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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.