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Job losses loom large

Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) intends to retrench, CEO Jacob Raleru

The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has informed President Lt Gen Ian Khama that 55 companies have submitted notifications of intent to restructure which might lead to retrenchment of employees during the next quarter, as required by the Employment Act.

This comes in the wake of further job losses reported by other companies including Kgalagadi Breweries this month. KBL retrenched 88 employees at its Lobatse plant.  Information on possible retrenchments surfaced at President Khama’s briefing by the Ministry last week.

According to Pearl Matome, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, fourteen companies retrenched a total of 297 employees between March and June 2015. The sector that has had the highest number of retrenched employees is the diamond polishing industry. Zebra Diamond and Leo Schechter Botswana retrenched a total of 82 employees between them.

Notifications of intentions to restructure and retrench came from companies including – Botswana Power Corporation (BPC); Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC); Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB); Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC); Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF); and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), among others.

Matome has also revealed that the Employers’ Organisations Act is being reviewed with particular attention to dismissal process of non performing employees as there is an impression by employers that the process is long and therefore compromises productivity. She pointed out that the current laws were inherited from the pre-independence era and seem to be undermining productivity.

BPC going through transformation

A decision by the Botswana Power Corporation is currently subject to a Management Contract for a period of three years to enable the Corporation to achieve performance turnaround and organisational transformation.

This is said to have influenced the decision to restructure.

The decision was taken pursuant to a Business Operations Review consultancy that was carried out on BPC by an energy consultancy firm based in Ireland, ESB International Limited in 2013.

 A change process for BPC is envisaged that was largely brought about by the Corporation’s transformation from a retailer of power to an electricity generator with a higher asset base due to increased generation and transmission infrastructure.

“It is imperative that BPC be transformed from its current operating status to a financially viable power utility and  a BPC 2018 end state strategy has been developed to achieve this,” read an earlier statement by the BPC.

This is seen as an opportune time for the project given the following developments in the Botswana electricity industry; The external expertise will assist BPC to ready itself for competition in the electricity industry in line with Government’s decision to open up the market to independent power producers; With the imminent setting up of an electricity regulator, BPC will also be assisted to prepare itself to operate within a regulated environment.

The Management Contract service provider took over the operations of Botswana Power Corporation for a three year period to facilitate the transformation. The management and staff of BPC are participating in the transformation process with a view to leading the transformed organisation at the end of the contract period. It is expected that at the end of the three year Management Contract the service provider will deliver a transformed BPC in line with the agreed performance indicators.

DTC Botswana goes for efficiency

Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTC Botswana) is a 50/50 Joint Venture partnership between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers. DTC Botswana sorts and values Debswana Diamond Company’s rough diamond production.

Debswana Diamond Company (Pty) Ltd is a 50/50 Joint Venture partnership between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers. DTCB could be embarking on a restructuring process because of market pressures and the need to optimise its operations.

BITC wants a lean organisation

BITC is mandated to promote export led investment and seek export markets for Botswana products. The parastatal has been operating amidst a still, subdued global economy that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

However, despite the economic gloom, BITC believes that Botswana remains an attractive destination for investment not only in terms of the growing size of an increasingly affluent consumer base, but also taking into account the returns that investors have been able to achieve in Africa over the years.

BITC has a complex organisational structure, its possible re-organisation may phase out some positions, and there is little suggestion that there will be new posts created. Sources say the BITC may be looking at making the organisation leaner while still executing its mandate efficiently.   
DPSM may phase out posts

Government’s employing organ, the Directorate of Public Service Management has also notified the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs of its intentions to restructure which may lead to retrenchments. This is despite the fact that government currently has over 10 000 vacancies.

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning has on a number of occasions indicated that government is going leaner and was looking at lowering the wage bill. There is generally a freeze of recruitment within government and most government departments are working towards having streamlined organisational structures. DPSM is likely to lead the way in trimming down staff numbers.

BHC has notified Government  

“The signs of recovery from the global financial crisis are creeping in at a slow pace and Botswana is not an exception. The local GDP is expected to grow by 5.9% during 2014. The growth is driven by the recovery in the mining sector, especially diamonds. The contribution of mining to GDP is still much less than the pre-2008 levels. This slow recovery has had a negative impact on the Botswana Housing Corporation as Government scaled down on new construction projects, leading to low activity in the construction and infrastructure sector. The prospective BHC customers were also affected as they struggled to afford the houses. In some cases, prospective customers prioritised other basic necessities like food and clothing over home ownership. It is evident that the BHC customers have not benefited from the low interest rates currently prevailing in the market due to issues of affordability of our houses,” wrote BHC chairperson in her report in the BHC 2014 annual report.

BHC as a parastatal is not doing badly. Their balance sheet looks healthy despite reduced economic activity which is acknowledged by the chairperson. It is evident that they may be going through a phase where they need to realign their workforce and slot them into a new structure that will promote efficiency. Observers are not expecting a full scale retrenchment but rather restructuring.
Government Austerity program  

When a government tightens its belt in tough economic times the entire nation feels the squeeze. With less money to pay for the full spectrum of government services because of declining tax revenues and increasing debt, deep cuts in expenditures would seem inevitable. Minister Kenneth Matambo has already alluded to the fact that government will have to make cuts in spending. He was emphatic on the need to reduce the government workforce among other things.  

At its simplest, an austerity program, usually enacted by legislation, may include one or more of the following:

A cut, or a freeze without raises, of government salaries and benefits.

A freeze on government hiring and layoffs of government workers.

A reduction or elimination of government services, temporarily or permanently.

Government expenditures may cut. Previously planned government spending programs – infrastructure construction and repair, healthcare and veterans' benefits, for example – may be cut, suspended or abandoned.

An increase in taxes, including income, corporate, property, sales and capital gains taxes.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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