Cresta Marakanelo has withdrawn its intentions to retrench employees, as part of efforts to cushion the company from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mokwena Morulane, the Managing Director of the Group on Wednesday confirmed that the company has issued an internal communication on retraction on notice to retrench.
“It's legit and I believe self explanatory,” said Morulane, responding to Botswana Guardian Online inquiry. In the letter Morulane promised the employees continued efforts to make the workforce remain employed. “Fundamentally, we will endeavour at all times to ensure that all employees of Cresta Marakanelo remain employed,” reads part of the letter issued on Wednesday.
The letter highlights that the group remains upbeat, despite uncertainties that the economy and companies face. “I remain hopeful that the situation will improve, and that we will revert to normalcy as soon as possible,” said Morulane. As the effects of COVID-19 continue to paralyse the hospitality and tourism industry – Cresta Marakanelo recently announced a decision to close some of its operations.
Despite the shutdown decision, Cresta Marakanelo has joined hands with health authorities providing, four of its properties to be used as quarantine stations. The group’s properties being used as quarantine stations are Cresta Lodge in Gaborone, Cresta Botsalo in Palapye, Cresta Bosele in Selebi Phikwe and Cresta Marang in Francistown, while Cresta President in Gaborone is used as a reconnaissance base for Ministry of Health and Wellness officials.
Botswana Stock Exchange CEO, Thapelo Tsheole says they expect some listed companies to delay release of their respective financial results so as to factor in the impact of the global pandemic, COVID-19.
Tsheole was speaking to this publication after we noticed that companies which were due to release either interim or final results before end of March 2020 had not done so. "Only in the immediate term," Tsheole told Botswana Guardian. He explained that accounting standards require them to disclose possible impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.
Botswana’s oldest bank, Standard Chartered Bank Botswana has told the market that full year results to December 2019 will be delayed as they are still assessing the impact of COVID-19 on their operations. The results which will have been out by now are expected anytime. Micro-lending titan, Letshego has also delayed final audited results to December 2019, citing similar reasons.
President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi this morning made an impassioned plea that he did not seek the Presidency of this country for reasons of ruling by decree. Speaking before a special sitting of parliament the president said, "I did not campaign for election as President of this celebrated democracy for me to erode civil liberties upon coming into office.”
He further said he not dream of leading this “proud and beloved nation, by diminishing its values of freedom and other enshrined rights that have made us the unique nation that we are". The Special Parliament Meeting is convened at Boipudo Hall to seek endorsement of a six-month State of Public Emergency to deal specifically with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Masisi was responding to concerns that under the State of Public Emergency he is likely to abuse his powers. He said it is in this spirit that he intends using the declaration of the State of Public Emergency, solely for the purpose of "protecting our people against the decimating potentials" of the Novel COVID-19 virus. Masisi said he has no doubt that MPs and the public will take comfort in the country's system of checks and balances embedded in the constitution. He told Parliament that there are choices and opportunities to see the country through this pandemic.
"At the same time we can choose to be complacent but a responsible Government like ours will choose to take the pandemic head-on," said the president. The president told parliament that it is a "bizarre paradigm of circumstances" that a Head of State of a renowned democracy, should find himself in the "paradoxical cul de sac" of seeking to curtail individual freedoms rather than work more towards enhancing the liberties of his people.
"But such is the unenviable position that I find myself in, due to the equally bizarre circumstances of a topsy-turvy phenomenon that has shrunk the world into a besieged global village," he said. Debates on the issue continue before parliament this afternoon.
The Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando says the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is cagey with reasons why the country needs a State of Public Emergency lasting for six (6) months. When addressing the media after the Parliament General Assembly, Saleshando said opposition finds it hard to support President Mokgweetsi Masisi's request that Parliament endorse his decision for a six months State of Emergency.
Saleshando who is also Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President argued that at this point there is no need for a state of emergency as government can impose total shutdown. Saleshando advanced the same reasons in a special meeting of Parliament on Wednesday. "The Director of Health Services has told us that he has such powers. We have fears that giving the President such powers might lead to the President abusing them.
"As MPs we cannot give away our powers to the president. We as MPs support the president in his efforts to fight COVID-19, but we are saying let us explore other ways other than the State of Emergency.”
The MP further said, "We have countries like Mauritius and South Africa who have a similar situation and laws like us but have not declared a State of Emergency but have resorted to total lockdown.
"Namibia has opted for State of Emergency because they have no other pieces of legislation other than that for state of emergency. "So we are not yet there and we are not told why state of emergency is necessary and the need for six months where all powers will be vested on the president".
Saleshando said as Parliament they are prepared to support the president in the fight against COVID-19. He said they could tell parliament how much he needs to fight COVID-19 and if convinced they will give him the money. "He can for instance say I need to have medical doctors who were fighting the virus in China and we will gladly give him the go ahead," said Saleshando who is also MP for Maun West.
According to Saleshando they are open to further discuss the issues with the country leadership. He explained that he has requested to meet with Vice President Slumber Tsogwane and if possible President Masisi so that he could appreciate why the president is pushing for six months state of the nation against total lockdown.
On the UDC’s non-participation at all party leaders meeting on Monday, Saleshando said there was never an invitation extended to his party. Saleshando said contrary to claims by BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi that Director of Health Services has no powers to mobilise law enforcement officers such as BDF, the President as Commander in Chief of the BDF can indeed call them at any time and would not seek anyone's permission.
He revealed that even the UDC leader Duma Boko pointed out that he did not get the invite. He accused President Masisi and his administration of taking advantage of the situation for political mileage. On Wednesday Saleshando accused the BDP leadership of using the State of Public Emergency to enrich themselves.
Government has developed an economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support workers, stabilise businesses, ensure and promote opportunities for economic diversification.
Wilfred Mandlebe, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning said the response strategy has several interventions that will also reduce the country’s import bill.
“All the sectors are encouraged to introspect and identify products that can be produced locally so that the country can achieve self-sufficiency and economic diversification as the pandemic has exposed our heavy dependency and vulnerability,” said Mandlebe.
With the expenditure budget for relief package expected to gobble over five billion pula, government has already capitalised the pandemic relief fund to the tune of P2 billion. The authorities have further sent out begging bowls to the private sector, development partners, philanthropists and individuals, to support the fund.
“Any donation to the COVID-19 Relief Fund shall not qualify as deductible expenditure. The public is encouraged to donate in kind (to the fund) which is coordinated by the Disaster Office under the Office of the President,” said Mandlebe.
Some of the interventions, according to Mandlebe include wage subsidy of up to one billion pula, which assistance will be offered regardless of whether the business owes tax.
Mandlebe highlighted that to stabilise businesses further, government has established a loan guarantee scheme of one billion pula to be managed by BECI for loans of up to 25 million pula per borrower.
“Government has also developed guidelines targeting sectors that have been negatively affected by the Corona virus pandemic,” said Mandlebe.
He added that tax concessions worth one billion pula have also been drawn up.
He said the Botswana Unified Revenue Services will allow deferral of 75 percent of any two quarterly payments between March and September 2020, adding that the deferred payments are to be repaid from March 2021.
Mandlebe added that efforts to cushion business community also include reducing the VAT refunds period from 60 days to 21 days for businesses with turnover of over P250 million per annum and will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
“To the extent that Government commits to continue to pay VAT refunds and any outstanding amounts due to businesses during the period, it is expected that regular tax filing and repayments will continue to be done electronically.
“In the event companies are unable to access the e-service platforms for some reasons; companies will not be penalised for failing to comply,” said Mandlebe. Other packages include P40 million set aside to support SMEs affected by the COVID-19 with short-term financing of working capital requirements, mobile network operators to extend a range of retail and service outlets accepting mobile money. Government will also provide funding for strategic reserves and other essential costs such as grain reserves, water supply, emergency medical costs, psychosocial support which will include counselling services and burials.