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Sweeping changes proposed for mining sector

BPC should pay for infrastructure setup

The Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has proposed extensive Policy recommendations in a Study into the Consequences of and Responses to the Depletion of Botswana’s Diamonds, estimated to creep in after 2027.


The Botswana After Diamonds report hovers on major issues of Encouraging more mining and exploration activity; Diamond production rate; and Planned infrastructure projects.  BIDPA calls on government to be aggressive when dealing with these matters and to take real steps to mitigate the aftermath of 2027.


First among other issues, BIDPA sneaks into the legal and fiscal regime for mining in Botswana which is currently very competitive with the country being ranked in position 4 by resource Stocks magazine and 8th position by the Fraser Institute. Of the eleven exploration and mining companies in Botswana interviewed in the study, the majority find the mining laws in Botswana to be ‘fine and useful’ and the administrative process to be ‘fair and open’.


According to the BIDPA study, the issues relevant to mining laws are – future and current tax regime, and land claim and land issues. BIDPA recommends that Botswana’s level of mineral Royalties take into consideration the profitability of mining project and the latter, other things being equal, depends on the value of the mineral being mined. In this way, base metals and coal attract the lowest royalty rate of 3 % followed by precious metals, that is, gold, silver and platinum group metals at 5% and lastly diamonds at 10 %.


“We therefore do not believe there is additional incentive in lowering these rates as the level of prospecting activity is very high. We also would not recommend that these be raised as this may discourage the prospecting activity, which would do more harm than good. We however believe that there is always room to modernise the royalty formula, for instance, going to a sliding scale formula so that even some diamond mines that may have similar levels of profitability to other minerals such as base metals and coal are not overburdened by fixed royalty rate of 10 %,” reads part of the study report.  


According to the study, which was edited by Roman Grynberg, Margaret Sengwaketse and Masedi Motswapong, BIDPA is convinced that the fiscal regime is well defined for non-diamond minerals while for diamonds section 51 of the Act stipulates that there will be a negotiation. “We believe that it is the secrecy of the negotiated regime that may be creating uncertainty and government should find ways of addressing this.”  In response to this concern, BIDPA notes: 

“Regarding the taxation issues, we believe government should find means to publicise those mining regimes that, after negotiation, still end up with the standard tax regime for mining to provide comfort to the current junior mining companies exploring for diamonds.”


Government should continuously explain the benefits of overlapping prospecting licences. According to the BIDPA researchers, it seems that this has not been sufficiently explained to the mining industry. In addition they have recommended that government should consider an Act for the Coal Bed Methane (CBM) gas and its accompanying regulations to assist in guiding activity in this area.  


Meanwhile BIDPA notes that there is a lot of interest in exploration in Botswana, with the whole of the country taken up by exploration companies with only the swamps and some deep sand-covered areas of the Kalahari remaining open as they are inaccessible. “There is therefore need to ensure that only value-adding applications for exploration are approved to eliminate huge land holdings without the accompanying progress towards mine development.  


The study also highlights the issue of water and power. “While some projects may be located near existing water and power infrastructure, the challenge faced by the project developers is that there are no set mechanisms for them to obtain such water and power. We therefore recommend that government consider a mechanism whereby the water and power utility companies develop the infrastructure to support the mining project and then recover the cost of such development through higher charges until their cost have been recovered. This would facilitate project development as they would be spared the upfront costs, which also improve project economics,” observers the BIDPA analysts.  


The BIDPA study also touches on diamond production rate, stating that it seems Debswana is placing itself in the position of ‘swing producer’, adjusting its target production so as to leave the global supply/ demand balance in a position of shortage rather than surplus, and hence tending to push prices up, or at least maintain them if there are other negative forces at work.

In their view, the cushion of 10 million carats p.a between Debswana’s peak production and its recent production levels is certainly enough to influence the global supply/demand balance according to whether those 10 million carats p.a are being produced or not. “And the experience of the past three years does suggest that international market prices have responded to Debswana’s actual planned production rates,” they state.


BIDPA advises that in the short term Government should study the various production scenarios with the view to possibly revising the current long-term mining plans, which seem to be informed by the validity period of the mining leases for Debswana, which all run until 2029. Furthermore, BIDPA is of the view that Government should consider a policy of postponing possible projects at Debswana mines so that these are phased in at the end of the open-pit mining operations.

“These projects are profitable on their own (stand-alone- projects) and would not depend on the existing open-pit operations.”


Regarding rail and port infrastructure, future coal export projects and some copper and silver projects in the Ghanzi copper belt would rely on this, BIDPA says. “We therefore believe that government should be a joint venture partner in order to ensure that future projects benefit. We, however, caution that due to the scale and possible risks involved, government should conduct a thorough due diligence ahead of any participation in such infrastructure projects.”

The researchers indicate that the projected government mineral revenues from future coal mines are dependent on the existence of rail and port infrastructure to export the washed coal to the world steam coal markets in Asia and Western Europe. “Until concrete steps are seen on the development of the rail and port infrastructure upon which these projects depend, we believe they should be accorded a low probability of being realised by 2026.”


This BIDPA study was conceived about five years ago during the Global Economic Crisis and the impact this had on the economy of Botswana and on the private sector. At that time there was a dramatic decline in the demand for luxury commodities – diamonds and tourism services – which are two of Botswana’s most important export sectors.

These were hit disproportionately as a result of the economic crisis. Diamond mining, the principal source of revenue in the country, declined dramatically in 2009 as the mines at Jwaneng and Orapa were temporarily shut. In 2009 diamond production fell to 17.7 million carats from 32 million the previous year.


In conclusion, BIDPA observes that over the next 10-15 years, government mineral revenues are projected to rise on the back of a projected improvement in diamond prices that would be underlain by strong supply/demand fundamentals.

“While the decline in government mineral revenues from diamonds seems unlikely to occur within the period of projection for this study, we would like to caution that there would be a significant crunch when the open-pit mining operations cease, beginning in about 2027.”

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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