Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi sanctioned an impromptu meeting yesterday – dubbed a “special conference” – at the height of disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

He begged for reconciliation amid the warring factions ahead of the national congress and general elections later this year.

Masisi assured the members of the party that he was not afraid of dying. There had been talks of security threats made against him by the warring factions.

Tension among the factions had escalated following veteran politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intended to challenge Masisi for the presidential position.

 
 

Venson-Moitoi’s decision to throw her name into the hat for the presidential race had angered party members who were sympathetic to the president.

They regarded her as a proxy of former president Ian Khama.

There has been a feud between Masisi and Khama after he used his first state of the nation speech last year to openly attack Khama in an unprecedented clash.

Khama’s “no show” at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the impromptu meeting set tongues wagging among party members who are aware ofthe feud.

Khama later made a grand entrance, much to the amazement of party followers attending the meeting in Palapye, about 300km outside Gaborone.

Masisi had already delivered his opening speech when Khama arrived.

The meeting was seen as one of the platforms where the two could reconcile.

Masisi had appointed a team of elders, comprising, among others, former president Festus Mogae, to spearhead a mediation that had hit a snag.

Ahead of the meeting the party emphasised to invited members that only those who had been accredited would be allowed to attend – a move that was meant to deter chaos within the party and at the meeting.

Masisi was quick to point out in his opening speech that there wasa need for peace and unity in the party.

He emphasised the need for members to continue to work together peacefully.

He indicated that the feud between him and the former president had attracted wide condemnation from the international community who were unhappy about Botswana’s political climate.

The president noted that one of the prime ministers – whom he did not name – had shed tears about the political climate in Botswana.

“What are you doing in Botswana? Why are your damaging our reputation?” the prime minister had asked Masisi.

He noted that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had warned that there was a need for the country to continue peacefully, as it had in previous years.

Masisi shared Museveni’s message with those at the meeting.

“You are the salvation of Africa. If you don’t hold hands together, every criticism of our instability as a continent cannot be defended because Botswana would have sunk. You are the last hope,” Museveni had told Masisi.

Masisi noted the allegations that he had not acknowledged Venson-Moitoi, the challenger for presidential position.

“Venson-Moitoi has every right to want to be the president of the party – unusual as it might be.

“You get to be used to unusual things [as president]. Your responsibility is to decide what you want. You think I have a problem, but I do not,” said Masisi.

A number of party elders, such as Mogae, had endorsed him and castigated Venson-Moitoi for challenging the president.

Masisi asked members of the party not to fight over the candidates and said the best candidate would win.

“I don’t want members to fight,” he said, adding that the party would be the winner.

“I have never been afraid of a challenge,” he said.

He assured members of the ruling party that he was not out to fight with anyone.

He emphasised that his detractors within the party were happy that he had brought back dialogue in the country and that the Batswana people were known for consultation.

The president told members that he was not afraid to die. Some people had told him, he said, that developments in the country were a threat to his security.

“I met the businesspeople who were afraid for my safety. I told them that I don’t waste my time thinking I am going to die. It is certain that I am going to die. All of us, we are going die. We don’t know when and how,” said Masisi.

Source: City Express

The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.

The 2018 Passport Index has placed the Ugandan passport in the 11th position in Africa and 64th among passports of 198 nations of the world.

Uganda and Morocco share a passport power rank of 65, but are below East African neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, who lie in the eighth and ninth positions with respective passport ranked 62 and 63. The global passport power ranking is arrived at based on an assessment of the visa restrictions or visa-free score.

Neighbouring Kenya

Kenya allows nationals of 39 countries to visit it without a visa and nationals of 32 other countries can obtain visas on arrival. It is nationals of 127 other countries of the world that require visas to visit Kenya.

Nationals of 42 countries do not require visas to visit Tanzania and those from another 28 countries can get the visas on arrival, while nationals of 128 nations require visas to enter the country.

Uganda is not doing as well as its two neighbours as citizens of 130 countries require visas to enter the country. It only allows nationals of 35 countries to visit without visas and gives nationals of 33 countries visas on arrival.

Top positions
The top four positions are occupied by Seychelles, Mauritius, South African and Botswana with passport rankings of 27, 44, 57 and 58 respectively.

  • At 133, Seychelles has the highest number of countries whose nationals it allows to enter its borders without visas. It also gives nationals of 33 nations visas on arrival and requires nationals from only 62 countries of the world to have visas.
  • Mauritius, which is in second place requires nationals of 66 countries to have visas, but allows nationals of 99 countries to visit without visas and gives nationals of 33 countries visas on arrival.
  • South Africa, which is in third place, requires nationals from at least 100 countries to first get visas before visiting, but is visa-free for nationals of 63 countries and gives nationals of 35 countries visas on arrival.
  • Botswana makes it incumbent upon nationals from 122 nations to have visas before visiting it, but is visa free for nationals of 46 countries and gives nationals of 28 nations visas on arrival.

The global ranking

Same position. In the global ranking, Uganda is tied with Morocco, the Philippines, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.

Number one. The global rankings are led by the United Arab Emirates, which has a passport power rank of 2. UAE is visa-free for nationals of 113 nations and gives nationals of 54 countries visas on arrival. Only nationals of 31 countries are required to have visas before entering UAE.

Second place. Tied in second place are Germany and Singapore, which have a passport power rank of 3.

Visa free. Singapore is visa-free for nationals of 127 countries and gives nationals of 39 countries visas on arrival. Citizens of only 32 nations are required to have visas before visiting Singapore.

Visa exception. Germany on the other hand is visa-free for nationals of 126 nations and gives nationals of 40 nations visas on arrival. It is only nationals of 32 countries that are required to have visas.

 

Credit: nationmedia.com

Botswana’s central bank has urged the government to overhaul the southern African nation’s tax regime and prepare the economy for declining contributions from diamonds.

Botswana relies on the gemstones for almost a fifth of its gross domestic product and used the revenue generated from sales to transform the nation from an economic backwater into one of the continent’s wealthiest societies. However, their role is set to diminish over the next 20 years and successive governments have struggled to diversify the economy.

Although the government has been able to finance most investment projects from diamond sales, “there is recognition that growth in diamond revenues has plateaued and might recede in the future,” the Bank of Botswana said in a study published Friday as part of its annual report. “It is thus important to explore alternative and sustainable sources of financing for public infrastructure.”

Specific tax reforms include removing widespread exemptions on value-added tax and investor concessions, the bank said. “We have recommended the expansion of the tax base through, among others, reducing the number of VAT-exempted items and replacing these with targeted social transfers,” said Tshokologo Kganetsano, director of research and financial stability.

Botswana has VAT exemptions on a range of items including agriculture inputs, basic food items and medicine. It also has several long-standing tax concessions for investors, including the International Financial Services framework that provides for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, rather than the standard 22 percent, and conditional exemptions on capital gains tax, withholding tax and other rates.

“Research on investment incentives suggests that tax concessions are often of little value in attracting genuine long-term investment,” the bank said. “Investment tax credits or accelerated depreciation allowances are preferable and more effective.”

 

- Bloomberg

Ian Khama, a retired army general, stepped down as president of Botswana on Saturday, handing the diamond-rich country to his deputy after a decade at the helm.

Mokgweetsi Masisi becomes only the third leader to take charge of the southern African nation outside the Khama political dynasty that has dominated national politics since independence from Britain in 1966. Masisi, 55, inherits a country that has for decades been heralded as a beacon of African democracy and sound economic management but faces a huge task of reducing the country’s dependence on diamonds.

“I am not sure about his competency in as far as the economy is concerned, but if he has the respect of his ministers then he should be able to make them deliver,” said political analyst Ndulamo Anthony Morima.

Masisi, a trained teacher who has also worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund as an education project officer for eight years until 2003, was elected lawmaker in 2009. He served in the president’s office as a minister of public affairs from 2011 until 2014 when Khama named him minister of education, a post he held until appointed vice president last year.

“The business community sees him as being more business-friendly so that should work well for the economy. He seems to be more likely to come up with regulation that enables more economic activity,” said RMB Botswana economist Moatlhodi Sebabole.

Masisi takes office more than a year before the election under Botswana’s constitution that restricts the president to serving two five-year terms. Khama, son the son of Botswana’s first president, Seretse, also took over from Festus Mogae a year before the 2009 election.

One of the world’s poorest countries in the 1970s, Botswana transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies by harnessing around $3 billion a year in diamond sales, to become one of the world’s biggest producers, and gained middle-income status.

But dependence on its wealth from the diamond industry might be catching up with the landlocked country of just two million after the collapse in commodity prices in 2014 tipped its economy into recession three years ago.

“He is well versed with current challenges that the country is facing and I am sure he is quite capable of delivering,” said Mothusi Sename, a 41-year-old taxi driver in Gaborone, referring to Masisi.

END OF POLITICAL DYNASTY?

Khama’s departure leaves his younger brother and tourism minister Tshekedi as the only member of the family holding a high-profile post in the government, and depending on who Masisi picks as vice president, it would be the first time a Khama is not part of the top tier of national leadership.

Khama, a 65-year old bachelor, is known as a straight talker having publicly criticised leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump for an alleged slur against African countries and then-president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for overstaying his welcome.

Khama was born in Britain after his father a married a white British woman Ruth Williams, defying convention and opposition in Africa and Britain. Their story was depicted in the 2016 film ‘A United Kingdom’.

His party, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is expected to name Masisi as its presidential candidate for next year’s election.

Anthrax has been detected in dead hippos floating in the Okavango River, officials in Botswana said, after more than 100 of the animals were suspected to have been killed by the disease in neighboring Namibia.
Botswana's Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism advised people not to touch the dead hippos and to report any sightings of hippo carcasses.

The Okavango Delta is a major tourist attraction in southern Africa, supporting a diverse range of wildlife.

Namibian media reported on Monday that more than 100 hippos had died in the remote Bwabwata National Park, in the northeastern part of the country, with anthrax the suspected cause. The Okavango River flows through Namibia before entering Botswana. Tourism is important for the economies of both countries.

 

Source: Reuters

Gem Diamonds Ltd reported a 14 drop in half-year revenue, hurt by lower production and a decline in average diamond prices, and said it received an acquisition offer for its mine in Botswana.

The company, which mines diamonds from the Letseng mine in Lesotho, said on Thursday its revenue fell to $93 million for the six months to June 30, from $109 million a year earlier.

The average price per carat fell to $1,779 for the period, from $1,899 in the same period last year, while carats recovered fell 12 percent to 50,478, Gem Diamonds said. Weaker demand from China and the United States has hurt diamond prices, while India's surprise move to abolish high-value bank notes in November also dented demand for diamonds in the Asian country.

Gem Diamonds said cost-cutting measures are underway and that it identified savings of $15 million to be implemented from October. The company, which placed its Ghaghoo mine in Botswana under maintenance in February, added the board was considering the mine's purchase offer.

 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revised Botswana's 2017 and 2018 economic growth forecast due to rising diamond demand, investment in the water and power sector and reforms to attract investment.
The IMF on Wednesday lifted diamond-producer's 2017 and 2018 economic growth forecast to 4.5% and 4.8% respectively.

"The forecast assumes a gradual pace of reforms to improve the efficiency of the public sector and foster private sector activities," the IMF said. Following a downturn in 2015, growth is expected to gradually increase supported by a recovery in the diamond market and moderate fiscal stimulus, the IMF said in the report.

The latest forecast is higher than the IMF's previous forecast for Botswana contained in its Africa regional economic outlook report released in April, which forecast growth at 4.1% in 2017 and 4.2% in 2018.

The IMF’s growth projection is more bullish than government forecasts. Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo said in February during the national budget presentation that the local economy was expected to grow by 4.2% this year.

 

- REUTERS

The Cross Border Operation between RSA and Botswana at Gemsbok Port of Entry is focusing on prevalent crime incidents such as stock theft, smuggling of goods and drugs between RSA and Botswana. Patrols, stop and searches are continuing along the border.

A 30-year-old man, a Botswana citizen was arrested at Meerhof farm near Gemsbok Border Post on 16 June 2017 for alleged theft of 14 Dorper sheep worth R19 200 in May 2017. He will appear before court on 19 June 2017 and might be linked to other stock theft cases reportedly committed in the same areas.

A 39-year-old man who was arrested on 15 June 2017 during the operation for possession of dagga worth R2000 and will appear in the Ritfontein Magistrates’ Court on 19 June 2017. Police investigations are continuing.

Major General Mnguni, Deputy Provincial Commissioner responsible for Policing addressing a joined parade of Botswana police officials and SAPS officials at Gemsbok Port of Entry.

 

- South Africa Today

Botswana will on 01 June 2017, make effective the Tourism Development Levy, that will levied to all Non-SADC visitors. The USD30 will accrue an estimated USD 5,7 million at ports of entry.

The objective of the Levy is to raise funds for conservation and national tourism development in order to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base, resultantly improving the lives of the people of Botswana. Payments are done at the ports of entry through electronic payment machines through cash (US Dollars), debit and credit card.

After the payment, a unique receipt corresponding to the passport will be automatically generated. The receipt should then be presented to Immigration Officials. The passport and the receipt will be stamped and handed back to the traveller. The receipt will valid for a 30 day period and can be used for multiple entries. As a tourism lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology, I support this levy as it will increase the resources that the government of Botswana has to drive tourism development. The tourism industry is primarily private sector driven, whilst the state creates an enabling environment for tourism to growth.Botswana

The private sector is not responsible for maintaining the roads, airports and other forms of infrastructure. The creation of an enabling environment requires the state to build the necessary infrastructure and super-structure that will enable tourism to grow such as airports, roads infrastructure, water supply, and electricity that tourism commerce requires in producing the highly sought after tourism experiences.

There would be resistance from the private sector, but the private sector must be playing a leading role in working with government, so that the spirit of collaboration wins. The private sector must identify priority investments that should be done by the state, to drive economic growth.

Marketing must also be undertaken to ensure that Botswana increases its share of global tourism receipts. South Africa experienced an increase of 13% in tourist arrivals, and Botswana can also achieve this, if the growth trajectory is achieved.

The spirit of collaboration between the public and private sector was very evident from Team Botswana that sold Botswana during the Tourism Indaba in Durban. African countries during the year 2017, must ensure they the Single Aviation Market for Africa becomes a reality. Skills development in the tourism industry is imperative, especially foreign language training that will ensure that tourists are responded in their own languages.

The focus of foreign language training is to focus on languages such as French, German and Mandarin, considering that China will produce the greatest number of outbound tourists. The growth of tourism will be supported by aviation, and aviation demands airport infrastructure which is expensive to finance. The growth of airport infrastructure and domestic aviation market regulation can lead to the entry of low cost carriers that would make use of secondary airports. The benefits of secondary airports translate into faster travelling time, benefiting commerce and industry.

In addition, the benefit to society is shorted travelling time and stronger social bonds between families and communities. The entry of low cost carriers, means that domestic tourism will enter a new growth trajectory. The attraction of flying schools to Botswana would be necessary, considering that South Africa cannot be dependent on. The Chinese are buying out privately owned flying schools, to supply exclusively the Chinese aviation market that is growing around 100%. These are other pressing investments that the private sector needs for tourism to grow, and the spirit of collaboration must triumph between the public and private sector.


- Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.

Botswana has introduced the Tourism Development Levy (TDL) despite resistance from the Hospitality and Tourism Association that resulted in its withdrawal last year.

The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, through the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) last week announced that it was introducing the levy to raise funds for conservation and national tourism development.

Effective June this year, all non-Sadc visitors entering Botswana will be required to pay $30 tourism levy at the point of entry. “The levy is purposed to support the growth of the industry and broaden the tourism base,Botswana
resultantly improving the lives of the people of Botswana,” BTO said in a statement.

The Tourism Statistics Annual Report for 2015 shows that from the 1,661 million visitors who entered Botswana in that year, 11.4 percent (190 000) were from non-Sadc countries. A back of the envelope calculation shows that at $30 per person government is likely to accrue around $5.7 million (P60 million) per annum through the levy. According to BTO, non-Sadc visitors can pay the levy at the point of entry through electronic payment machines, cash, debit or credit card.

“After payment, a special receipt corresponding to the passport will be automatically generated. The receipt should then be presented to immigration officials and the passport and receipt will then be handed to the traveller. “The receipt is valid for a 30 days period and can be used for multiple entries. The funds will be used to develop more tourism products,” BTO said.

Tourism is Botswana’s second largest foreign exchange earner and contributes significantly to employment and economic growth.

 

Source: The Chronicle

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