British’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Nick Pyle
The British High Commission in Gaborone is aiding policy shift regarding lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Botswana.
The commission recently pumped money in support of a policy dialogue by the Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana whose aim was to enhance more debate on influencing perceptions and challenged Botswana’s legislative framework on dealing with lesbians, gays, intersex, bisexual, and the transgendered people.
WeekendPost has established that the parties had been unsettled by the recent Afro-barometer study which indicated that most Batswana disapprove homosexuality. Notwithstanding this, the dialogues come in the wake of a firm stance by Botswana government that prohibits and criminalizes consensual same-sex relationships.
The United States of America (USA) and Britain are well known unreserved advocacy and protection of human rights including homosexuality and prostitution. The advancement of the debate in Botswana by the British High Commission is seen by some observers as falling short of purely advancing the same sex relations.
In an interview with the WeekendPost this week, British’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Nick Pyle stated that the debate has nothing to do with promoting one particular lifestyle over another. “Nor is it about forcing anyone to change their beliefs.
It is about choice and tolerance of difference,” he added. From a human rights point of view, it is simply about protecting the right of all members of society to live their lives free from discrimination and the fear of violence, Pyle emphasized.
He cautioned against believing that talking about homosexuality is a Western agenda. “It is being talked about by all sorts of people in all sorts of places here in Botswana. People from a wide range of different backgrounds were at BONELA’s recent event,” he highlighted. As the trends in the recent Afro-barometer survey suggest, Pyle said, attitudes are changing and the debate is likely to increase in intensity.
“This debate must be grounded on human rights principles. This is not about tradition, culture or religion. I have the utmost respect for all of those. Often they help to build strong societies. But when people put them up as excuses to avoid the debate, that tells us that they don’t fully understand, or don’t want to understand the issue,” he added.
Pyle stressed that there are too many harrowing tales of people who have suffered physical violence or simply been excluded as a result of their sexual orientation, and indeed other personal characteristics or beliefs that society chooses to brand as “different.” “The United Kingdom’s support for human rights is about challenging that. Simply put, it is the belief that no-one should be left behind,” he said.
The UK Commissioner however would not say whether their agenda with BONELA would not likely cause uneasiness especially to the Botswana government which has a strong stance against homosexuality as espoused by its policy documents and some legislative frameworks including the country’s penal code.
Pyle only emphasized that the United Kingdom has made a strong global commitment to supporting human rights for all. “We believe that we will all be safer and better off if we put human rights at the heart of our values,” he said.
“But equally, here – as everywhere else – there is room to advance human rights further. And I believe the way in which the LGBTI community is viewed is one area where Batswana need to have a debate. Indeed, that is something that the Botswana government undertook to consider during a discussion at the Human Rights Council in 2013,” the UK High Commissioner said.
According to the BONELA policy paper, the policy dialogues was meant to promote social justice as a strategy and to advance and promote civil rights entitlements as enshrined in the Botswana constitution to influence policy and increased social protection for the LGBTI community in Botswana.
“The dialogue further seeks to propel a national discourse by facilitating broad societal tolerance that conforms to the natural laws of ‘botho’ and human rights principles which recognizes and provides a conducive environment for all citizens of this country to fully participate in the social, economic and political spheres of life, irrespective of sexual orientation, ethnic origin, gender, gender identity, possessions, race, religion or any other categorization,” it further stated.
British government and BONELA partnership
According to the BONELA Director, Cindy Kelemi, the duo (BONELA and British government) share one thing in common- promoting human rights. She said sexual orientation and gender identity are human rights issues, “It’s about the right to be treated with dignity and not discriminated against, irrespective of your identity, she said.
“The British Commission therefore supported BONELA financially to conduct a policy dialogue to create awareness among policy makers on these issues as a step towards policy and legal reform,” posited Kelemi. She further added that dialogues are principles inherent in our culture, which is why they continue to pursue Botswana government using the same cultural principles with the hope that government will change its stance.
She said they are encouraged by the fact that they have support from a network of other institutions (like UK High Commission) that truly believe in the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of human rights. She highlighted that they will continue engaging government on decriminalization of same sex and sex work. The policy dialogue, she said was one of the many steps in engaging government on policy reform.
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.”