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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Over 10 000 direct job losses since 2015

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The past two financial years have been rough for the country’s largest private sector employer and biggest foreign income earner, the Mining Sector. Before the nation woke up to shocking news of BCL shut down three weeks ago, Botswana had already  stomached the liquidation of African copper mines,  Khoemakhau and Boseto mines in a space of  less than two years.

This operational termination came with the hard reality of massive job losses. Just when it seemed the halt of operations at the economic engine in the eastern side of the country was harsh enough, reports emerged indicating that Lerala mine, located at the far south end of the SPEDU region in Tswapong District, is also heading for closure and consequently job losses.


Lerala mine will be adding thousands more job losses to the mining industry’s horror archives, making a total of over 10 000 direct mining sector job losses to be recorded from 2015 to date alone. BCL is to account for over 5000 job losses, its subsidiary Tati Nickel Mine over 700 and already over 2000 job losses were recorded at Boseto and African Copper mines.
More pressure has been piling on the government to accelerate economic diversification efforts and initiatives. Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) leadership has cautioned the nation, decision makers and all stakeholders against the over dependence on the mining sector for economic sustainability.


BOPEU President, Andrew Motsamai, made this cautionary statement at a BOPEU Women & Youth Symposium held in Selibe Phikwe just after the announcement of provisional liquidation for BCL mine.
According to Motsamai a mineral sector dependent economy is an economy headed for a dead end. Motsamai indicated that lack of readiness for mining sector’s ultimate crush is blight on the country’s leadership.  “We knew that one day the copper and nickel deposits at the BCL will get depleted, but we did little to nothing as leaders of this country,” observed Motsamai.

He explained that BCL financial status and global market commodity prices are only short term problems, but the long term reality in all the Botswana mines is that mineral ore will get finished.
“The sad fact is that mineral  stones are not here forever, and if we don’t as a country prepare for the demise of this God given resource, we are heading for an economic crush, and we will have only ourselves to blame, not commodity prices,” said Motsamai.


The outspoken Union leader reinforced his sentiments by citing the example of Jwaneng mine which he termed as already in the afternoon of its lifespan. “if you analyze the situation at Jwaneng mine which currently pumps billions of pula into the government purse, you’ll realize that we need to diversify our economy as soon as yesterday. There will probably be no Jwaneng mine in 20 years and if we don’t ready ourselves, the knockout punch that hit Selibe Phikwe will hit Jwaneng.” The life span of Jwaneng mine, the world’s richest diamond pits (by value) is estimated to be just after 2030.


Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Duma Boko, has called on President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama to take the blame and accept failure to run the economy. According to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) President, Khama has abandoned economic diversification and concentrated more on humanitarian give outs which he labelled as popularity stunts.
Duma Boko told Weekendpost   this week that president Khama as the head of state needs to account for all this countless job losses “I invite President Khama for a debate on this tragedies that are befalling our country, I am ready to give alternative counter strategies to the current crisis in our mining sector and our economy at large,” said Boko.


Opposition members have also accused Khama’s second in command for abandoning his job creation and economic diversification mandate. “The vice president is incompetent with his assignment of creating jobs for our youth, he has rather as of  recent channeled his energy and state resources to recruiting opposition members to the ruling BDP, attracting them with lucrative offers,” said Dithapelo Keorapetse, Selibe Phikwe West MP, who is also the spokespersosn of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
This past week, Monday, the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Kenneth Matambo revealed in his opening speech at the legislators and stakeholders briefing on the proposed “long overdue” National Development Plan 11 before presenting the draft before parliament on Wednesday that the country will run at a deficit budget for the first three years of the NDP. Matambo further stressed the urgent need to find alternative means of generating income for the government as the current national main source of income is faced with challenges.

“We need to intense government revenues, and we need to do that with private sector based economic activities, totally independent from mineral revenue,” said Matambo.
The state purse bearer also noted that government expenditure needs to be monitored intensively as every pula counts. He further indicated that his government is worried and thus will be more careful. ‘’It is the three consecutive years of running at a budget deficit for NDP 11 that this government is most worried about,” he said.


For his part, Keith Jeffries, Managing Director at economic & finance policy analysis  firm, Ecosult Botswana, couldn’t agree more on the urgent need for economic diversification but insisted that he needs more time to analyse the National Development Plan. “Let’s wait for the unpacking of NDP 11, and analysis on government initiatives, there will be economic reviews coming up which will better inform our opinion and recommendations,” said Mr Jeffries who is former Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor and currently a renowned economic policy analyst.


The Chairman of Parliament Committee on Public Enterprises and Statutory Bodies, Samson Guma Moyo emphasised the need to diversify the economy away from the mining sector, “If we don’t find other alternative means of economic sustainability and growth, and only rely on minerals, we will not go past middle income status, lest we even realize an economic crush in the near future,” noted Guma Moyo who is also MP for Tati East.


The government of Botswana is pinning its hopes of achieving a diversified, private sector driven and sustainable economy on current initiatives such as the Special Economic Zones, Economic Diversification Drive, ESP and various investment and business development arms like the BITC, Botswana Development Corporation, CEDA, National Development Bank to enhance and accelerate foreign & domestic investment as well as economic growth.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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