The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has admitted that it has engaged serving public officers for the positions of Voter Registration Clerks who will be responsible for the voter registration exercise commencing 1st November and ending 30th November
However, the officers will be paired with unemployed youth who went through the selection process. The clarification follows a backlash from areas such as Moshupa District where the public expressed discontent with the decision to engage people who are already employed despite the high unemployment rate in the country.
The IEC plays a crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections in our country. Recently, the IEC has faced criticism for hiring government employees as Voter Registration Clerks instead of employing unemployed youth. However, the IEC justifies this decision by stating that it aims to enhance the registration process through a high level of accountability and supervision. By pairing an unemployed youth with a public officer, the IEC ensures that there is adequate oversight and guidance during the registration process.
The probable foundation of the desperation for jobs stems from the fact that poverty remains high despite Botswana’s relatively high income level, job creation has been lagging, unemployment is structurally high at 25.4% (end of 2022), and the level of inequality (Gini index of 53.3) is among the highest in the world.
In an interview with this publication, Osupile Maroba, the Chief Public Relations Officer of the IEC, indicated that recruitment of voters’ registration personnel in the Moshupa District was conducted by the District Recruitment and Selection Committee as it was the case in other Districts.
Moroba further noted that Moshupa District has seventy-four (74) Polling Stations and therefore, only 74 out-of-school youth were recruited. The advertisement had attracted, One Thousand, Five Hundred and Thirty (1,530) for the post of voter’s registration clerks. Out of the number received, Four Hundred and Eleven (411) out-of-school youth were shortlisted, interviewed and 74 employed instead of 30 as claimed.
“The rationale was to have each Polling Station across the country manned by two voters’ registration clerks, being one out-of-school youth paired with a public officer to enhance the registration’s high level of accountability and supervision. The foregoing explanation means that for the 74 Polling Stations in the Moshupa District, there will be a total of 148 voters’ registration clerks (74 out-of-school youth and 74 public officers),” said Maroba.
Maroba declined to share the split between public servants and youth engaged across the country. He said: “Providing a country wide figure for youth applications may not paint an objective analogy of youth response to the advertisement across the thirty-Two (32) Districts.” He said each District Recruitment and Selection Committee conducted their own recruitment on the basis of the number of Polling Stations in the District. Nonetheless, the recruitment was carried out to fill the Two Thousand Eight Hundred and Ten (2 810) voters’ registration clerks’ vacancies across the country and these have been filled with out of school youth.
The IEC argues that the presence of public officers alongside unemployed youth will not adversely affect service delivery. They claim that prior arrangements have been made to ensure that public officers are not absent from their permanent work stations for an extended period. This ensures that service delivery remains unaffected and that the registration process runs smoothly.
The decision to pair unemployed youth with public officers is a strategic move by the IEC to address concerns regarding accountability and supervision. By having experienced government employees oversee the registration process, the IEC aims to minimize the chances of any irregularities or misconduct. This approach not only ensures the integrity of the registration process but also provides an opportunity for unemployed youth to gain valuable experience and skills.
Moreover, Maroba noted that the IEC’s decision to hire government employees as Voter Registration Clerks can be seen as a way to leverage the expertise and knowledge of these individuals. Public officers often possess a deep understanding of administrative processes and have experience in dealing with complex tasks. By pairing them with unemployed youth, the IEC creates a learning environment where the youth can benefit from the guidance and mentorship of experienced professionals.
“Furthermore, the IEC’s decision to hire government employees does not imply a lack of consideration for the plight of unemployed youth. The IEC recognizes the importance of addressing youth unemployment and is committed to finding sustainable solutions.” However, in the context of the voter registration process, the IEC believes that a combination of experienced public officers and unemployed youth will yield the best results.
Meanwhile Maroba stated that out school youth will not be engaged on polling day next year. “The management of elections on polling day is different from the voter’s registration and it has its own requirement, level of accountability, commitment and responsibility. Therefore, out-of-school youth will not be engaged on polling day as polling officers,” said Maroba.
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.