Connect with us
Advertisement

Court defends Basarwa land reservation policy

Court defends Basarwa

The Gaborone high court has ruled that while a strong case of discrimination as a constitutional infringement could be raised on the government policy to reserve certain portion of land for Basarwa’s development, the policy is rationally justifiable because it aims to achieve a noble cause of improving the conditions of a group “that has historically been disadvantaged and still remains after 55 years of independence marginalized in all facets of the economy and social development.”

This comes after a group of Ghanzi-based pastoral farmers challenged the decision of the Ghanzi Land Board to decline allocating them water rights on grounds that the water point they sought, lay within a prohibited buffer zone marked as the development area reserved for Remote Area Dweller (RADs) or Communities and that the Appellants’ membership did not consist of RADs community members to justify any allocation to it.

In his groundbreaking ruling, Justice Dr Zein Kebonang acknowledged discrimination as unlawful but legitimised it in favour of Basarwa citing their well-known peculiar social and economic injustices. Discussing a question of whether a policy that reserves water rights to a particular group to the exclusion of others can be justified in a democratic state such as Botswana, Kebonang in his ruling said: “It appears to me that such reservation of water rights to RADs communities to the exclusion of other communities in the same locale would on the face of it be unjustified and/or discriminatory. Section 3 of the Constitution of Botswana prohibits all forms of discrimination.

The Appellants’ have however not challenged the none-allocation of water rights to them on the basis of any constitutional infringement. No doubt such an argument may have presented intriguing legal questions.” The judge did not delve on the constitutionality of the issue given that the constitutionality argument had not been presented by any of the parties.

When addressing the issue of whether the policy on exclusion is justified, Justice Kebonang said the Land Board is tasked with managing land on behalf of all Batswana, adding that “while in an ideal setting the law must have the same beneficial impact on all constitutional subjects, equality does not always mean identical treatment.”

Justifying the court’s legitimization of discrimination, Kebonang said: “There is no doubt that the Policy excluding none RADs members from being allocated water rights in RADs areas is discriminatory. This nonetheless, in considering the case, a proper approach in my view would be to look at the policy from a “purpose” rather than an “effect” perspective in determining its rationality or justifiability.”

He continued that: “Where the policy goal is to improve the conditions of a group that is disadvantaged and has an ameliorative effect, then it is rationally justifiable even if it is discriminatory in effect.” Justice Kebonang said there was nothing wrong with a policy giving attention to the vulnerabilities of Basarwa, “It is undisputable that RADs communities are predominantly made up of Bushmen or the San people. This group has historically been disadvantaged and still remains after 55 years of independence, marginalized in all facets of the economy and social development. They continue to experience high rates of unemployment, poverty and face serious disadvantages in the areas of education, health and housing,” he stressed.

According him, “a policy that seeks to involve them or which is aimed at giving them a significant role in their own social and economic development to the exclusion of all others is not unreasonable when one has regard to historical injustices.” The development or reservation policy, Kebonang said, was in his view clearly aimed at ameliorating the conditions of the RADs communities. “These communities have been the most vulnerable. They have and continue to suffer prejudice and negative social characterization,” he said.

“The exclusive water rights conferred on them within the buffer zone is rationally justifiable in my view as it fulfills their participation in the economic activities of this country. It enables them to move away from being nomads and to take part in activities such as farming, whether pastoral and arable, and in the process supports their progress towards self-sufficiency. The means chosen to achieve this purpose are rationally related to serving that purpose, hence the ameliorative purpose for the policy and its justification,” he stressed.

Justice Kebonang further said while the court may interfere in the policy decisions made by a statutory body, it can only do so in cases where the decisions made are unlawful. “In the instant case, there is nothing that says the decision by the 1st Respondent (Ghanzi Land Board) was unlawful. Consequently, the Court cannot direct that the Appellants’ application be granted in violation of an existing policy. Equally, the 1st Respondent had no discretion to ignore its stated land allocation policy as that would have been an arbitrary act,” he said in his judgement before dismissing the appeal by Ghanzi pastoral farmers.

News

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

Continue Reading

News

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.

Continue Reading

News

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.”

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!