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Technicalities mar disability allowance

In an effort to address socio-economic hardships confronting people living with disabilities, the government of Botswana earlier this year introduced a monthly disability allowance for local inhabitants challenged by disabilities. It has however emerged that many people with disabilities have been turned away and declared ineligible for this allowance which was due to be paid to beneficiaries starting in April 2015 when the provision for this allowance became effective.

Rehabilitation officer and Disability focal person for the Boteti Sub District Council Mr Ramosesane Mathodi has revealed that to qualify for the allowance, one has to be fully assed and go through a rigorous qualification process, however not many disabled people qualify and many are rejected during this process “the provision is very clear and only caters for severe and profound disability and not every disability, not every disabled person will qualify” he said.

It is this provision that classifies those challenged by disability into the ‘severe and profound disabilities’ category that has opened a can of worms.  Kaboyaone Matlho who was born without hands, feet or legs has complained that he was recently returned from a disability office in Gaborone and told that he is not eligible for the monthly allowance as he is a well-known talent singer.

He said he was informed that the allowance is reserved only for those with ‘severe and profound’ disability and those who have no means of income, in his response Mathodi said that while he understands Matlho’s grievances fully, this is an issue raised by many disabled persons who have been rejected, it is a contentious issue which he says they are still addressing internally.

Matlho felt that if a man born without limbs does not qualify for the allowance then in his view it is not truly meant for disabled people, but those with severe conditions who are in hospitals and unable to function at all “I think it is safe to say only those with severe illnesses and confined to hospital beds will qualify, if a man with no hands and feet and is in constant need of care and assistance does not qualify” he said. He felt that the provision inherently discriminates against disabled persons as it does not recognize that many of them are fully ad functional human beings.  He said it was hard for him to understand what profound disability is in this case, as many people with profound disabilities are functional and able to start a means of income, regardless of their daily challenges.

He said he was hoping that they will sort out the problem so that he will be assisted together with others in a similar position. Mathodi has responded by saying that while the provision is very strict as to who can get the allowance he was hoping that Kabo will be enrolled. 

“I will consult with my superiors to see how we can help Mr Matlho as in my opinion he should benefit” He said disability officers and focal persons across the country were planning to meet with the authorities in Gaborone to lobby for a change in the provision as many people living with disabilities have been rejected.

He also revealed to this publication that those who have been screened and qualify will start receiving their monthly disability allowance next month (September) backdated to April 2015. He said that this initiative experienced some delays since its introduction in April and that they are now done sorting out impediments and modalities “the allowance due to those people challenged by severe disability will start being credited next month, all arrangements are now in place and they should start being paid in September 2015 and we have agreed that they will get back pay, backdated to April this year” he said.

He said the allowance, P300 monthly pay will apply retroactively, only to those who have been assessed and passed all the qualification stages.

He said that his office which caters for People-Living -With –Disabilities covering the whole of the Boteti Sub District currently has 546 people registered. “my offices is responsible for taking care of the needs of people with disabilities from Mokubilo to Makalamabedi and all of the small settlements across Boteti and this is where all the people we work with come from” he said.

He said he is responsible for connecting People-Living -With –Disabilities to developments and government service in his area “I deal with people challenged by all sorts of disabilities, some of  the disability  came about because of diseases, some of it due to accidents and some clients were born disabled, while some of it, its causes unknown” He said. He said that the majority of those registered with his office are learners with intellectual disability “majority of the 546 persons under my care suffer from intellectual disability. On a daily basis, I link them with social services and ensure that they have access to educational opportunities as well as advocate for their rights. If they are deaf, I ensure that they receive proper sign language training and connect them to other relevant government departments” he said.

He said that he was happy that some of his clients were recently awarded the youth development fund while some have graduated from destitution to self-sustenance “I also view it as a success that we have so many people coming out to register, in the past disabled people were hidden from sight by family members and stayed indoors. Things are changing and we are happy to be able to help them as many of them are talented and can live meaningful lives if they know which government services to access and take advantage of to develop their talents” he said.

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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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