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BMD warns UDC on Motswaledi

The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Working Committee has expressed displeasure at the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s handling of the Gomolemo Motswaledi commemoration event. Motswaledi was the BMD president and also Secretary General of the UDC.

At its meeting held on Wednesday this week, the BMD working committee composed of nine portfolio holders indicated that the UDC has taken over Motswaledi’s commemorations and has not bothered to engage the BMD, which was the late’s political home when he met his demise.

“We have only received an invitation letter to the Gomolemo Motswaledi commemorations. We have not been part of the process of planning for the commemorations. Yes it is true that the National Working Committee met and deliberated on a few topics which were dealt with expeditiously by the portfolio holders,” said the BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole who is also a Member of Parliament for Mochudi West.

According to Mangole the BMD will attend the Commemorations as per the invitation from the UDC but will immediately after the commemorations express their misgivings to the UDC leadership about the handling of the matter. “We cannot learn of this event about our former President through an invitation letter, we should have been involved more, consulted for that matter,” said Mangole.

The BMD secretary general stated that Motswaledi was secretary general of the UDC by virtue of being President of the BMD, “therefore MK Motswaledi was BMD first before being UDC. We feel that this is disrespect of the organisation that Motswaledi founded, and we will humbly request that in future these matters be dealt with according to processes that can agreed to be courteous,” he said.
Mangole said they do not even know who is organising the event and what the program of the commemoration entails. “We are aware that we shared Motswaledi with the UDC but it is important that his true political home is not overlooked when anything that has to do with his name is organised,” said Mangole.

The UDC is organising commemorations that will focus on celebrating and remembering Gomolemo Motswaledi’s life. Motswaledi was a political giant killed by a car accident after forming the BMD along with others from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), who were either expelled from party or defecting in support of the BMD founding principles. Motswaledi was suspended by BDP leader, President Lt Gen Ian Khama, a decision that scuppered his ambition of contesting the Gaborone Central Parliamentary seat under the ruling party and chose to join the splinter BMD.  

Asked about the composition of the Working Committee of the BMD, Mangole indicated that it is made up of nine members who are portfolio holders in the party. He said it must be noted that the President, Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi did not attend the working committee meeting held on Tuesday.

It is on record that Gaolathe and Mmolotsi are working parallel to some of the National Executive Committee members especially the secretary general and the party chairman, Nehemiah Modubule. The two camps are split on whether the party should call a special congress or not. A deliberation on the need for a Special Congress arose after the majority of the NEC voted to include Advocate Sydney Pilane in the list of BMD negotiators at the anticipated UDC talks which will include the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this time around. Gaolathe, Mmolotsi and a small section of the NEC is against Pilane being granted full membership of the party and have called into question the ability of the current NEC to run the affairs of the party.

Meanwhile Mangole told this publication that the Working Committee on Tuesday also noted 19 letters received from various constituencies requesting for a Special Congress. He said the letters were only noted and the final decision rests with the National Executive Committee which will meet on the 13th of August 2016. Gaolathe’s camp is confident that it has secured enough numbers to push for a Special Congress which is expected to change the composition of the current NEC by way of voting for new leaders. On the other hand Mangole and Modubule’s camp is against the special congress and had asked for reconciliation as they argue that a special congress is not the solution to BMD problems.

Sharing his observations, a political commentator, Dr Wazha Morapedi said the Motswaledi Commemorations and the perceived side-lining of some in the BMD is a further demonstration of the magnitude of the conflict within the BMD. He said it is clear that Gaolathe and Mmolotsi could be privy to the planning and organisation of the Motswaledi Commemoration while the majority of the BMD NEC is in the dark.

Morapedi said it is important for BMD to solve their differences because they have a potential to derail the UDC agenda. He observed that the BMD should not make a big deal over the invitation and rather focus on broad policy issues that could craft their path as a political organisation. “The problem with our politics is that our politicians fight over small and sometimes irrelevant issues,” he said.  

Contacted for comment, the UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa indicated that all the UDC partners have been invited to the Motswaledi Commemoration. Answering to the accusation from the BMD that they were not involved in the planning, Mohwasa indicated that the BMD was involved through its leader Gaolathe who is also the secretary general of the UDC. Mohwasa observed that Motswaledi was a leader within the UDC and all partners should embrace any activity planned in his remembrance. He further said they have not yet received any formal complaint from the BMD in regard to the commemorations. He was optimistic that they will have a successful event and indicated that a number of speakers have been lined up to celebrate the icon’s life.

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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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