Letlhakane Police Station Commander, Michael Maphephu
LETLHAKANE: The suspect in a gruesome and fatal accident that astonished many and left three siblings dead and one hospitalised in a critical condition at Bokamoso Private Hospital, Mr Mooketsi Bathoeng appeared before Letlhakane Magistrate Queen Latoya Moanga on Wednesday facing three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of failure to stop at the scene of an accident.
When the 26 year old Xhomo born resident of Letlhakane took to the stand, the murmuring of people in the court room which was filled to full capacity overpowered the thick emotion that hang in the air. The accident that had the village of Letlhakane talking since it occurred on the evening of Friday August 14 had generated a lot of interest among Boteti residents.
The prosecutor said that the suspect is charged with dangerous driving contrary to section 49(a) of the Road Traffic Act, and (b) with failing to stop after the accident and causing death through dangerous driving .The prosecution alleged that the accused drove his motor vehicle on the road in a manner dangerous to other persons, failed to stop after the accident and caused the death of three persons and serious injuries to one.
Bathoeng who is alleged to have been drunk and highly intoxicated on the day of the accident killed three children and injured two more, after veering off the road in Mokgobelele Ward in Letlhakane. According to witnesses, the six children who are all siblings and were walking from their grandmother’s house were hit off road.
“His car was overtaking at high speed, veered off road and approached a group of children who then scattered and run for cover only to be caught in mid-flight and were unfortunately brutally pressed hard against the fence of a nearby by homestead, two died on the spot, one on the way to the hospital, one has been discharged while one is in a very critical condition at Bokamoso Private Hospital.” Constable Serumola Aaron revealed.
He said he was constrained to prosecute this case as he is also a lead prosecutor in another case where the same suspect caused another death in Orapa in 2013 in what is suspected to have been another case of drunken driving. He says while they have now been given the go ahead to prosecute, by the DPP in Gaborone his initial case was delayed by several a factors and the complex nature of his investigations.
He said it is unfortunate to meet the same suspect in court for s similar matter as he had just been given permission from Gaborone to proceed with his case recently and was about to contact him. He said while he would not like to paint the suspect in a bad light, his investigations have revealed that he is a man known for his love of speed.
Taking the stand in open court, the suspect pleaded with the magistrate to grant him bail to consult his parents and seek for a legal advisor as well as meet with his employers. The magistrates reminded him of the seriousness of the offence, his pending case and denied him bail as the police had earlier indicated that the matter is still fresh and would require the services of accident re-constructionists and that he may interfere with investigations.
The police also pleaded with the court to remand him in custody for a while to allow the community to cool off and to protect him from possible vengeance by the victims family and community members. They also said that they were worried about the condition of the fourth child still hospitalised who is in a vegetative state, the prosecutor said that they may have to add another count should the child’s health deteriorate dismally.
In an interview with this publication, Letlhakane Police Station Commander, Michael Maphephu revealed that the suspect was apprehended through the help of community members after he sent his younger brother to take his car to a local panel beater in an attempt to conceal evidence of the accident.
He said community members who saw him at the accident scene where he is said to have stopped for a moment to look at the horrific scene before speeding off helped in identifying him. He said that the three dead students, two girls and their brother aged between seven and twelve years will be laid to rest this weekend, at their home village in Tswapong.
Speaking to the suspect in an interview outside court, he said that he did not mean to conceal the accident but thought that he had hit a dog or some other stray animal. He said he was very sorry that lives were lost as he is currently taking care of his eight months year old child.
He said he was a mechanic and also a student, seconded by his employer Eqstra Holdings which is currently carrying out open cast mining at Boteti Karowe mine. He said he was seconded to a mining institute in South Africa and stands to lose out on this academic development opportunity.
In an interview outside court Constable Serumola Aaron said that in Botswana, the possible sentence in the case of a person who causes the death of another person by dangerous driving is a fine not exceeding P30, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, or both.
He also said leaving the scene would also carry a sentence and that the judge might also consider suspending the accused driving license. A memorial service was held for the three students at their former School Letlhakane Primary School on Wednesday evening, various churches in the village have also planned prayer services in memory of the departed siblings and their family and a candle light service this Sunday. The suspects will appear again in court on September 15th.
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.”
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.
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.”