separate interview that the process of paying claims for former mine workers in SA was already there but it had challenges. It is understood that through the MBOD’s under the Department of Health in South Africa it needed only fast tracking because they were dealing with a large number.

 

Phiri asserted: “now we are saying that because of the flawed system under the MBOD’s, the World Bank approached the government of SA to say what can we do to address this issue how can we ensure that all these unpaid claims are paid to reach their intended recipients or beneficiaries and expedite the process?”

 

Local Ministry of Heath which runs the program of ex-miners compensation he said they had already had a program which they were running of trying to compensate ex-miners, so as a result of that, a lot of the claims which were being sent to SA by that department was “slow and the turnaround period was very low as well.”

 

“So what they did was they found that there were administrative flaws within the department of SA so they came up with a plan of ensuring that these claims are paid up. World Bank then assured them that they will fund them to start a pilot project for two months or so where they can see the challenges and how best they can address the issue,” BoLAMA Coordinator said.

 

Phiri continued to state the challenges faced by former mine workers that includes lack of documentation and therefore that it’s very difficult to access some of the processes without mine documentation to proof that they were really working at the mines. Also widows of ex-miners do not know which mines their husbands were working at so it’s difficult to assist them, he added.

 

Phiri also maintained that the reason why Molepolole was chosen as a centre for the project was precisely because there is a high concentration of ex-miners in Kweneng District. Initially we were supposed to get 1 500 ex-miners but we got them in Molepolole alone before we can go to other parts of the country, he justified the move.

 

It is understood that also under the Global Fund project, there will be an occupational health centre which will be set up by that fund also in Molepolole at Boswelatlou. A mobile clinic for medical assessments and administration of unpaid compensation claims of ex-miners is as well scheduled for Molepolole.

 

BoLAMA is housed under the auspices of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights and they are in partnership with the National Department of South Africa and the Ministry of Health and Wellness on a pilot project to tackle the legacy problems of non – delivery of medical services and payment of compensation to current and ex-mineworkers.

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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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