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BDP notorious four MPs feel isolated

Members of Parliament, Liakat Kablay

Incongruities are playing themselves out in the rough and tumble of politics, as some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary backbenchers this week came out guns blazing, accusing the executive of negligence and denying them opportunities when they present themselves.

This comes at the backdrop of the two looming ministerial posts which are said to be out of bound for the backbenchers.

Weekend Post has it on good authority that instead the posts will be allocated to the new Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMP) that will be selected by President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama in due course.

The posts which were advertised through a Bill in the government gazette of 5 February 2016 will enable Khama to “review Ministries whose portfolios are too wide with the view to reducing the mandate,” and “cater for priority areas or emerging areas of responsibility.”

This publication has established that some backbenchers have already thrown themselves in the ring for the looming two Assistant Ministers posts in the likes of Setlhomo Lelatisitswe, Ignatious Mzwinila, Kefentse Mzwinila, Polson Majaga and Liakat Kablay.

Khama will only select the Assistants, which are at his mercy, from the party backbench. The president has the legitimate prerogative to choose who he wants in his cabinet and is duly advised by his ‘own criteria.’

“While there is a pool of backbenchers in which the president is spoilt for choice to pick from, it’s unfortunate that only two mere Assistant Ministers will be selected from the backbench,” backbencher and MP for Boteti East Lelatisitswe Setlhomo told Weekend Post this week.

He emphasized that “it’s ill-fated that the Specially Elected new law makers will be automatically appointed Ministers in the two ministries which are on the loop,” as he believes that they too have the requisite capabilities and expertise as much as those that will come on board.  

The procedure for nominating SEMP at BDP is that the names are dropped at the party parliamentary caucus, and the majority will decide for recommendation while the president will take the final decision – although subject to endorsement by Parliament. The ruling BDP which has been in power since first elections in 1965 still banks on its majority in the National Assembly.

The Bill to increase SEMP, Ministries and Assistant ministers will also, as is the norm – pass through Parliament as well as Ntlo ya Dikgosi.

The backbenchers insist that they have been thrown to the wolves against initial decision making processes of the party and by extension government.

Recently the backbenchers were also at odds and differed with the executive over the talk-of-the-moment Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) which is aimed at stimulating the economy, accelerating job creation for citizens and promoting economic diversification.

The backbench has said that they have been neglected in the process of crafting the programme and subsequently doing informed dissemination. Their intention was to internalize the programme and own it, as well as accurately and properly share it with the public.  

According to the BDP’s Lelatisitswe, above all the crux of the matter is that communication is not properly realized between the party backbench and the Executive “so there is that information gap between cabinet and ourselves”.

Setlhomo stated that: “as a new comer in this Parliament, I have realized that the executive takes most of the decisions separately from the backbenchers.”

He said their various constituents expect them to have all the information on the government’s state of affairs and sometimes they are not well versed as the Executive plays their cards very close to their chests.

Our constituents in general just think we are part of everything and we know everything when it’s actually the opposite in some cases, he pointed out.  

“But we have brought such issues and complaints to caucus especially that: we should be briefed in advance for any big development in the party and government.”

According to the MP, it appears that, at least cabinet does appreciate their position.

BDP Chief Whip and MP for Letlhakeng West Liakat Kablay who also forms part of the backbench also pointed out that the party should bring in more politically active members through SEMP so that they can effectively defend the seemingly plummeting party, at least in terms of popular vote as well as losing political big fishes recently like former Speaker of Parliament Margaret Nasha.

“These SEMP posts should therefore bring shrewd and robust politicians and, not technocrats, who will defend the party from the buoyant opposition especially the young turks who would be able to hit back real hard at the likes of Mma Nasha who has vigorously attacked the party lately,” Kablay said.  

“The proposed two ministers and assistant ministers should be allocated to the backbench,” another backbencher Polson Majaga told this publication blatantly.

“It’s like the executive is belittling the backbench if they bypass them in preference for new SEMP’s and by extension appointing them to ministerial positions while they will be still new to Parliament and most importantly without a constituency as we have worked hard to earn ours and sustained the party as it still remained in power.”

In the current Parliament, the BDP backbench consists of Gantsi South MP Christian Degraaf, Francistown East’s Buti Billy, Ignatious Moswaane of Francistown West, Tati West legislator Biggie Butale, law maker for Maun East Kostantinos Marcus, Mahalapye West’s Joseph Molefhe and Polson Majaga of Nata/Gweta.

It also includes Ngami MP Thato Kwerepe, Machana Shamukuni for Chobe, Setlhomo Lelatisitswe of Boteti East, Letlhakeng West’s Liakat Kablay, Guma Moyo of Tati East, Kefentse Mzwinila of Mmadinare, Itumeleng Moiphisi from Kgalagadi North, Letlhakeng/Takatokwane’s Ngaka Ngaka as well as Gaborone South’s Kagiso Molatlhegi.

“People shouldn’t be brought from outside, they should be selected from within – amongst the backbench to be precise,” Majaga stressed.

Majaga argued that the rules of elections are straight and forward and everybody can join the train to Parliament and it is when they are within that they should then stand a chance to be chosen to the decision making and lucrative executive.

He added that the party seems to be applying the notion of ‘all animals are equal but others are more equal that 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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