At the eleventh hour, government ditched us! Uncanny to say the least! The deal was for government to transport us to the cultural event, an arrangement it guaranteed to take upon themselves. This meant that the organizers have to hunt for one of travel and tours guys on short notice.
Indeed, after antagonistically scouting through the corners of the city, there became light at the end of the tunnel. We felt reassured because this meant that we will finally hit the road to Boteti West, which is approximately 600 kilometers away from the capital city, Gaborone.
Even though it didn’t come as a surprise though, it took forever for Rethabile Travel and Tours to show face. At this point, we are technically sweltering, getting famished more so that we have been up since 4AM. The trip was scheduled to commence at 5AM sharp, and two hours later, we were still looking downhearted in the busy Central Business District (CBD).
Nonetheless, we hit the road, finally. The organizer of the trip was generous to offer us snacks and water, but he assured us that we will have proper breakfast along the way. Two hours later, we stopped by Mahalapye to use the bathrooms, and we quickly snapped some photos to upload on social media. By the way, this is a group of lifestyle journalists travelling to Xere village for the cultural festival, so we live for content.
As network along the way is somewhat not there, we switched on our data and dropped some hashtags on social media. The vibe was the right one and an hour later, we landed in Palapye for something to nibble on. This meant that we can now open up our throats for adult beverages, which makes the excursion more fun, and weirdly so, too short.
Because we didn’t have a cooler box, the team thought of a plan B. Of course, we bought a brand-new bath bowel and some ice blocks. It was big enough to house our drinks and at that particular moment, we are in Serowe and still counting down hours and kilometers.
We augmented the pace and effortlessly cruised towards Orapa turn and that’s when the team asked to relieve themselves. The next stop was the famous trees by Madikola, which is less than 5KM from Rakops, and after few snaps and posts we reached our destination, Xere.
From Rakops though, we had to take a gravel road to Xere, and the small village is located 14KM from Rakops main road. We knew with lot of dust that, finally, we have reached the Basarwa territory. Its more of a desert: the shrubs are scattered all over from each other, its too blustery, extremely blistering and there are no fancy edifices and cars.
The people in Xere still ride on donkeys, and they like it. This is what makes them who they are. For an urban person, it might come across as weird considering that this is the 21st century and transport is now advanced.
There are no proper factories or shopping precincts. In actual fact, they hinge on what wildlife offers them for endurance, and this is something that can be hard to bear if one is not used to. Even though a small crop of them buy from the shops, many are holding on their culture, that dates back to the early 1800s.
Talking about culture, we were invited to Xere to come witness the Basarwa culture. This is why our campsite was located right in the middle of the desert. The road to our sleeping site wasn’t an easy one, only 4*4 cars (Land Cruisers) could pierce through.
In as much as it was too windy because the soil is loose, it was incredibly refreshing. There was soil all over our faces and that’s what we came here for: to experience something we have never done before. Now, that’s what I call adventure. The next morning, we excitedly left for the famous Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), and to our surprise, we couldn’t find the animals. I knew very well that we left the campsite late.
To calm us though, the tour guide, embarrassed, enlightened that animals probably migrated due to fires that previously hit the reserve. If he knew that, why did he allow us to come through in the first place?
Well, it was what it was. We cut the blank game drive short and returned to the campsite where we freshened up and cruised back to the village. The official opening was to be done by Vice President and area Member of Parliament (MP), Slumber Tsogwane.
This event was very important for him to boost his political campaign, which it did indirectly anyway, I mean, elections are just around the corner and everyone is doing something to attract votes.
While we were waiting on VP to do his things, the patrons got busy learning the Sesarwa tradition, from traditional healing, to the history of the minority group as well as the food. In between, organizers roped in water departments to irrigate the place as dust was all over, coming from all directions.
But I felt the event organizers failed radically to showcase the Basarwa culture. The expectation was that everything would be showcased, not just dance and singing. Ok, they tried to demonstrate how Basarwa hunt animals but it wasn’t convincing enough.
Ostriches are very common in the Basarwa territories, wild animals also, Kgwegwe fruit but we did not see any of those. They showed how they hunt ostriches but I thought we would appreciate how beads; necklaces are made from ostrich eggs. Basarwa wear clothes made from animal skins but we saw them only wearing such during the dance and singing display.
Xere village has approximately four hundred (400) people living in that area. These are the Basarwa who were forced by government to evacuate the CKRG. Some endured in the reserve, but these ones, are still miserable for what government did to them. They are still attached to the life in the wild. This only brings them desolation and a sense of hopelessness.
To a certain extent, it is unfair for first citizens to be left in the dark side, but at the same time, it a nature reserve that houses wildlife. Being removed from the reserve felt like deportation from your own country to safe you, it is acrimonious, sad but it has to be done. Nonetheless, we had an absolute fun in Xere. Despite hiccups here and there, as well as lot of dust, it was a stellar event and I will definitely come again next time.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.
The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.
Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.
The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.
Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.
Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.
In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.
It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.
The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.
The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.
One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.
The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.
Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.
The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.
In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.
The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.