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Pastors develop cold feet on challenging new law

Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu

An assemblage of enraged pastors who had earlier this year vowed to approach the High court to challenge the constitutionality of the Societies Amendment Bill after the president Lt. Gen. Ian Khama signed it into substantive law have now developed cold feet on the matter.

WeekendPost has established that the pastors, who had already roped-in a constitutional lawyer Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole and Company, are said to be not forthcoming and are fostering the theory that they might have abandoned the impending court case.

Previously the ‘men of God’ strongly opposed the bill and maintained that should Khama sign the bill, they would immediately encounter the law by moving an application before the courts to challenge it.

It is understood that the pastors have since kept a low profile and not followed on their vow, although due to unclear circumstances. The clergymen have remained anonymous for fear of being victimized by the government or whoever. When asked on the matter, the attorney representing the pastors, Motswagole confirmed to this publication that it’s indeed true that the priests had “grown cold feet” but it’s unclear why so.

Information reaching this publication suggests that President Khama has already assented to the bill and it’s now substantive law. This comes after the bill, clouded with controversy whereby legislator for Francistown West Ignatious Moswaane broke his sunglasses to illustrate protest against the proposed law while another representing Sefhare Ramokgonami Dorcas Makgato threatened to strip naked if the law did not pass, was debated extensively by parliament. The bill has however been passed by the National Assembly.

“Now since the bill has gone through all the structures and procedures in place, it has been gazetted and the president has also signed it to become substantive law,” a source at the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs (MLHA) under the Department of Civil and National Registration confirmed to WeekendPost this week.

Previously, the Societies Act prescribed the minimum number of persons for the formation and registration of a society at ten (10). As it stands, the number of persons required in the enacted law for registering a society under the bill has thus been upstretched from 10 to 20, and that of religious organisations from 10 to a whopping 250.

The number 250, together with a few other sections is said to be at odds with the church ministers and their sympathisers. They insist that it impedes and breaches on the fundamental freedom of religion and is therefore unconstitutional.

This publication has it on good authority that the new law will be operationalized next month – on September 1 – to be precise. It is understood that the Ministry is currently reviewing regulations.

“We are currently discussing the Act first with stakeholders before we operationalize it, as you know, the law is debated by parliament, then it adopts it, and the president signs it and later it is gazetted for two consecutive times and further consultations are made and then Act is implemented.”

According to the Ministry official under the department, this week they met with various stakeholders from different Societies affected by the new Act including churches to consult them further through workshops subsequent to the Act approval by parliament and assenting by President Khama.

Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu had, when presenting the bill to parliament, said that “the amendment was necessitated by ‘mushrooming’ of churches, particularly under foreign leadership who appeared to be ‘economic missionaries’ attracted by the economic status of this country.”

According to Batshu, there was also a concern with regard to splinter churches that emerged due to struggles for leadership positions and control of church assets as well as finances.

Meanwhile it is understood that Minister Batshu’s locus – and by extension the new law – has not gone down well with the some church movements such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) which publicly denounced the law as a ‘not-so-good’ law. The umbrella body of Pentecostal and evangelical or ‘fire churches’ is seen as widely targeted by the law.

According to EFB president, Master Matlhaope, they opposed not the law in its entirety but some of the sections in the new law like the one which raises the threshold number of 250 from the previous 10 to register a church.

“It will stop even genuine churches to register,” he pointed out. “We felt 250 was too high to register a church, and it will encourage unlawful operations. To raise that 250, you mobilise people and you may end up assembling illegally. We had requested the government to re-look at this area, but they did not.”

Matlhaope also highlighted that there was need for a religious advisory council which will educate, empower and therefore mitigate the impact as far as mushrooming of churches is concerned. Right now, he said there is lack of strong regulatory mechanism.

He insisted that the law needed thorough minds to be applied and not emotions. Although the EFB president condemned those churches and men of God lacking integrity and those commercializing the churches, he asserted that in the end he stands for freedom of worship.

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FaR property assets value clock P1.47 billion

6th December 2023

FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.

FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.

One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.

The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.

Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.

In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.

FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.

The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.









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BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

4th December 2023

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.

The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.

Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.

The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.

Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.

Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.

In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.

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UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet  

4th December 2023

It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.

The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.

The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.

One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.

The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.

Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.

The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.

In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.

The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.





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