President Mokgweetsi Masisi delivered his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the 2024 general election this week. A cursory observation of what most of his listeners wanted to hear from the speech suggest that Batswana are interested in job creation, with unemployment rate at a staggering 26%. The President’s speech was 83 pages long populated with 280 paragraphs and 16 200 words.
[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”1,2,3″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
The word ‘jobs’ or ‘job creation’ was mentioned 15 times; while the word ‘employed’ or ‘employment’ was mentioned 7 times. At the 99% of specific instances the words were mentioned, the President referenced with specific number of jobs created or to be created.
The President’s speech was anchored on four pillars of the National Vision 2036, namely: Sustainable Economic Development; Human and Social Development; Sustainable Environment; and Governance, Peace and Security.
For context as to where the jobs mentioned by President Masisi will come from, he shared that Government has developed a National Transformation Strategy for the effective implementation of the long-term Vision. Masisi said the strategy prioritises Mining, Tourism, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics, Trade, Sport and Creative Industry, Financial, Knowledge and Technology, Real Estate and Business Services sectors. “Their prioritisation is based on the potential for high economic growth, competitive advantage, job creation, as well as value chain development, and their positive spill-over effects on the overall economy,” he said.
The President’s speech makes mention of a cumulative figure of 52 460 jobs created since his last address to the nation. The bulk of the high value jobs are mentioned under the mining sector which accounts for17 965 direct and indirect jobs. There a huge chunk, 19 682 jobs which were generated through 29 social welfare and economic programmes. Other jobs drip in from other sectors such as construction, creative arts, power generation, manufacturing, and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) among other sectors.
According to the speech on paragraph 7, Mining and Services sectors contributed the most to domestic investment, as well as to FDI. The total number of jobs created through the FDI, Domestic Investment and Expansions stood at 4,229 during the 2022/23 financial year.
Paragraph 45 gives an elucidation on 15 citizen youth owned companies, at a total value of P60 Million in 2022, P100 Million in 2023, and expecting yet another P100 Million in 2024, have been contracted for the development of e-services; Masisi proclaims that this has created high-tech jobs – he did not share specific number of jobs created.
Paragraph 84 discusses the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme of 2019, of which a total of 11, 233 direct and value chain jobs have been created. “So far, P17 Billion against a target of P20 Billion) by the end of 2024, has been spent on fuel, lubricants, drilling, crushing, repairs and maintenance of equipment,” the President says.
Masisi punctuates the Debswana CEEP in paragraph 85 when he elaborates on the other positive spin off in that Botswana will no longer import PVC pipes as Flo-Tek in Ramotswa will be producing them. “We will no longer import flocculent as plant will be set up in Jwaneng and Orapa, Tyre pyrolysis factory will be set up in Jwaneng. The two 28 projects will create two thousand four hundred (2400) jobs at inception.”
Continuing to demonstrates how mining is pushing the employment creation agenda, President Masisi in paragraph 87 shares that Morupule Coal Mine has supported six hundred and forty jobs from their citizen spend of Three Hundred and Forty-Two Million Pula. He says since inception in January 2022, the citizen spend stands at P491 million.
There are more jobs pronounced in paragraph 90 of the SONA. President Masisi says Tshukudu Metals Botswana has secured the extension of their mining lease in September 2023, and will in 2024 embark on the expansion of the mining project, including the upgrading of the ore processing plant capacity from 3.2 million tonnes of ore to 5.2 million tonnes of ore per annum. The expansion project is estimated to cost P1.2 Billion and will create more job opportunities.
In paragraph 91 it is explained that currently, Tshukudu Metals Motheo Copper Project has a total of 1,500 employees and contractors, 97 percent of whom are Batswana. President Masisi says the project has an initiative to empower communities through training and upskilling, and has thus facilitated employment of 160 persons from communities around the mine, particularly Gantsi and the surroundings areas.
Masisi proclaims in paragraph 93: “… there is a budding, albeit huge coal mining project in the Mmamabula area comprising Jindal and Mookane Coal Mine. The companies are expected to produce 4.7 metric tonnes and 2 metric tonnes of coal per annum as well as electricity respectively. These are modularized and scalable even for possible exports.”
Ventilating jobs in paragraph 94, President Masisi says once completed, these projects whose construction has begun, are expected to create a combined minimum of 1,500 permanent jobs and other economic activities in the area. He says the project is expected to contribute to energy security, as well as generate export revenue for Botswana.
Paragraph 95 of SONA further speaks to jobs in the mining sector. According to President Masisi, in the past two years, Botswana has observed the establishment of diamond cutting and polishing companies increasing from 23 to 46. He says this has increased employment in the sector from 2 207 to 4,239, as at September 2023. This is a growth of almost 93 percent. “Citizen participation in the upstream, mid and downstream diamond industry is still Government’s priority,” he says.
The President mentioned other sectors that are contributing to job creation, such as the commercialisation of the creative industry which presents a huge opportunity for Batswana creatives to generate employment and wealth, especially for the youth.
In paragraph 101 Masisi says the National Arts Council has started its operations by issuing grants to winning proposals in various categories of arts and crafts. In his words, “This has resulted in the engagement of 19 Youth Production Companies in the Industry. During the 2022/23 financial year, P15 Million was spent on local Content 32 Acquisition, as a way to continue creating economic activity in the Film and Television Industry.”
Furthermore, paragraph 102 says 27 programme series sets have been acquired thereby, creating employment for 220 people within the creative industry value chain, such as production teams and actors. Masisi says more local content will be acquired in the financial year 2023/24 to be played on Btv 3, the readiness of which is at 85 percent.
In paragraph 138 President Masisi makes mention that Government has entered into a 30-year strategic agreement with an Independent Power Producer, Jindal Energy Botswana for 300 Megawatts Power Plant, with scope to expand to 600 Megawatts. He says the agreement entails opening of a new coal mine and power station in Mmamabula. The ground breaking ceremony was conducted on 6th October 2023.
Furthering this theme in paragraph 139 Masisi says this is one of the largest single foreign direct investment in Botswana, estimated at over Twenty-Eight Billion Pula (P28 Billion), covering development of the mine, power plant and associated infrastructure. Speaking directly to employment creation, he says during the construction phase, it is expected that five thousand (5,000) jobs will be created, followed by one thousand (1,000) permanent jobs during operations.
Another job spinner is enunciated on paragraph 145 wherein the North West Transmission Grid Connection Phase 2 Project, an extension of Phase 1 that was successfully completed in 2021, is discussed. The President says the Project will connect the North West region and Chobe region to the Botswana Power Corporation main transmission grid. “The Phase 2 Project promises not only to provide reliable power supply, but also to catalyse economic growth and support critical regional development initiatives,” he says.
In paragraph 146 Masisi explains that the project represents a significant step towards ensuring sustainable and prosperous communities, especially for the Chobe region that has a huge potential in agriculture and tourism. He says the Project is estimated to be completed in December 2026, and will create over five hundred (500) jobs during the construction phase.
29 social welfare and economic programmes are discussed in paragraph 150 of the SONA. These aim to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and mitigate the vulnerabilities of the citizens, by availing options for earning a decent living, Masisi says. Community development based programmes such as, cooperatives, Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) and Local Economic Development are examples of such programmes.
For emphasis, in paragraph 151 President Masisi indicates that Government has invested over P2.85 billion in the Constituency Community Programme to fund 4,929 projects across all 57 constituencies since its inception five years ago. According to the President, these projects have employed a cumulative total of 19,682 Batswana. These include public infrastructure projects such as classrooms, recreation and internal roads.
Masisi says this programme will continue to be implemented for all constituencies including the new ones, but will be restricted to internal roads. He says particular attention will be given to ensuring that local resources including equipment are mobilised for greater Batswana participation. We will continue monitoring and evaluating the projects to ensure timely and quality delivery. “This is part of our broad strategy to fight youth unemployment,” he declares.
In paragraph 173 President Masisi shares on the Youth Development Fund which he says continues to be utilised to fund youth start-ups across multiple industries and sectors. He says between 2021 and 2023 approximately P157 Million was disbursed in support of youth projects. He states that this created a total of 264 jobs in the corresponding years. Since its inception, the Fund has disbursed One Billion, One Hundred Million Pula, (P1.1 Billion) and in the process creating about twenty-two thousand eight hundred and twenty (22,820) jobs, Masisi says.
- In September 2023, highly specialised spinal operations took place at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital as a first step in the provision of complex surgical procedures. Eight spine operations were successfully conducted on patients in collaboration with an American company, CTL AMEDICA, which is seeking partnership with Botswana Government to manufacture artificial spinal parts. More opportunities, jobs, research, knowledge economy, transfer of skills, value chains, export led economy!
- We are already realizing the benefits of these initiatives through private sector investment. For example, I recently launched a waste paper recycling factory in Mogoditshane. The facility and the existing ones create value chains, job opportunities, and new markets.
Security sector will also create job opportunities. “It is, however, regrettable, that the country has experienced a wave of violent, intrusive and gruesome crimes in recent years resulting in the need for more urgent interventions. As I indicated in the last SONA, the Botswana Police Service recruited one thousand (1,000) trainees who completed their training in March 2023,” says President Masisi.
In paragraph 251 Masisi indicates that an additional cohort of 1,000 recruits is currently undergoing training and is expected to graduate in April 2024. He says this increase, in human resources will provide for the introduction of City Policing Units in Gaborone and Francistown, fully fledged Kgomo-Khumo policing, 28 police station across the country.
In conclusion, Masisi makes sure that he makes mention of the international relations as the Chief Diplomat. He says to date, a total 100 Batswana are employed by regional and international organisations such as the Southern African Development Community and the World Bank. He says by the 31st July 2023, Batswana filled 10 out of 28 positions at the African Union (AU); this includes senior positions such as Director of strategy, more opportunities especially for managerial positions remain available for Batswana, he declares.
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
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.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
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.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.