BOTSWANA PRISONS COMMISSIONER: Silas Motlalekgosi has added a star to his badge
The Botswana Prisons Service Commissioner, Silas Motlalekgosi has stirred controversy in the disciplined forces after introducing a star on his barge of rank, a decision that seems to have rubbed the Botswana Police Service the wrong way.
The Police view the decision as an ambitious exercise by the Prisons Chief to appear to be at par with the Police Chief in terms of seniority and power.
Weekendpost can reveal that the gigantic Commissioner recently introduced a star on his badge of rank,allegedly to hike his standing and honorability.
Motlalekgosi, a man described as so obsessed with power has reportedly been haunted by the disparities between the disciplined forces. His view and concern is that the three should be treated equally,a thing he believes is not not only happening but far from happening.
We sought a clarification from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security Segakweng Tsiane who said she would not know about issues of badges as they are departmental. She refered this publication to the Commissioner of Prisons for answers.
According to the Prisons Act, the Commissioner has sweeping powers over badges of rank. “Unless the Commissioner otherwise directs, a prison officer on duty shall wear the approapriate badges of rank prescribed in the Fouth Schedule,” it reads.
The Act stipulates that the Commissioner’s Badge is made up of ‘a crest over crest sorrounded by laurel wreth,a collar gorgettes with silver oak leaf spray and a double silver oak leaf spray on peak of cap.’ The Prisons Commissioner’s controversial move to up his standing by an indian star has angered the police service and has been a matter of discussion within the police service high powererd plartfoms and meetings, this publication has learnt.
The Police posit that the decision by the Prisons Commander is not only ill–adviced but over ambitious and notorious. They are of the view that the decision was undoutedly calculated not only to match the Police Commissioner but to also potray the two as equal in honour and standing.
Asked about the star in their Commissioner ‘s badge of rank, the Spokesperson of the Police Service, Christopher Mbulawa said, “a star was introduced during former Commissioner Norman Moleboge’s times.” He declined to discuss the specifics and significance of the items on the badge questioning this reporter’s motives.He later refered this reporter to his juniors.
The Police Commissioner’s badge of rank is made of Crossed tith staves rounded by a wreath,a star and a national amblem above while that of a BDF Commander is made of a Knife,national emblem and a stick of honour.
We Spoke to the former Commissioner of Police, Moleboge on this development and history.
“When a star was introduced it was a symbol of honour and respect.Back then we had what we called bars on the badge and we thought they didn’t communicate anything at that time hence our decision to develop the badge,” he said.
Asked over the differences between the Prisons Service and Police badges for rank of Commissioners, Moleboge replied that “they never looked the same and did not come close to each other as far as I am concerned,” he said.
He however remarked that issues of power and seniority between the Police and the Prisons services together with the Botswana Defence Force have always been there and that they will not end now until the rulers declare who is above the other.
“We mostly relied on the structures of payments to determine who is senior,” he said.The BDF Commander earns more than the Police Commissioner who earns more than the Prisons Commissioner.
Moleboge however says this has got its own complexities and can often mislead as there are other senior officials like Permanent Secretaries and those at the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes who earn more than the said Commissioners.
Moleboge ‘s counterpart who is the former Prisons Commissioner,Herman Kau declined to comment demanding to know where this reporter obtained his mobile number.He declared the conversation an exercise in futility when the reporter expressed discomfort with divulging where he obtained the number.
“ When we parted we agreed that my number will not be a public matter and will only be released by certain individuals under some circumstances,” he said.
But who is really senior?
The Police in the Neighbouring South Africa earn more that the army but Botswana has got her own discrepancies and overlaps between the police and the army.The Prisons officers are trailing at the far end.
Locally, the Police argue that Prisons officers are just the guards who look after the criminals once convicted through the police’s work. Army oficers are often ridiculed because there really is never conflict or wars that would require their service.
A senior Police officer outlined their responsibility to us saying they are senior and deserve respect. “Our responsibilities define us and set us apart.We deal with a lot of paperwork,we hunt,we arrest,we investigate,we enforce the law,we got to the courts and so fourth.None of these two come close to this,” he charged.
Prisons officers however argue that all should be judged according to the execution of their mandate and nothing else. “We are the guardians and stay with prisoners for the most part of their lives,we look after them,we rehabilitate and perfom other duties like going to the courts amongst others,” said a source.
Conditions of Service and Welfare
Life has not been easy for Prisons officers. It is understood that the recruits have recently been training using their own clothes after they were told that there is no uniform.
This doesn’t only end with recruits, officers argue that during winter they are seen with only one jersey while their counterparts from BDF and Police wear various sweaters and different jackets of different makes, for various weather conditions.
The Prisons Act stipulates that Officers should wear a Khakhi suit with long sleeves in winter.The officers argue that they have given up on salary structure amendments as the government seems to be biased in favour of the BDF and the Police.
Asked over why the Prisons officers are subjected to the harsh treatment, particularly in winter, the Permanent Secretary, Tsiang fell shot of blaming the Prisons department.
“No, if there is a problem then it has to be departmental. They determine their uniform so for them to blame us is unfortunate,” she said.
This was reinterated by Moleboge who said that “uniform is a departmental issue but often heavily relies on one ‘s budget”.
The Police also argue that they are the victims of the yawning gaps between their salary structures with those who are above them either by a step or two.The Prisons Commissioner could not comment as he said he was in a long meeting at the time of going to press.
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.”