The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has commended Government’s efforts in the provision of water and sanitation services to citizens with latest figures showing that 79 per cent of the national population now has access to water on their households.
This was announced early this month by the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, Léo Heller at the UN headquarters in New York as part of his follow-up research on Botswana’s progress in promoting human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. “79 per cent of the national population has water on their premises, with a significant gap between the urban population (93 per cent) and the rural population (47 per cent).
Regarding sanitation services, 77 per cent has access to “latrines and others” as their source of sanitation while five per cent has access to septic tanks, and only one per cent to sewer connections,” Heller said at a UN General Assembly briefing. His report further noted that 11 per cent of the national population still practiced open defecation in urban areas, with this increasing to 33 per cent in rural areas. The above figures were 22 per cent and 42 per cent respectively in 2000.
The Special Rapporteur recommended to the Government to protect the human rights of people living in vulnerable areas by continuing to implement and strengthen measures to safeguard easily access to water. Heller undertook an official visit to Botswana upon the invitation of the Government from 9 to 17 November 2015 before making the latest research on Botswana’s progress in the provision of water and sanitation services.
“The Special Rapporteur notes that the Government implemented several short-term measures to safeguard access to water and sanitation for the population in vulnerable situations,” he said in his latest update. He went on to recommend to the Government to improve efforts in strengthening these safeguards and long-term measures including special tariffs and subsidies, in order to protect the vulnerable groups’ rights to water and sanitation.
Heller further raised concerns regarding limited access to water among poor communities, minority groups, especially the San community in the Kalahari Desert, women and the girl child. “Water and sanitation services must be accessible to everyone, on the premises of households, health and educational institutions, public institutions and places, and workplaces.
“The human right to safe drinking water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use, and the human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity, and both rights are components of the right to an adequate standard of living,” Heller’s report reads.
He said the tariff system that charged the same rate to households and businesses, did not take account of households with low incomes, who were sometimes disconnected from water supplies for not paying their bills. The Special Rapporteur added these disconnections affected individuals in vulnerable situations, leaving their enjoyment of the rights to water and sanitation at greater risk. He then recommended the Government to set up systems to ensure the poor are protected from such harmful outcomes.
“Whilst the Special Rapporteur is pleased that Botswana has developed policies which consider the water and sanitation needs of those living in remote communities, he is concerned to learn that remote-area dweller settlements only become entitled to assistance, including being provided with water supplies, when the population is more than 250 persons, meaning that settlements with populations under this number may not have their water and sanitation needs met,” he said.
On the San community, Heller noted that the situation of water and sanitation for these communities remained precarious as their needs were often not accounted for by the Government. “For instance, even where some San community villages surpassed the 250- person requirement that should entitle them to be provided with basic services, no water connections had been made available, partly because community members chose to remain outside of formal state structures in order to retain their traditional lifestyle and systems. Equally, many traditionally nomadic communities who are living on, or have returned to, reserve land have not been assisted with access to water and sanitation.”
However, the Government responded to the Special Rapporteur’s concerns saying it continued to engage in “dialogue with communities who are transitioning from a nomadic to sedentary life” in order to find “sustainable solutions to their access to water and sanitation.” Heller was also concerned over the lack of information regarding the improvement of menstrual hygiene facilities in health centres before reminding the Government that provision of these facilities in hospitals and clinics was equally important.
“Access to safe water should be available in all schools in Botswana, rather than most. The Government has provided no information about access to sanitation in schools, and on access to both water and sanitation in healthcare facilities,” he said. Heller further recommended that the Government must ensure that all schools are provided with appropriate menstrual management facilities and that students and staff have access to adequate sanitation at all times.
“Additionally, he calls on the Government to publicly disclose data regarding its efforts to improve access to water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities in healthcare institutions, recalling that provision of these therein is vital for the achievement of the rights to water and sanitation, as well as other human rights.
“Access to information, accountability and access to justice are central for the progressive realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation and all the other rights, and are mutually reinforcing. The right to information includes the right to receive information to make informed decisions regarding the human rights to water and sanitation,” noted Heller.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.