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Khama didn’t like my father- Ndaba

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General and Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe, has finally shared insights on his family’s relationship with President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

While there have been reports of a fall out between former Minister of Finance and Development Planning (now Finance and Economic Development) the late Baledzi Gaolathe and president Khama, Ndaba this week shared details of how, prior to his demise, his father and Khama were not on good terms with one another.

Ndaba revealed this at the launch of a book titled “The Boko Factor,” authored by Botswana National Front Youth League (BNFYL) President, Richard Khumoekae, about the UDC president.  In eulogising Duma Boko, the BNF and UDC President, Ndaba also gave credit to Boko’s mother, who was in attendance, and said she has helped shape the UDC president’s character.

Incidentally, his narration of how mothers shape their kids characters, Ndaba ended up opening up about events that unfolded between president Khama and his own mother following his father’s passing. “The man who lives at State House wanted to see my mother, but she said, no!” he revealed.  “When I was busy making some preparations (for father’s funeral) like collecting fire wood, I received calls from my siblings pleading with me to talk to my mother to accept the president’s request to see her. I pleaded with her but she insisted.”

In Ndaba’s words, his late mother, Isabella Gaolathe said: “I do not want to live a life of pretence. The gentleman who lives at State House does not like my son and my husband. I do not want him to come here and pretend to like my son and husband.” According to reports, Baledzi fell out with Khama after the latter ascended to presidency in 2008, following introductions of economic policies which Gaolathe greatly differed with and saw as populist. This include among others, the introduction of the controversial constituency tournament, a fully government sponsored tournament.

Following the 2009 general elections, Khama removed Baledzi from Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and moved him to Ministry of Trade and Industry. Baledzi had served as minister of Finance for 10 years, having being brought to parliament after the 1999 general elections by then President Festus Mogae as Specially Elected legislator. He was replaced by the incumbent minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo.  

There was discontent with how president Khama treated Baledzi prior to his passing in 2010. After Baledzi fell sick, Khama dropped him from his cabinet, and the bad news was delivered at Milpark Hospital in South Africa, where he was on his sick bed. Baledzi never recovered from his ailment and died in hospital before long after the incident.

While Khama’s office stated that the agreement was reached between the president and Baledzi to relief the latter of his duties on account of health, it later turned out that Khama arrived at the decision without consulting him. Dorcus Malesu, who was then Baledzi’s understudy, ascended to the position as substantive minister.

Three months after his father was dropped from cabinet, Ndaba resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), and he was among many who went to form Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which currently has majority of opposition Members of Parliament under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which is a unity party between three opposition parties. UDC is currently the country’s main opposition party.

The ascendance of Khama to presidency was also not a happy beginning for him and Ndaba. After the killing of John Kalafitis in 2009, Ndaba publicly condemned government for its hand in the brutality and for exercising an extra-judicial killing. The relationship between Khama and Ndaba was not helped by the fact that, a few months down the line, while serving as campaign manager for Gaborone Central, the constituency candidate, Gomolemo Motswaledi was suspended and barred from contesting general elections by President Khama.

Ndaba became the first person in the BDP to publicly release a statement condemning the suspension of Motswaledi, saying that the decision was not taken in good faith and was not in line with the party’s democratic ideals. The Gaolathe family had enjoyed a close relationship with the presidency during President Sir Ketumile Quett Masire’s tenure and later during the presidency of Mogae.  Baledzi spent four decades of his life in the public service, and has headed most of the country’s prestigious institutions such as Debswana and Bank of Botswana.

Meanwhile, Masire had credited Baledzi as one of the architects of Botswana’s economy and singled out him as one of the people, together with Mogae who drilled him in the basics of economics.

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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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