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On Oil and Water


I know this is the time of year when a huge amount of optimism is generally called for.  Everyone has come back to work after the Christmas hols brim full of vim and vigour and keen as mustard to hit the ground running. 

All over town there will be motivational planning meetings with rousing words from line managers and bosses designed to put a stick of metaphorical dynamite under their staff and re-launch the business with a go-getting attitude from the get-go.  It’s the traditional New Year clean sweep and fresh start.

Yet behind all that bottled enthusiasm and ra-ra rabble-rousing there are already worrying signs for the business year to come.  Eskom has welcomed in 2015 with warnings of imminent load-shedding, due they say to the increased drain on supply as schools re-open and businesses gear up to full capacity. 

In reality, of course, it has nothing whatsoever to do with any educational establishment or any commercial enterprise and is due wholly and utterly to the mismanagement of the energy supplier itself which, if it were part of the private sector, would quite simply have gone out of business as being unfit for purpose and wholly unreliable.  

They simply have not made provision to supply South Africa’s electrical energy needs so here in Botswana we can bet our bottom energy dollar that there won’t be enough to meet ours either.  Mark my words, power cuts are imminent this side of the border too and small enterprises without a back-up generator system will suffer from sudden, unannounced downtime.

Then there is the water shortage.  This, of course, is out of the hands of mere mortals but it is another frightening factor.  The Gaborone dam is now officially in a failed state, capacity being less than under five percent which is too low for pumping.  In this instance emergency provision was made in the form of the North-South water carrier and the city is now receiving all its water from feeder dams in the north of the country where rainfall has been plentiful. 

But like the farmer’s wife who puts all her eggs in one basket, this is still a precarious and precipitate situation with all the potential for catastrophic failure.  And it is anyway but a partial solution with severe water restrictions still in place with all the associated knock-on effects that has on water-reliant industries – construction, brewing, bottling etc. – not to mention the small businesses which are also water dependent – car washes, hairdressers and suchlike.  The ability of these large and small enterprises is badly restricted and thus their bottom line will inevitably suffer. 

Not to mention the inescapable fact that when the construction industry is hidebound this also ties up potential growth and development.  Every major new project is effectively put on hold or at the very best the projected turnkey date moves further and further off into the future.

The one positive sign in the continuing fall is the price of oil.  Long-regarded as the failsafe price of fifty US dollars per barrel, the price this week dipped to just over forty six and is still falling. Hence pump prices dropped recently and might be expected to do so again which means cheaper transportation costs for raw materials and finished goods and in theory cheaper wholesale and retail prices across the board. 

I caution ‘in theory’ because in the real world manufacturers and retailers alike have a battery of excuses why prices can’ t be lowered – rising costs of raw materials from  source, rising costs of labour, rising costs of rentals and so on – but it should at least mean they will be hard to justify a current increase.  And at least it means that those of you relying on petrol generators to compensate for power cuts and load-shedding will be paying slightly less for the privilege.

And there are other positive signs for Botswana’s economy also.  A report from ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agencies, in December last year listed Botswana as the No. 2 preferred  emerging destination for British tourists, just behind Austria and just ahead of Cuba. 

So that is assuredly good news for travel and tour operators, hotels and lodges, car hire and air charter companies and a host of other associated businesses.  Though that piece of good news has to  be countered with more depressing news from the United States where African travel bookings has plummeted owing to the Ebola outbreak in parts of West Africa,  Americans being famously feeble in world geography  and ever prone to any health and safety scaremongering.  

So to sum up then I predict that 2015 is going to be an extremely challenging year from a business perspective but that won’t stop us at HRMC holding the obligatory pep meetings, mapping out our new year strategy and setting out our goals, some achievable, some aspirational because as Robert Browning famously said ‘A man’s reach must always exceed his grasp’.  Go get ‘em, team!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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