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Dikgosi endorse Molale’s bid to increase MPs

Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have passed a constitutional amendment by cabinet to increase specially elected legislators, ministers and Assistant ministers.

Following a flammable debate in the proposed constitutional amendment to increase the said threshold of nominated legislators from 4 to 6, the house agreed to pass the amendments.

The voting exercise saw 16 giving the move a thumbs up while 14 voted against it. Some also queried the model of voting which is not secret citing intimidation by authorities who oversee dikgosi.

There is wide belief that some of the dikgosi may have been feeling intimidated with the presence of Minister of Local Government and Rural Government, Botlogile Tshireletso as well as Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele.

However according to the Chairman of Ntlo ya dikgosi, Kgosi Puso Gaborone of Tlokweng the voting exercise went well though it was not through secret ballot. He said it has been their tradition as the law allows for such arrangement.

Conversely, Kgosi Thabo Maruje said the way they debate and vote in Ntlo ya Dikgosi leaves a lot to be desired.

“We believe that voting should be secret because some don’t have the confidence and rather fear that if they vote in a certain way it might affect them somehow negatively going forward.”

The Minister of local Government and Rural development has the power to de-recognise a kgosi.

Meanwhile, in the amendment debate in the house to increase legislators Maruje set the context to say that politically, Botswana is going through a transitional process. He said the political competition has become very tight and competitive and he therefore does not support the Bill in the political context.

He also maintained that the minister should say what impact it is going to bring in terms of value chain desired and cost implications, and also how it will increase democracy.

He observed that government through the World Bank has advised Botswana government to decrease public service but at the same time it wants to increase the burden by 2 more specially elected legislators.

He was also concerned that almost 98% of Bills passed at parliament do not go through proper consultation particularly at the kgotla.

“We need to seriously introspect, we can’t increase MP’s, time will come, we have just come to the end of vision 2016, which is also our golden jubilee of 50 years of independence so let us not pre-empt what is coming.”

According to Kgosi Sekgoma Moipolai of North East region the increase of SEMP may lead to erosion of our core values of democracy. “It may be used to apply desired interest of those applying it and therefore affecting the essence of democracy,” he claimed.

He added that at least the government should be thinking of increasing constituencies as they will be increasing representation of the people. “I have a fear that instead of strengthening democracy they are weakening it. Therefore I am unable to support it.”

Kgosi Tshipe Tshipe of Mahalapye region who supported the amendments said he agrees with the Bill but cautioned that it should be done and executed as the reasons it was designed for.

On the other hand Kgosi Moeti Monyamane of Kgalagadi North sustained that what Batswana are asking for is a thorough constitutional review so it is what he calls for as well and therefore “I cannot agree with the Bill”.

He asked where the money will be coming from to pay the 2 SEMP and highlighted that where there is no political will government likes to use the phrase “when funds permit” but seems it is not using it this time as they are determined to pass the Bill no matter what.

Another Ntlo Ya Dikgosi member Kgosi Galeakanye Modise of Tswapong opposed the Bill citing that they are not convinced by reasons given by government to increase numbers as all “skills and expertise” are there in parliament, like Judges, lawyers, teachers, economists etc.

He said if anything the minister could be coming with a Bill to “abolish” the SEMP altogether. He said as Ntlo Ya Dikgosi they are mere advisors to government as it appears the government has already decided to pass the Bill.

“Taking into consideration that public servants salaries were not increased because there is no money, so now why increase SEMP as there will be financial implications or burden as well?” he rhetorically asked.

Bakwena paramount chief, Kgosi Kgari Sechele urged government to bring trust to the people by doing as they say. “We should see those skills and expertise that is deficient in parliament and society should see as such. If it doesn’t happen, we will use it to gauge if we continue to vote for them.”

When presenting the Bill at Ntlo Ya Dikgosi Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele stated that the economy of Botswana continues to grow in size and complexity.

“Therefore, the increase in number of specially elected members will provide a window of opportunity for the National Assembly, and by extension cabinet, to increase the number of members with the necessary expertise and skills to manage a modern and complex economy.”

He also said over the years, the constitution has been amended to increase the number of elected legislators and the number has started at 1 specially elected MP.

Some of the notable politicians who have benefitted from the special nomination dispensation include former presidents, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae. The first woman to enter parliament, Gaositwe Chiepe was also specially elected.

According to Makgalemele, ministers have a burden and it may hurt the economy and thus the need to increase SEMP, but he reiterated government employment freeze will continue.

He asserted that the intentions of the Bill are good and government remains open minded.

WeekendPost has it on good authority that the constitutional amendment Bill was hatched by the Shoshong legislator who then convinced his colleagues at a ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary caucus towards the close of last year and they gave the move thumbs up.

The Bill was later published on the government gazette dated 5 February 2016 by Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale.

The Bill is expected to pass into amended law without any hinges as the ruling BDP which banks on its majority in parliament looks determined. Already few names have been dropped for possible special nomination dispensation including BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane and maverick ex-legislator, Robert Masitara amongst others.

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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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