ON A WORKING VISIT: SADC Chairman Robert Mugabe was in Botswana for two days this week on a working visit to the SADC headquarters in Gaborone. Mugabe used the platform of a press conference to indicate that there is no bad blood between him and President Lt Gen Ian Khama of Botswana. Mugabe also spoke about the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa, announcing that South Africa needs a second liberation.
The President of Zimbabwe, who is also the Chairperson of Southern African Development Community (SADC), Robert Mugabe has come out hard on Basarwa community accusing them of among other things, resisting integration with neighbouring communities, and rebuffing civilization.
Mugabe remarked at a Press Conference this week at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) that no African government should be blamed for Basarwa‘s slow or no integration into mainstream society. Mugabe’s deep seated reservations about Basarwa were exposed when he was challenged about the usually unfair elections in Zimbabwe.
“I do not know what the Botswana government saw and they are entitled to their opinion. Our minds are different. For instance the Basarwa people in some parts of Botswana don't participate in the general elections, but would you say that the results of the elections mean that they are not free and fair," he charged. Mugabe turned the swords to Basarwa saying Basarwa shun education, integration and developments ‘and no government should be blamed for their underdevelopment.’
Basarwa activist, Roy Sesana and Basarwa youth forum leader, Xukuri Xukuri expressed shock at Mugabe’s onslaught choosing to label Mugabe an old age man who should not be taken seriously.
Sesana said Mugabe was a senile man who has no conscience, heart and thus cannot and should not be taken seriously. He referred to Mugabe as “seganana sese padileng sese tlhogo le pelo tse di omeletseng” (a stubborn man with no conscience).
“Who is he to judge us? The only people he can judge are the Zimbabweans who have unwillingly invaded the African continent as economic refugees as a result of his failure to govern. We are not shunning developments, what we are saying is that let the developments or services come to us as is the case with other communities or citizens,” Sesana said.
His words were echoed by the Basarwa youth forum leader, Xukuri Xukuri who accused Mugabe of misleading people and leaders. He said they have established several organizations to respond to Basarwa challenges. “Such words coming from the leaders of SADC are unfortunate and worrying,” he said.
It was not the first time the controversial Zimbabwean president attacked Basarwa. Speaking at a memorial service for the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who succumbed to cancer in January 2013, Mugabe according to Zimbabwean press, said the Landa John Nkomo High School still had little appeal among the Basarwa who are in Zimbabwe referred to as the San.
“I used to ask John: ‘How are you treating them?’ He would say: ‘They look after my cattle, but we have tried to get them to the culture of going to school and getting more civilised, but some of them continue to resist’,” he said.
“When he formulated the idea of the secondary school, I still asked: ‘Will you have room for the Bushmen?’ He said: ‘Yes, yes, yes of course’.” Mugabe added that the community still liked the “bush and meat more than we do”.
“But last night (Saturday) when I met Jabu (Nkomo’s son), he was telling me that they are facing challenges in getting some children from the Bushmen to attend school. It is still a difficult exercise,” he said.
“He (Jabulani) said the number is four or five. So they still want to just look after cattle and be in the bush. They have a culture which is very resistant to change.” Mugabe said the government had a responsibility of treating the Bushmen equally with other tribes before he cited other countries with the same tribesmen.
“We know in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa they have a similar problem of the Bushmen, but they are trying,” Mugabe said.
“John used to talk much about them. When they are together, they like slaughtering cattle and like meat more than we do and we should make sure we acculturate them.”
The San people, also known as the Bushmen or Basarwa, inhabit remote areas of southern Africa, particularly Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The san in these countries have a Council called the working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) which strives to develop the political voice of the San Africa and member countries.
Together with First People of the Kalahari, WIMSA tries to promote support in Botswana and internationally for the plight of the San, marginalised by the system and the move towards a cash economy. WIMSA Botswana works on issues of land loss, education, representation and human rights and has formed a network of San organisations and groups in Botswana, striving to get even the smallest language groups amongst the San to join this network.
State president, Lt.Gen Ian Khama has blamed Basarwa’s struggles and tussles with the state on the international Human rights organisation, Survival international saying they continue to mislead Basarwa in the name of fighting for their rights.He said there is need for Basarwa to engage with the governement towards their development.
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.”