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Basarwa, Kgosi Tawana fight over land in Okavango Delta

Kgosi Tawana

A legal battle has ensued between Basarwa and Batawana Kgosikgolo, Tawana Moremi following the Tawana Landboard to allocate the latter a piece of land in Moremi Game Reserve inside the Okavango Delta. 

Basarwa, through Khwedom Council, an association that represents and protects the interests and rights of Basarwa, has dragged the Tawana Land Board and Moremi to the Land Tribunal to halt the allocation. They are accusing Kgosi Tawana of an attempt to disinherit them of their Chiefs Island, situated in Moremi Game Reserve inside the Okavango Delta.

According to papers before the Court, the Land Tribunal had handed down a judgement that if Tawana Land Board grants the land applied for to Moremi, it should notify Khwedom Council.

According to an application filed by Rantao Attorneys on behalf of Basarwa, on 11th January 2021, Khwedom Council received a written letter from the Tawana Land Board confirming the Land Board’s decision to reject Khwedom Council’s objection to Moremi’s application for the inheritance of Chief’s Island. The Land Board stated that it dismissed the Khwedom Council’s complaint because “…the reasons that have been brought before the Board lack merit to sustain the objection.”

Khwedom Council then appealed the decision of the Board before the Land Tribunal. According to the association, the first inhabitants and/or owners of the land, properly known as Tsobaoro (now known as Chiefs Island), were not Moremi’s parents and/or other ancestors. The earliest inhabitants of Chiefs Island among Batswana are the San of the Anikhwe group, whom another San group later joined called the Bugakhwe and, after that, the Bayei.

The association said these earlier inhabitants of the land now known as Chiefs Island have ancestors buried there. They were removed and dispossessed in or around 1980.
“Following the establishment of Moremi Game Reserve as it so often happened to indigenous tribes/communities, these inhabitants of the land now known as Chiefs Island were removed from their land and relocated to settlements outside the Game Reserve.

Chiefs Island became part of the game reserve. The association also explains in Court papers how some applicants in the case are descendants of one Mr Gabaitumele, one of the first Bagukhwe inhabitants of Tabaoro, now known as Chiefs Island.

Basarwa tribesmen argue that the Tawana Land Board did not have the jurisdiction to determine an essential inheritance dispute in their grounds of appeal. They also say that the Land Board fundamentally erred in failing to give reasonable grounds for which it made a finding that the objection “lack merit to sustain the objection.”

“The 1st Respondent (Tawana Land Board) erred in law and fact in holding that the objection of the 1st Applicant (Khwedom Council) was without merit in that the 1st Respondent did not have regard to the legitimate order of succession the lineage concerning Tsabaoro/Chiefs Island,” Basarwa argued.

Basarwa tribespeople are also of the view that the decision that Moremi is to inherit the land in question is unlawful on serval grounds. They posit that the conclusion of the Tawana Land Board was not based on the correct facts, to the extent that it disinherits Basarwa communities and that it violates their right to equality and non-discrimination, which are provided for the Constitution of Botswana. Khwedom Council also argued that the decision of the Tawana Land Board undermines Basarwa’s and infringes the dignity of the San and Bayei communities in their tribal identity as heirs to their land.

For his part, Moremi said Basarwa tribesmen who have launched the appeal do not have rights over the land in question. He said they were relocated in 1963 when the land became part of the game reserve.

He said the designation of Moremi Game Reserve was an act of the Government of Bechuanaland Protectorate. None of the parties to this case or their forebears had any part.
“Prescriptions under the Prescriptions Act started to run at least 41 years ago. It is common case that none of the Appellants has during the above period sought to assert, by any legal proceedings,” said Moremi. Through his lawyers, Charles Tlagae Attorneys, Moremi argued that the decision to relocate was again a Government decision in which neither he nor his forebears nor, for that matter, Tawana Land Board had no part.

“The 2nd Respondent (Moremi) or his forebears having no part in the “force” in question, it cannot be relied upon against the 2nd Respondent to defeat acquisitive prescription,” he said. Moremi said the acquisition period under section 3 of the Act has long expired. It must be borne in mind that in terms of that section, acquisitive prescription automatically follows from the expiry of the prescribed period by operation of law.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

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.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

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.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

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.”

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