Over the years, Africa has been moving slowly towards democracy both in government and politics. Southern Africa has been a leader, holding elections and replacing presidents in an orderly manner that was mostly violence free. Zambia, Malawi and Namibia did it successfully.
But democracy has always eluded Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous state with over 186 million people.
However, democratic elections held in that country over the weekend saw Nigeria score a historic first – that of an elected president being replaced by yet another elected president.
Nigeria, notorious for military coups in the past, fooled the world and managed to stage not only democratic elections but generally peaceful ones with the defeated president courteously calling the incoming president to concede defeat while at the same time urging his supporters to accept the results and assist the incoming government in any way possible.
The world’s fears are rooted in the past political behaviour of Nigeria when military generals took turns to stage one coup d'état after another.
It is precisely because of that track record that the world did not believe Nigeria and the sincerity to hold democratic elections and, if they did, would witness post-election violence. But all went well.
Muhammadu Buhari, a former Major General in the Nigerian Army, overthrew a civilian government led by Shehu Shagari in December 1983. His reign was, however brief because after about 20 months, he too was overthrown by Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985.
His dictatorship was notorious for what became known as “war on discipline” and saw, for example, soldiers whipping people at bus stops for not standing in a bus queue in an orderly manner. His rule was accused of severe human rights violations.
So, the 72-year-old former military strongman, who has declared that he, is now a born again democrat, takes over the reins of power at the end of May.
Buhari managed to convince Nigerian voters that he is a reformed man who respects civil liberties. He campaigned on promises to deal with the deteriorating security situation in the northern part of the country and also promised to deal with corruption.
In a country plagued by corruption, insurgency and economic melancholy, critics argue that Buhari’s austerity could just be what Nigeria urgently needs. That he is a reformed dictator remains to be seen.
Sceptics can altogether be forgiven for not trusting the self-professed born again democrat. Déjà vu attacks those old enough to remember the dark days of Buhari’s reign. His insipid human rights track record, like a bad dream, will always come back to haunt him and the rest of the country.
He has a lot of work to do in bringing Nigeria on the right track while at the same time he convinces his fellow Nigerians and the world that he is a changed man.
His war on discipline campaign rubbed many human rights groups the wrong way. During this reign, says Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, the war against indiscipline was taken to sadistic levels, glorifying the humiliation of a lot of citizens.
Indeed, his rule saw at least 500 politicians, officials and businessmen imprisoned during a campaign against corruption and waste. Critics of the regime, including musician Fela Kuti, were also jailed. Buhari’s laws never allowed for trial but indefinite detention.
Other dire lows of his tenure include his imposing of a decree to restrict press freedom, under which journalists were imprisoned.
The controversial leader is also remembered for sending his army men to the streets to enforce discipline. Soldiers with whips would enforce traffic regulations, and civil servants were subjected to frog jumps for arriving late at work.
Also, during his pursuit of discipline, tens of thousands of immigrants from other West African countries were expelled.
Fast forward to 2015, three decades down the line, questions about the dictator now turned democrat echo now, more than ever.
Not only Nigeria but the world is holding its breath because Nigeria cannot go back to those old days. Nigeria cannot afford to be wrecked by any form of instability.
For many Nigerians, though, there is greater consolation: his military background might go a long way in restoring the nation’s security issues, especially against the Boko Haram Islamists, who have terrorized northern Nigeria for more than a decade now.
“Before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time,” Buhari was quoted as saying in earlier media reports.
He worked hard to allay fears over his past.
He added: "It's a question of security. Whether I was a former military officer or a politician through and through, when there is insecurity of this scale in the country, that takes the priority."
In February, he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour: “The misappropriation of resources provided by the government for weapons means the Nigerian military is unable to beat Boko Haram." he told.
While Islamist insurgency could have led to the whole nation placing its hope in the self-styled born-again democrat, it remains to be seen how he progresses.
It is worth the wait as yet another former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo has practically made himself available to Buhari saying in a congratulatory letter that he was ready to assist.
There are, indeed, a lot of expectations to manage for the president-elect.
Buhari has walked into a failing economy, with dropping oil prices, economic stagnation amid tales of corruption and misappropriation of resources.
There is no doubt that a new page has been turned by the people of Nigeria, and one can only imagine their hopes and expectations for their new president, for their country and for their region.
The economy, Boko Haram, corruption, declining oil revenue and many other issues need attention.
So it is not going to be all fun and games for the 72-year-old president-elect.
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.”