Newly appointed Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Bogolo Kenewendo has promised to dedicate her energies towards improving the state of young people and women during her tenure in parliament.
Kenewendo who was sworn in last week became one of the rarefied women to grace the legislative house since independence. On the back of the recently released ‘The Global Gender Gap Index’ report, which ranks Botswana 126th in the world in women political empowerment, Kenewendo has vowed to use available platforms in parliament to advocate for wider participation of women in leadership positions.
“It is true we’re faring badly in that respect,” she nodded. “Women need to be capacitated to be able to participate in elections, in respect to building their confidence, in public speaking and helping them to be more assertive,” she told Weekend Post in an exclusive interview. “Papers have been written before about women participation in elections and representation in parliament, and women who came before me such as Mma Nasha and Mma-Tshireletso have made contributions with regard to women empowerment. There is nothing much to talk about, I can only continue working on the foundation they have laid.”
Kenewendo, who is the founder of Molaya Kgosi, a not-for-profit organisation aimed at providing mentorship to women in leadership, said she wishes Botswana could have many women who are as resilient as the likes of Margaret Nasha, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Botlogile Tshireletso. “Women also have to stand their ground and make their presence felt. Because it is not all about being empowered, it is also about you bringing yourself forward. The same thing applies to youth,” she said.
Nasha served as cabinet minister from 1994-2009 and was later appointed first female Speaker of the National Assembly. Venson-Moitoi is currently the longest serving member of parliament alongside Slumber Tsogwane. The two were first elected in 1999, the former entering through the Specially Elected dispensation.
Meanwhile Tshireletso is considered the “Iron Lady” of Botswana politics having surged through BDP ranks to the top. Kenewendo has observed that many youth have managed to make significant breakthroughs at local government level; something which she said should also be translated into parliament seats.
The 29 year-old former Econsult economist said she will use the women caucus as conduit to motivate reforms which will empower women in various leadership positions, not only in politics but other areas as well. Kenewendo has also noted government’s not being responsive enough to meet the needs of the young people and its reluctance to embrace their ideas.
“Youth are driven by innovation, want things to be done in a swift manner, a business environment which is generally favourable,” she observed. “We need to support them, even in ideas which we don’t understand. We must avail subsidised funding, and enable them to flourish.”
Kenewendo who is a firm believer in the youth had in the preceding day told parliament in her maiden speech to the house that “young people are smart, driven and resilient, and are all looking for an opportunity to rise up.” This was contrary to Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Biggie Butale’s opinion of the young people in his earlier contribution.
The newly appointed Assistant Minister had torn the youth apart, saying their failures were mostly driven by lack of hunger to succeed and laziness. Kenewendo said the NDP 11 should carry the ideals and aspirations of the young people, because at the end of the 2036 vision, 20 years from now, the plan should show how it impacted the lives of the youth of today.
“We should not just look at today, we should also look at their future because someone who is 20 years today would be 40 years at the end of Vision 2036,” she said. “During that period, the plan should show how is going to impact on the lives of the young people.” “Like I said in parliament during my contribution, businesses and investors do not care that we are a landlocked country, they are looking for a place where they can easily do business hassle free and reap the best rewards,” she said.
Kenewendo has observed that Botswana lacks agility and is moving at a snail pace, hence other countries such as Rwanda are able to perform better. “Some of them came here to benchmark in Botswana, then went back to implement because they have agility. The world is moving faster, so we need to be agile.”
She said even global markets have opened up, and there is a need to take advantage of that. While there is a general belief that think tanks and maverick individuals such as Kenewendo do not have a place in the current BDP set-up, Kenewendo has promised not to subscribe to such thinking.
“I was asked about the issue of ending up being politically suffocated on Radio this week, and I said I will not be suffocated. First of all, I have a strong foundation, my positions on various issues have been well documented in various publications, and such positions will not change,” she said. “I have been in different forums including a background in consultancy and my support structure will not allow me to fall.”
Kenewendo has conceded that she took a substantial pay cut to the legislature, something which she said should not be “a big deal”. She was however cagey on sharing her political ambitions, “I am here to serve as specially elected MP, that is it for now, but if you had asked me few years ago, or two months ago if I wanted to join politics, I would have not told you.”
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.”
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.
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.”