The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is now facing fresh accusations of allegedly abducting the Nchindo brothers and their Zambian cousin from the Namibian side and then killing them in Botswana, says a report authored by a Namibian parliamentary committee.
The report which was released this week by Namibia’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs claims that as part of its continued harassment of Namibian citizens living along the border between the two neighbouring countries, “The BDF would guide their boats across the Chobe with the intention of harassing, arresting and even shooting the fishermen.”
According to the report, “The Nchindo brothers in the Kasika/Impalia areas were found fishing on the Namibian side of the Chobe River and were taken across to Botswana where they were eventually murdered.” It says, “The scenario of arresting Namibians from Namibia and then taking them into Botswana has brought the use of words such as abduction, extra rendition, extraterritorial and extra judiciary into play.”
Martin Nchindo, Tommy Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo and their cousin Sinvula Munyeme were shot dead by the members of the BDF in 2020 following suspicions they were poachers. The report says learners and teachers at one of the schools near one the rivers felt terrified, especially as the BDF helicopters hovered the skies above their schools. “The children at Nakabolelwa Combined School could not access the river for their lessons, as teachers fear that such learners could be shot at,” says the report.
The report says the fear of war is forever lingering on the minds of teachers at Nakabolelwa Combined School as they fear that cross border skirmishes of wars similar to the one of 1981 could erupt. “Therefore, the residents in the Nakabolelwa area did not want the deployment of Namibian Defence Force as that could lead to war between the two armies,” says the report.
It says the BDF crossed the Chobe to the Namibian side of the river at will, but Namibians would not be allowed to do the same adding that in the Ngoma District, there are drier patches in the Chobe River and the BDF uses these patches to cross over into Namibia. It further states that as a an inseparable feature to the Motion on the Security Situation along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando River in the Zambezi Region, the Committee had to ascertain for itself as to whether, or not, there were cases of aggression that were perpetrated by the Botswana Defence Force on the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando riverine people.
“It is in adherence to the aforesaid that attendees to the hearing came up with a plethora of narrations as far as issues involving aggression in general were concerned,” reads the report. The report says the inaugural session in Katima Mulilo clarified that the acts of aggression by the Botswana/Namibian borderline clearly showed that the BDF did not respect the human lives and human rights of Namibians. “Actually, wild animals received fair treatment at the hands of the BDF, when compared to the one given to Namibians as the behaviour of the soldiers was determined by the country’s “shoot to kill policy.”
It says Namibians were not allowed to access their traditional grazing pastures, especially the ever-green grazing pastures that were by the banks of the Chobe/Liyanti/Kwando Rivers. “The residents within the target areas need protection against the aggression of a foreign army. The fishermen who had no choice but to storm the river for fishing suffered harassment at the hands of the BDF day and night,” the report says. It says these fishermen sell their catch to merchants who in turn resell their shoals of fish at the Katima Mulilo Open Market.
“To ensure that that the fishermen sell fish in its fresh state, the practice of fishing at night became a necessity. Many-a-times these innocent Namibian fishermen constitute a team of poachers in the eyes of the BDF and they are normally arrested and taken to Botswana. Many of these fishermen were detained even if they were found on the Namibian side of the river,” the report says.
In its exploration, the Committee said discovered that there are established communal conservancies along the Chobe/Linyanti/Kwando Rivers, indicating Impala, Kabula, Kasika, Kwando, Nankabolelwa Bamunu, Dzoti, Wuparo and Balwera conservancies. These conservancies, depend on trophy hunting, lodge developments, game shooting and sale, live game sales, game for own use and other game utilisation activities including tourism, which continues to be the main source of income for these conservancies.
“For instance, a hippo was killed by a trophy hunter in Impalila conservancy, who asked a community member to load the carcass in the boat. Shortly, the BDF appeared crossing illegally to Namibian side and ordered the boat driver to stop immediately,” the report says. It says the driver tried to explain that he was tasked by the trophy hunter to assist with transport, who later confirmed that indeed it was his carcass.
The Committee found that members of the communities living alongside the rivers do not know at which point they cross over to the Botswana side of the when conducting normal fishing activities or until which point they can allow their animals to graze and which areas are allowed to cut reeds to construct their houses.
The also committee found that the purpose of development of Namibian Defence Force (NDF) in the area of concern is not well-defined or neither understood by the communities. “NDF members are regularly seen around in the villages, but not being seen around patrolling the river line where the communities believe they should be. The purpose of the NDF presence in the area is mainly to curb poaching in the area and not necessarily to patrol the border as expected by the community,” says the report.
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.”