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Opposition talks finally take off

Following a false start comprising numerous delays of the commencement of the anticipated unity talks between main opposition parties in Botswana, the talks have finally been instigated, albeit at the exclusion of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Ndaba Gaolathe, Weekend Post can reveal.

The negotiation team comprises of individual parties; Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP).

Weekend Post has it on good authority that the negotiation talks between the parties were commissioned last week on the 12th September 2016 at Oasis Motel in Tlokweng township, just outside the capital city Gaborone.

It is understood that there are no mediating partners in the negotiations this time around and that Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will be temporarily set aside to enable talks comprising individual parties to commence on a clean slate.

In fact preliminary indications suggest that there may be a new constitution, new name and the new-fangled colours which are projected to make part of the discussions and therefore the present-day UDC name may be changed if need be, particularly as there will be a new entrant being the BCP.

An impeccable source who sits in the instigated opposition negotiations table revealed that: “we are all committed and we are all pushy. Already some of the cooperating partners with the sense of urgency have drafted the governance structure and constitution of the expected new political formation and some even have submitted and more dialogue will take place and conclusions made thereafter.”

“You know we are most probable to start afresh with new constitution, name may be altered, with no UDC cards which have been the subject of debates, and existing individual parties will continue in the meantime,”he said.

It is understood that the interchanges are premised on three layers in which the first layer, which has already launched so far embraces streams which include; one team assigned to address policy issues.

Still on the stream, the other will be negotiating on the contentious subject of distribution of constituencies while the last one is intended to look at matters of governance, the constitution and power sharing arrangements.

The second layer on the talks will incorporate the central negotiating body where fiery, heated and intense debates and exchanges are anticipated to fly thick in meetings.

Information gathered suggests that the third and last layer will tackle questions of leadership of the new political collaboration formation particularly as to who becomes its president, and by extension, the president of the country if it gains power in the forthcoming 2019 General Elections.

Duma Boko and Dumelang Saleshando are seen as frontrunners in the presidential contest together with Ndaba Gaolathe. Speculations are rife that Margaret Nasha, Sidney Pilane are likely to add to the mix.

Although the UDC has been downgraded, initially the plan was to dispatch 18 team members from UDC and BCP into the negotiations. Out of the 18, it was understood that the UDC will be represented by 6 from BNF, 6 from BPP, and 6 from BMD. On the other hand BCP was also expected to send through 18 of its members to the table and was being waited on, and eventually it was arranged then that six members from each party will be enrolled in each category.

The impeccable source who was present at the 1st official meeting revealed that:“the first leg has started and will drag for the coming three weeks in which the next will follow and the overall talks are anticipated to complete end of October.”

In the commission historic meeting, BNF President Duma Boko was present together with BCP leader, Dumelang Saleshando. BPP was represented by its Secretary General Botho Seboko while party Chairman Nehemiah Modubule stood in for the BMD.

It attendance also was notably Margaret Nasha and Advocate Sidney Pilane both of whom are from the BMD fold. Perhaps in a more revealing way, BMD President, Ndaba Gaolathe was absent at the ground breaking meeting for reasons which this publication could not establish.

When justifying his absence at the momentous meeting of the opposition talks, Ndaba told this publication that during the meeting, he was attending the Parliamentary committee on statutory bodies throughout the week.

He added that him, Boko and Molapisi are not in negotiating teams. “We have delegated responsibility of discussions to various leaders within the UDC,” he said.

The BMD has been a thorn in the flesh for delayed commencement of talks owing to the internal feud and power struggle within the party between its National Executive Committee (NEC) and President and Vice president on the other side.

Indications suggest that Gaolathe does not see eye to eye with Pilane and queries his inclusion in the party negotiation team. Pilane has been roped in to represent the party on governance, constitution and power sharing category.

It is understood that this does not sit well with some BMD cadres including the president. In earnest they believe that Gaolathe is being side-lined at the negotiations which have now taken full force.

Meanwhile when reached for comment UDC Secretary General, Moeti Mohwasa confirmed that indeed the talks have started although he could not divulge more details.

“Yes it is true we have started the talks but we will update you soon on the matter,” he told this publication briefly.

Mohwasa shared sentiments that BCP Publicity Secretary, Dithapelo Keorapetse concurred when asked by this publication if they have gotten the ball rolling as far as unity talks are concerned.

He said: “yes we have commenced.” The BCP mouth piece added that they should be given peace and time to continue with the talks composedly. 

Meanwhile local Political Analyst, Leonard Sesa said that Batswana expected a lot in terms of opposition cooperation before and after the 2014 general Elections but they may have been disappointed as they bore no fruits. 

While he averred that the talks could have started earlier, he however commended them that at long last they have officially set foot on the paddle.

“If indeed the talks have arrived, it’s a good move. BCP banks on the talks while UDC indeed must move forward, and am hopeful they may bear good results this time around,” Sesa highlighted.

The academic cautioned that it is good for the opposition especially after numerous delays that they have moved a step forward particularly as he pointed out that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has started campaigning and coming up with strategies to triumph again in the next general Elections.

According to Sesa, all opposition parties’ committees must be up and running and involved; “And since we are talking about different people with different minds, there may be need for counselling to the members well on time especially those against the cooperation if it indeed comes to pass and contest next elections as one unit.”

The UB Political analyst also asserted that the cooperation, however, will not come easy and there has to be serious sacrifices made between the UDC/BCP, while conceding that at the end and going forward it will give the ruling BDP a run for its money and enhance competitive democracy.

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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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