He now pushes his party agenda and his business consortiums
After being defeated in the 2014 general elections by the Umbrella for Democartic Change (UDC) candidate, Dr Phenyo Butale in the race for Gaborone Central constituency, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) president, Dumelang Saleshando is quickly adjusting to life outside Parliament. He tells WeekendPost Staffer, TEFO PHEAGE that he has more time to deal with party issues, dedicated reasonable time to his family and ofcourse, his business interests.
Saleshando is adamant that his party, has been at the forefront of opposition cooperation and still finds it laughable that there are voices accusing the BCP of shunning opposition cooperation. In fact he warns Umbrella Party model supporters that the widely held view that a combination of BCP and the UDC will automatically usher a new government could turn out to be a falacy in politics.
In an hour long interview this week, the BCP leader took time to explain his party’s position on opposition cooperation and his personal relations with proponents of the Umbrella model and his personality in politics. Saleshando is of the view that from the last elections, for every five people who voted for the opposition, two cast a vote for the BCP. “We are very much a factor in the country’s politics especially opposition politics, rule us out at your own peril,” he says. Saleshando says they will not be bullied into submitting to the Umbrella. He says they are strengthening their organisation, because in the case of a negotiation, they must bring a solid proposal to the table.
The BCP leader agrees that there are two options, the BCP and the UDC participating in elections as one entity or each party msinding its own business and a natural process will take place to make one of the parties irrelevant. He strongly believes the BCP has solid policies that people can identify with, hence their persistant resistance to a total close shop of their movement.
On discussing the Umbrella politics, the BCP leader is of the view that there will always be two sides to any argument. “Such a topic will obviously divide people, both within the UDC and the BCP as you would have realised. Movements that always make unanimous decisions without any divergence are to me dead movements,” he explains. According to Saleshando the BCP has cadres who are willing to deliberate on the subject of the Umbrella and he is confident that it will be put to rest this year after the party conference and elective congress.
The BCP leader stresses that one biggest mistake Umbrella model supporters make is that they automatically assume that the BCP joining the umbrella will translate to automatic state power. That according to him is a simplistic and rudimentary view of politics.
“Look here, one plus one is not necesarily two in politics. While we are mindful to the fact that we will have large numbers as a result, we must also be mindful of the fact that we will also lose some who are not for the model. Their frustrations may mean a lot of things, joining the BDP, forming own parties, abstaining and so forth. A typical example is where we cooperated with other opposition parties, especially the Botswana National Front (BNF) during Bye elections where our numbers combined were more than thpose of the BDP but we went on to lose to the BDP despite merging efforts,” he said.
The BCP is going foe an elective congress in July and some say it is the most challenging the party has ever convened, Saleshando doesn’t necesarily agree as he posits that ‘at the end of the day the party decides and when the party decides no man can say no’. But what is the role of a leader in a congress confronted by such issues? “A leader should guide, provide foresight and pave the way. You are the only one who is given a full hour to speak. My view is that I should do what I have to do and the members should decide for or against the Umbrella,” responds Saleshando.
The BCP leader leader says he has been accused of not using his executive powers in the past, but adds that internal party democracy is at the core of the existence of the BCP as a party. “I will not lower the party standards to accomodate anyone, I will not be tempted to make uniliteral decisions and divide the party as I often see with other parties,” he said.
Saleshando agrees that the party did not perform well, “against our target yes. But we must understand that every five voters who voted for the opposition, two voted for the BCP. These numbers matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. I pride myself from the fact that we are the only party whose message was clearly heard and understood by the electorates. But the escalated propaganda and lies which I admit we took lightly worked against us. We have a durable message,” he says.
He charges that his aim has always been to build a party that deals with core issues beyond fashion statements. Saleshando does not expect Batswana to give the opposition mandate just because it has announced a BCP and UDC merger or cooperation. He says there are other variables that will determine the 2019 outcomes, including what the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) does between now and 2015.
SMEAR CAMPAIGN WORRIES SALESHANDO In the run up to the 2014 general elections, Saleshando and his family were a target of ferocious attacks linking them to doing businesses with BDP kingpins. Saleshando at some point was accused, throcugh his wife, of trying to own a banck together with BDP members, while his father was castigated for being a shareholder in Wilderness Safaris, a company associated with President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his close associates. Although the BCP and Saleshando failed to deal with the smear at the relevant time, he is adamant that “i was always aware that lies have short legs and it is evident to many that it was all hogwash.”
He explained that his father bought shares in Wilderness Safaris through the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) like any other Motswana will do, probably, the company’s prospectus informed may dad, he said. He said Wilderness Safaris is no different from the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) where Batswana are encouraged to buy shares as soon as the company is ready.
“Do you want to tell me these guys are going to tell their members not to buy BTCL shares just because some BDP people bought shares there, this is ridiculous and misleading to the nation. We should encourage Batswana to buy shares in this companies. My dad is not a director or anyhting in Wilderness, whatever he owns is not even worth half a percent of the company’s worth,” he says.
The BCP leader says he will not even honour the bank license ‘nonsense’ with a response, because it is a non-event. Saleshando admits that these are some of the reports that dented his party’s performances, especially among middle class voters.
On his personal businesses, Saleshando says: “I belong to some cosortiums with old friends and none of them is BDP or belongs to any political party. We normally make bids for property that is being sold and our company is doing very well. At the moment I am looking for additional investments, more so that I am not in Parliament anymore” he said. He adds that he is also currently focusing on his family to compensate for the lost time when he was a legislator. Saleshando is not apologetic about his business ventures and interests because they are all “clean and responsible”.
Asked about his first impression about the the first sitting of parliament, he says it is still early days but his greatest wish is that the opposition should not be misled into thinking that quantity will ever surpass quality.
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.”