The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has once again recently deployed its cadres across the Land Boards in preparation for the upcoming 2024 general elections. This move is seen as a strategic maneuver to decongest the ruling party’s primary elections, which are expected to take place early next year. The Land Boards are considered to be crucial institutions due to the significance of land as an asset for the people of Botswana. Therefore the ruling party has a one-track mind when it comes to these appointments because they are a means to an end!
The opposition has in the past decried the BDP’s habit of using public positions to please its cadres. However, with the latest move, the opposition polemics are a dead letter to the ruling party, with Minister Dr Kefetse Mzwinila going for the jugular this time around – insiders say he is convinced that with this approach, he has brought a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
By deploying party members to the Land Boards, the BDP aims to secure its position and benefit from the upcoming elections. Already, two key constituencies, Palapye and Sefhare-Ramokgonami, will see BDP candidates Isaac Maforaga and Dorcas Makgato respectively, running unchallenged in the party primaries. This gives the BDP an advantage over the opposition, which is currently divided and yet to decide on candidates as negotiations within the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) are still ongoing.
It is worth noting that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has already decided on its candidate, Gape Motswaledi, for the upcoming elections. The BCP exited the UDC last year, and in the 2019 elections, the UDC incumbent, Onneetse Ramogapi, was a BCP member. However, the UDC is still in the process of finalizing its candidates. For Ramogapi, remaining the UDC when the BCP jumped ship may prove to be a double-edged sword – Palapye is traditionally a strong base of the BCP in the opposition albeit former President Ian Khama’s presence in the UDC project could be seen as beneficial on Ramogapi’s part.
In this juggling act, Minister Mzwinila’s deployment of BDP cadres to the Land Boards includes key figures such as Kitso Seloma, a former Central Committee member who was initially interested in challenging Dorcas Makgato in the Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency. However, Seloma has since been appointed to head the Sefhare Sub Land Board, effectively withdrawing from the primary elections. Another BDP member, Leonard Sesa, who was expected to contest in the same constituency, has also withdrawn after a poor showing in the branch committee elections, indicating a lack of grassroots support.
In addition to these appointments, Lesego Raditanka, a veteran BDP stalwart, has been given control of the Ngwato Land Board. Raditanka has served as the Central District Council chairman for over two decades and is expected to play a crucial role in pushing the BDP narrative in the district. Similarly, Sefane Phuthego, a former primary election candidate, has been tasked with heading the Serowe Sub Land Board. Phuthego previously campaigned to become the Serowe South Member of Parliament in 2019 but lost to the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), led by former BDP leader Ian Khama. Both Raditanka and Phuthego are expected to use their positions in the Land Boards to counter the influence of the Khama/BPF axis in the region.
Furthermore, Kgang Kgang, the controversial chairman of the Kweneng Land Board, has been retained in his position. Kgang is expected to play a strategic role in land distribution in the region, with a focus on ensuring the BDP retains key constituencies in the Kweneng area. Kgang has previously shown interest in representing the BDP as a Member of Parliament in Thamaga and Mogoditshane, and his reappointment eliminates him from the primary elections.
Other BDP members, such as Victor Malete, a former nominated Councilor, have been appointed as ordinary members of the Land Boards to further promote the party’s agenda. Malete is a well-known BDP operative who has served in numerous party structures and played a key role in President Masisi’s campaign team in 2015 when he was running for the position of chairman. The campaign team then led by Ishmael Legwaila who is now a chief in the Selibe Phikwe area. Minister Mzwinila is like a knight in shining armour for some of the BDP cadres appointed to the Land Boards because they either had a lot of time on their hands or they were confused as to whether they should contest the party primary elections or not.
A total of 52,277 plots have been allocated in Tribal Land for the period 1st April 2022 to 28th February 2023. In the last session of Parliament Minister Mzwinila told Parliament that the 2022/2023 allocation far surpassed the historic record of the past two decades which averaged 8630 plots allocated annually.
It is important to note that outgoing Board members have blamed civil servants for sabotaging the party’s agenda at the Land Boards. However, the Ministry of Lands, Water, and Sanitation has taken steps to address this issue by outsourcing core activities such as the preparation of detailed layout plans and plot surveying. This decision aims to speed up the process of land allocation, with a target of allocating the 60,000 plots currently being surveyed in the Financial Year 2023/2024.
Indications are that the deployment of BDP cadres across the Land Boards in Botswana is a strategic move by the ruling party to secure its position and gain an advantage in the upcoming 2024 general elections. By placing party members in key positions, the BDP aims to influence land distribution and promote its candidates in crucial constituencies. However, it remains to be seen how this deployment will impact the political landscape and whether the opposition parties can effectively counter the BDP’s strategy. Finally, observers say the only kernel of truth in this juggling act by the Minister is that the BDP cadres will be under pressure to impress and people will be allocated land in record 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.