Matlhabaphiri takes on Ntuane in the BDP SG race; VP Masisi not off the hook yet, he is still being lobbied; Kabo Morwaeng joins race for deputy secretary general
Democracy is expected to be at full play at the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) July congress to be held in Mmadinare. With already a flurry of contestants for the position of chairman in the central committee, more candidates are expected to announce their candidature for various positions in the 2015 central committee.
Many observers within the party believe that the spirit of democracy and freewill that was experienced at the Women’s Wing congress in Lobatse pushed a few off the fences and they have now taken positions. Dorcas Makgato recorded a resounding victory against Tshepo Wareus in Lobatse earning 317 votes compared to 186 votes. Makgato’s camp chanted celebratory songs reminiscent of the BDP of old. Makgato’s victory has earned her a place in the BDP’s politburo.
A recent twist in the contest for BDP central committee positions is the reported interest of former cabinet minister, Gaotlhaetse ‘GUS’ Matlhabaphiri to stand for the position of secretary general of the ruling party in July.
Matlhabaphiri’s eminent declaration comes in the wake of earlier pronouncements that former Gaborone Bonninton South Member of Parliament, Botsalo Ntuane could be unopposed for the same position in July.
Matlhabaphiri is said to have finally agreed with those who have been lobbying him to challenge for the position so that he takes the baton from Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general. Those who lobbied Matlhabaphiri are of the view that Ntuane could serve better as a running to the former.
They want him to be more administrative and execute his writing prowess at the office while Matlhabaphiri does the dirty work of resuscitating party structures and other related grass roots work. They want to rather position Ntuane for 2017.
Days before Ntuane declared his intentions as far as the position of secretary general is concerned, Matlhabaphiri was approached by the same lobby group and he declined their invitation, but it appears they have convinced him this time around. Sources who spoke to WeekendPost indicate that Matlhabaphiri has been assured that he has the support of the party hierarchy.
Meanwhile, BDP’s on and off prodigal son, Kabo Morwaeng is said to have shown interest in the position of deputy secretary general. Should he make a declaration as expected, he will be inviting a challenge from former Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) chairman, Metlha Mokwena who has long declared his interest.
Those who are lobbying Morwaeng indicate that he is a hard worker and he knows how to mobilise. During his calm days, Moraweng was renowned for his easy links with the grassroots hence those who approached him believe that he still has it. His phone rang repeatedly without being answered when efforts were made to contact him.
BDP CHAIRMAN HOT POTATO
So far, there are five candidates who want to become BDP chairman. This week there was a meeting that attempted to push Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to the fray. BDP lobbyists still believe that Masisi should become the next chairman of the BDP so that he prepares himself for presidency by acclimatising with party structures.
They believe that the Vice President should build into the hearts of party members and that exercise can start with party members actually casting a vote for him at the congress.
According to his supporters it will be too late for him to start endearing himself with the party faithful in 2017, the date of the next congress. Initially, the Vice President was not keen on contesting and it is not clear if he will change his mind before the end of this month.
Those who are against his candidature posit that there is too much blood on the floor and should he join he will come out tainted or could perform badly and hence dent his presidential bid. However, there are those who theorise that should he contest some candidates would pull out in his honour.
Already five candidates vying for BDP chairmanship have confirmed that the party needs renewal and the time is ripe for a serious makeup. Former Minister of Defence Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse was in Lobatse to market his strategy of reviving BDP fortunes. He intends to become BDP chairman in July.
Biggie Butale made use of the BDP Women’s Wing congress to sell his reformist approach to the BDP ailments. He has promised fresh ideas and fresh leadership.
Dithapelo Tshotego did not want to be left out; he spent the entire weekend at the Women’s Wing congress to convince party members that he is the right man for the job. He is adamant that he has graduated from the days of the Youth Wing and he appreciates the party well.
Former diplomat, Tebelelo Seretse also made use of the Women’s Wing Congress to solidify her campaign. She was the first person to declare her candidature for chairman and she has covered a lot of ground in her campaign.
Reports also indicate that businessman Moemedi Dijeng also has solutions for BDP problems and he wants party members to vote him chairman in July. There is also a new entrant to the race of chairman, a youth member from Serowe, Mr Motalaote was seen organising groups of people to lobby them in Lobatse at the BDP Women’s Wing congress.
It is very likely that there will be twists and turns in the race for BDP central committee positions until the day of elections in July.
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.”