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BDP agonises over VP voting system

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) central committee recently addressed the hot topic of selection of the Republic’s Vice President. This follows a debate within the party which led to some senior figures challenging the system through which the Vice President of the country is selected.  

It has emerged that some within the BDP are not comfortable with the current process where the President comes up with a name of his preferred Vice President and presents it to Parliament for endorsement. They are said to be demanding that the party should have a more pronounced say in the selection of the Vice President. They want the position of Vice President to be linked to the party as is the case with the Presidency.

They want an arrangement similar to that of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. They want the President’s running mate to be selected by delegates through a “much thorough process”.

“You know in the case of the President the constitution of the BDP gives party members an opportunity to vote for a president at a congress. At the moment the BDP does not have a position of Vice President in its governing structure, this is where we invited the problem coupled with the automatic succession plan,” said an insider who preferred anonymity.

He indicated that he was a Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi sympathiser and he was worried that the debate comes at a time when he is supposed to take over as President, “and it would appear we are undermining him.

But the severity of the debate is epitomised by the central committee’s recent meeting where Minister Nonofo Molefhi was interrogated for his comments during the Vice President Selection debate. It was alleged that he had implied that the system used to select the Vice President was not ideal. However sources indicate that Molefhi was quoted out of context when the matter was reported to the central committee and he managed to prove his case. It was evident that those who see Molefhi as a potential challenger to Masisi twisted the facts to get Molefhi is trouble. The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development has never said a word in relation to challenging Masisi. 

Those who sell the idea that the party is excluded from the selection process argue that the President is voted by the party members; hence his Vice President should be subjected to the same vote. However those who support the status quo indicate that the President by coming up with a name and subjecting it to a vote in Parliament is doing enough because he is invoking the input of people’s representatives. The assumption is that the members of parliament are representing the interests of their constituents when they express approval or disapproval of the Vice President choice. 

The debate comes at a time when Masisi is poised to automatically succeed President Lt Gen Ian Khama in 2018 and subject a Vice President nominee to a vote in Parliament. 

After the 2014 general election President Khama had to demand that his vice president be elected by a show of hands, a process opposition parties said undermined the powers of parliament. However other observers indicated that the move was a sign that the ruling party was divided on the mode of selecting a Vice President.

President Khama’s lawyers approached the Attorney General to petition the court to change the voting process from a secret ballot to a show of hands. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) said Khama’s request was a form of intimidation. It remains to be seen where this debate is heading as some well-known ruling party figures have openly said they will challenge Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi for the Presidency of the party and that of the Republic.

Contacted for comment, BDP secretary general, Botsalo Ntuane declined to comment on the matter.

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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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BHC to increase rent again effective 1st April 2022

17th January 2022
BHC

Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) will increase rental prices effective 1st April 2022. Tenants have already received letter of rent increment dated 09 December 2021 signed by the Regional Director, Kesebonye M. J. Khimbele. The letter stated that BHC has completed review of its rentals for implementation in the financial year 2022/2023.

The letter further states that, “the review comes on the backdrop of annual rental adjustments approved for the Corporation affecting all tenants (Government, Local Authorities, Parastatals, Private Companies, individuals and other corporate bodies). To this end, notice is hereby given that with effect from 1st April 2022, the Corporation will adjust current rental for your lease. The new rentals will be payable from 1st April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Please note that all other terms of your lease agreement remain the same including the service charges where applicable.”

BHC sensitized the public about its decision to adjust rent in 2020, they stated that they will be increasing their rentals for the next five years in order to meet the market price. When addressing the media about the decision to increase rent to meet the market rate in 2020. BHC officials indicated that the Corporation decided to increase rent and that the decision was backed by the government. Furthermore, BHC had not increased rent in the past 16 years. The Corporation pointed out that it was time to adjust the rent in order to match the market dynamics.

Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Mmusi Kgafela when addressing the media in 2020 about the decision to increase rent by BHC, stated that it is still priority to ensure that they reach BHC’s objective of being at par with the current rental market rates.
The first increment after the public was addressed by BHC and the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development was last year 1st April, and the second increment will be on the 1st April 2022.

According to BHC website, BHC is a Parastatal under the Ministry of Infrastructure & Housing Development. The Corporation was established by an Act of Parliament (CAP 74.03) of 1971. The Corporation’s explicit mandate is outlined under section 14 of the BHC Act: To provide for the housing, office and other building needs of the government and local authorities; To provide for and to assist and to make arrangements for other persons to meet the requirements above; To undertake and carry-out and to make arrangements for other persons to undertake and carry-out building schemes in Botswana.

Execution of the explicit mandate covers provision of housing to the general population through a variety of initiatives and structures such as: Government housing pool; Sales of houses to government and its agencies; Provision of project management services; Undertaking housing projects for government departments such as the BDF, BURS etc. The Corporation’s implicit mandate is expressed through Government Policy pronouncements; Directives; Economic/business imperatives; Public & other social considerations.

Effective from 1st April 2012, the Corporation’s mandate has been expanded in accordance with Presidential Directive Cab 20 (B)/2010. The directive pronounced that all Government housing implementation programmes be transferred to BHC to operate as Government’s Single Housing Authority (SiHA). In compliance with the directive, BHC is as from 1st April 2012 responsible for the construction of turnkey SHHA projects as well as District Housing and other housing programmes pronounced by government from time to time such as the Public Housing Initiative and Youth Housing Initiative.

In executing the implicit mandate, the Corporation has to raise money through the market to sustain itself. For instance, 1990’s, government announced cessation of PDSF loans to parastatals. This meant that BHC had to do the following: Raise money from financial markets; Diversification of income stream; Reduced dependence on government.

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Thiite, Lesaso, Letsholo tipped for Ministerial posts

17th January 2022

At least three new faces are expected to join cabinet before or during the second meeting of the third session of the 12th parliament scheduled for the 1st of February 2022. This publication is reliably informed that there are currently three names from the backbench that are being assessed by the principals for possible inclusion in the Ministerial bench.

Businessmen in Gantsi North Member of Parliament (MP) John Thiite, Kanye North legislator Thapelo Letsholo and Shoshong MP Aubrey Lesaso are possible candidates for the executive arm of government. The decision on the three, according to informants, pivots on the claim that the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi finds it “very difficult to rope in MPs who have served during the era of ex-President Ian Khama.” It is not clear as to what reasons could be, except that Masisi wants his own team that will diligently articulate his game plan until 2028.

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