Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha is not happy with the treatment she got from President Lt Gen Ian Khama ahead of Parliament’s election of Speaker, a position she lost to Gladys Kokorwe on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Press conference at Gaborone sun hotel in the capital city on Thursday morning, Nasha who lost the Speaker race to Gladys Kokorwe the previous day, testified that the ruling party members of Parliament were held at ransom and left with no option but to vote for the President’s desired candidate.
“Their actions at least to me were a clear indication of the insignificant length and breaths that the BDP leadership will go, to hold democratically elected Members of Parliament (MP) at ransom. This ladies and gentlemen is a red flag. Make no mistake about it. I am very much aware that the BDP MPs who had previously vouched to support my candidacy found themselves in a very difficult situation,” Nasha pointed out.
President Ian Khama Seretse Khama, who was sworn in for his second term in office a fortnight ago, is alleged to have this week held the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members of Parliament at ransom and demanded that they vote for his choice of Speaker or he calls for fresh elections.
The MPs who are mostly new comers to the house and have won the October 24th general elections with very slim margins could therefore not risk a re-run and allegedly had to do what was demanded from them. “I was thoroughly disappointed to learn that my party the BDP went to extreme measures to undermine the merits of a secret ballot by intimidating and whipping their members of Parliament into submission, to vote in a prescribed manner,” Nasha pointed out.
Khama is said to have made the move, after he lost a court case in which his party and the Attorney general attempted to manipulate the standing orders. According to Nasha, the BDP legal counsel, Collins and Newman sent her a letter on the eve of elections in which she was requested to bend the Parliament standing orders. According to Nasha, the letter threatened a legal suit in case Nasha refused to manipulate the standing orders.
During the eleventh parliament which ended last Month, Nasha advocated for the independence of Parliament and even facilitated the drafting of the bills which sought to reduce the Presidential powers in as far as the control of Parliament is concerned.
The bills which are yet to be tabled seek Parliament to be responsible for recruitment and dismissal of its staff including the clerk and deputy clerk. The bill would further require the clerk to directly report to the Speaker not the President as it is the case to date.
The standing orders which were challenged in court this week were introduced to Parliament last year as part of the process of delivering Parliament from the control and the manipulation of the President and Nasha admits that, were they successful in tabling the bills which were blocked by the Executive towards the closure of the tenth Parliament, her mission in Parliament would have been accomplished.
“We needed to bring bills to Parliament. We have prepared the bills. They are there in the shelves of Parliament and they were to go to the eleventh Parliament. That was the last brick before the roofing was completed,” Nasha pointed out. Her hope is however that some of the backbenchers who were in the previous Parliament would carry on the baton.
“Let it be known that it is the duty of Parliament to hold the Executive to account. And our Parliament should not be an exception to this rule,” Nasha added.
But most MPs who backed Nasha on her quests to make Parliament Independent of the Office of the Presidents were defeated during the general elections and the few that remained have now been absorbed into Cabinet positions which would make it very difficult for them to make a move that could offend the President.
“If the eleventh Parliament changes the standing orders, I would not be there, but it would come as a shock. What bothered me was that decisions taken under my leadership were under threat,” Nasha explained further. Her last hope is that her successor, Gladys Kokorwe who had been a deputy Speaker before would see to it that the spirit of making Parliament totally independent is realised.
“I hope that she will do all that is best for the nation in keeping Parliament free from intimidation and the grasp of the Executive who during the tenth Parliament have shown resentment to the philosophy of the independence of Parliament viewing it as obstructive and interfering with their mandate,” Nasha could only hope.
Meanwhile it appears President Khama still has steep hills to climb as he need to restore public confidence following all this drama. He also faces stronger opposition and resentment from some ousted party grassroots who are currently in Nashal’s camp.
Nasha who joined the BDP in 1979 says she has no intention of contesting for party positions at the next congress but promises to “fixing things” from within.
“As you know when one door closes many other doors open so I am going to new doors. I have many things to do. When I joined the BDP I did so voluntarily and I was not recruited by anybody. I joined the BDP of my own volition in 1979 and there is nothing that would make me desert the party for now. I believe in fixing things from inside. You never know what the future holds,” Nasha maintained.
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.”