Chaos that erupted during the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) meeting this past week have cast doubt on the much touted African unity, further undermining the viability of the institution’s (PAP) future as colonial legacy looms large.
Member States are haunted by their colonial legacy, with the past becoming a stumbling block to meaningful progress as far as cooperation is concerned.
While PAP does not wield significant power over Member States in terms of its resolutions, its leadership is highly sought-after by the Francophone countries such that they are not willing to let it pass to other regions.
Following this week’s episode of PAP discussions in South Africa, Botswana has indicated that it is in full support of the African Union’s (AU) decision to suspend for a month all activities of the Parliament to create conducive conditions for peaceful, free and regular electoral processes aiming at renewal of its leadership.
The Clerk of PAP, Vipya Harawa, after the events on Wednesday, suspended the 4thsession of the fifth African Union Parliament meeting. This followed advice from the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Moussa Faki Mahamat through a letter dated 01 June 2021.
The suspension of PAP proceedings followed disagreements punctuated by disruptions that transpired during the procession of the plenary on 31st May and 1st June as PAP was looking to elect the President and Vice Presidents of its bureau.
In response to the mayhem, Chairperson of the AUC noted: “I have been following the last evolution of electoral process of the Pan African Parliament, it doesn’t go well. The current process sends a very negative image of the Parliament and subsequently of the entire African Union”.
Moussa recommended (to the PAP Clerk) that the activities of the parliament be suspended for a month to create conducive conditions for peaceful, free and regular electoral process aiming at renewal of its leadership.
From the discussions of PAP members it was evident that the bone of contention was who should be the Chairperson, with the bloc from Southern Africa insisting it should be awarded the baton to honour the framework of leadership rotation.
Other regions insisted on voting. For a long time, the leadership of PAP has been dominated by other blocs, especially from the francophone nations who have more numbers in the assembly. The rotational framework is meant to deal with the equity question because by relying on the democracy thumb rule of voting, English speaking African nations will find difficult to lead PAP.
Speaker of the South African National Assembly, Thandi Modise was one of those who were adamant that PAP should follow rotational leadership framework.
Botswana’s delegation at the meeting in Midrand, South Africa. Botswana was led by Jwaneng-Mabutsane legislator, Mephato Reatile. He was however not available for comment on the latest turmoil. Reatile was accompanied by Simon Mavhange, Friction Leuwe and Balete Paramount Chief, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko.
Reatile also affirmed Botswana’s position. He said it is the principle of the AU for the leadership of PAP to be held on rotational basis. “The decision to rotate leadership in all AU organs was taken in 2017. As a member of AU, we agree and abide by this resolution.” Reatile noted that Botswana as a small nation with no numbers nor influence abides by this resolution because it gives its citizens a chance to lead organs such as PAP, NEPAD and others. Meanwhile he said the suspension was the right call because tempers were flaring and things were likely to escalate out of control.
He also indicated that SADC also adopted a similar position and as Botswana representatives they are bound to support it.
When asked to comment on what had transpired at the meeting, a member of Botswana’s PAP, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang who nonetheless did not attend the meeting had his views.
“I totally support the action of the Southern region caucus to insist on the principle of rotation. PAP must be inclusive in its rules and procedures,” said Gobotswang who is yet to be sworn in.
Initially the government suspended external travels by public officers including MPs which meant that Botswana MPs were likely to miss the meeting.
“However, upon realizing the absence of Botswana MPs when Zimbabwe was contesting for the position of President will backfire on the Magosi campaign, government through parliament somersaulted and pushed for attendance of MPs,” said Dr Gobotswang.
He indicated that he decided not to travel to Midrand to attend the meeting because his health comes first and wants to lead by example before the nation.
The Pan-African Parliament (PAP), also known as the African Parliament, is the legislative body of the African Union and held its inaugural session in March 2004.
The PAP exercises oversight, and has advisory and consultative powers, lasting for the first five years. Initially the seat of the Pan-African Parliament was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but it was later moved to South Africa.
Its objective is to implement the policies and objectives of the African Union, cultivate human rights and democracy in Africa, and make sure Member States adhere to good governance, transparency and accountability.
Additionally, PAP is meant to let the peoples of Africa know what the objectives and policies of the African Union are so that they might be able to integrate themselves continentally while still working within the framework of the AU and further to engender peace, security and stability on the continent.
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.”