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UN’s Human Rights Council commends Botswana

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.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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