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Soldiers assault Okavango residents ‘military style’

Botswana Defense Force (BDF) members have been accused of committing brutalities against the Okavango Delta communities of Ditshiping and Morutsha settlements. Some residents have complained of being tortured and beaten military style by officers stationed at satellite camp close to the two ungazetted settlements.

One of the victims, Kharathe Gorekwamang explained how he was beaten by army officers who left him for dead. He told this publication that the officers loaded him in to a van and drove away to beat and torture him. “They took turns beating and kicking me.  Then they put a bucket on my head, tied my hands and told me to run for my dear life. I was scared and tried to run but I tripped on something and fell down. Then they all laughed at me like I was some kind of a comedy show.”  

He said after they were finished with him they then drove him back to back to the settlement and dropped him at his fathers’ house. “My entire body was painful. I could not even walk. I urinated with difficulty as the officers had kicked me on my kidneys area.” Kharathe’s father, Gorekwamang Omane confirmed the incident explaining that he was present when the officers brought his son back. “He was in a bad state. We had to call for assistance from Okavango Kopano Mokoro Trust which services our settlement to help with a van to ferry him to the hospital sixty kilometers away in Maun.”

Gorekwamang works as a leader of the community led Mokoro poling (canoe) tours in the Okavango delta.  The service is mostly utilised by western tourists.  He revealed that in October 2018 together with a group of other polers, they took a group of western tourists for Mokoro trips in to the Okavango Delta.  After the completion of the trip, the tourists gave the polers about P 1,300 as a tip on top of the initial payment.

Gorekwamang said:  “The lead tour guide responsible for tourists group gave me the tip to distribute to other polers. However when we arrived at the village some members of my team started accusing me of stealing some of the tip money.” “Some of the women polers in our party said they saw some Euro notes from the money the lead guide gave me. I told them that there were no Euros.  An argument ensued and the matter was reported to the village headman for intervention. At the insistence of women the headman then called the army officers who came listened to the issue and decided to take me for punishment.”

Ditshiping headman, Galebuse Tshekonyana confirmed the case was reported to him. He however denied giving the army officers permission to assault Gorekwamang.  “The woman complainants are the ones who demanded that the army officers must take him to deal with the issue after I had tried to intervene and took the disputed money so that I could distribute it myself. I just heard that he had been assaulted and they never informed me,” he told this publication.

Another resident of the neighboring Morutsha, Onkabetse Wazimi told Weekend Post that in 2017 he had a misunderstanding with his girlfriend who reported him to the army officers. “When they came here they did not ask anything. They just started assaulting me.” Wazimi further stated that this year another resident was also beaten up who had been reported by a beer depot owner to the BDF as he had failed to pay beer money he owed. “Apparently he owed P180, 00. They beat him telling him he must go pay for the beers.”

Weekend Post is in possession of a letter from Makgobokgokgo area councilor, Luke Motlaleselelo, to the District Commissioner dated 17 October 2018 complaining about BDF officers’ behavior at Ditshiping. Part of the letter reads: “. I write this letter as the area councillor In relation to behavior of BDF soldiers where they beat community members, inflcting serious injuries on their bodies.” It further states that: “on the 5th October 2018, a community member was reported to the BDF base where they brutally beat him and left him unconscious and community trust vehicle had to be called from Maun to collect him in Ditshiping and rush to the hospital.”

In the letter, Motlaleselelo further makes damning allegation that there are suspicions that male residents are beaten severely because some of the solders have sexual relationships with girl friends of the affected in Ditshiping and Morutsa. Motlaleselelo wrote: “I am just quoting one incident but there are several similar incidents where people are just beaten without due diligence being carried out and what is hurting is that these soldiers seem to think our people are just a bunch of ignorants who live in the bush. “

The letter further questions whether the BDF is allowed to undertake duties of Botswana Police Services stating that the camp was set up for anti poaching operations when rhinos were introduced in the Okavango Delta but not to persecute the villagers. “I am appealing to you as the DC to engage BDF. “I am not trying to interfere on their duty but I feel they are encroaching outside their mandate.” Ngamiland District Commissioner, Keolopile Leipego has however denied receiving Motlaleselelo’s letter saying he has only informally heard about the matter.

 
Maun Police Station Commander Mothaba Ramabya further denied a case was reported to the police despite victim stating he reported to Maun police and the copy of medical exam showing the police had requested for the examination. In a response to Weekend Post questions, BDF spokesperson, Colonel Tebo Dikole said BDF does not have an official record of incidents of assault at Ditshiping settlement or any other area in the Okavango Delta. It says if exist such incidents would be reported to the Botswana Police who would then notify BDF. The letter says: “Once such a report is received, the BDF would then take appropriate action guided by BDF act.

Weekend Post has however learnt that recently, following our enquiry, BDF has instructed officers not to deal with crime issues in Ditshiping and instructed them to reduce interaction with members of the community. In 2017, former President Ian Khama visited Ditshiping where residents called on Khama to help declare the ungazetted settlement a village so that they could begin to enjoy government developments and services. The settlement is serviced by Shorobe police post. During the meeting, the residents said the settlement came in to existence in 1961 and was set up by people who were relocated by creation of Moremi Game Reserve.

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Vendors ready for the Tobacco Control Bill

21st September 2021
Vendors

Some vendors have been misled
Vendors thrive on households goods and fresh produce

Despite the previous false allegations that the Tobacco Control Bill will lead to several 20 000 vendors across the country losing their jobs, several local vendors have expressed that they are ready for the bill and because vendors sell mostly household goods

“This is something that we openly accept and receive as street vendors, the problem is some of our counterparts were misled and made to believe that we will not be allowed to sell cigarettes on our stalls.

Some of us got to understand that the bill states that we have to be licensed to sell cigarettes, we are not supposed to sell them to children under the age of 18 years of age and eliminating the selling of single sticks. We understand that this agenda is meant to develop a healthy nation but not take us down,” said Mbimbi Tau a vendor who operates from Mogoditshane.

The Tobacco Control Bill has been passed in several countries and street vendors are operating properly without any challenges faced. Tau further mentioned that there is no way that the Tobacco Control Bill will affect their business operations, all they have to do as vendors are to get the required documentation and do what the bill requires.

Another vendor Busani Selalame who operates from Gaborone Bonnington North was not shy to express his support towards the Tobacco Control Bill, “the problem is that some people within our sector have been misled and now they think that the bill is meant to take our operations down and completely stop selling cigarettes.

I support the fact that we are not supposed to sell cigarettes to children who are under the age of 18 years of age this has always been wrong, as parents we should be cautious of such and ensure that our children are disassociated with cigarettes,” said Selalame.

The Tobacco Control Bill prohibits advertising, promotion and sponsorship by the tobacco industry to prevent messages, cues, and other inducements to begin using tobacco, especially among the youth, to reassure users to continue their use, or that otherwise undermine quitting.

Renowned economist Bakang Ntshingane is of the view that since vendors sell household goods and fresh produce they are likely to keep on making profits despite what the Tobacco Control Bill comes with. He further stated that the Tobacco Control Bill will not be of harm on the local economy since the country does not manufacture or produce any tobacco related products.

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BANCABC Botswana poised for growth amid tough operating environment

21st September 2021
BANCABC

BancABC Botswana, the BSE-listed bank today announced its half year results for the six months ended 30 June 2021, against a subdued economic backdrop, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns.

BancABC has remained resilient in the current operating environment as business activity increased in the first half of 2021, with Real GDP up by 0.7% in the first quarter compared to a contraction of 4.6% in the previous quarter. Commenting on the results, Managing Director Kgotso Bannalotlhe said, “Currently, economic activity is relatively stable.

While COVID-19 placed significant pressure on the economy and our overall business, BancABC Botswana has shown remarkable resilience amid a tough operating environment.  While the bank operates in an environment that is seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections, it is encouraging that the business has maintained a healthy capital adequacy ratio as well as being successful in improving total expenses with focus on cost containment across the board.”

The retail segment saw an increase in customer deposits this year, signalling an improvement from the previous period and strengthening the current funding mix. This segment has built great momentum and continues to advance its digital strategy, through various products such as the mobile banking app, SARUMoney, as well as enhanced product offerings such as the introduction of fash cash. The Bank has invested in its digital capabilities to ensure a seamless and hassle-free banking experience for all its customers.

The commercial segment was successful in reducing the cost of funding. In addition, Treasury and Global Markets performed well, doubling from the previous comparative period. The current year performance across the bank’s different segments is testament to the bank’s strong income lines, aiding the Bank’s resilience during this time.

“The Bank experienced slow loan book growth due to a constrained economic environment, however, we remain optimistic that as the economy recovers, credit appetite amongst the Bank’s customer-base will increase. In addition, we reported good non-interest revenue, driven by increased trading income on the back of improved margins and volumes. Our outlook remains positive as we expect momentum across the different segments to improve over time,” said Ratang Icho-Molebatsi, BancABC Botswana Finance Director.

In April 2021, BancABC Botswana’s ultimate holding company, Atlas Mara Limited, as well as ABC Holdings Limited and Access Bank Plc announced an agreement to a proposed acquisition of 78.15% of BancABC Botswana. The transaction presented an opportunity for BancABC Botswana’s strong retail banking operation to merge with Access Bank’s wholesale banking capabilities, augmenting itself as one of Africa’s leading banks.

“The transaction provides significant scope for revenue diversification and growth in the corporate and SME banking segment. Increased access to trade finance, treasury, international payments and loans through the wider distribution network offered by Access Bank’s presence in the key trade corridors that connect Africa to the rest of the world, presents solid opportunities for BancABC Botswana”, commented Icho-Molebatsi “With the transaction, BancABC Botswana’s customers stand to benefit from best-in-class digital platforms and product suites, leveraging Access Bank’s group IT infrastructure as well as other fintech solutions”, said Bannalotlhe.

Further, with Access Bank expanding its footprint into Botswana, it will position the Bank to deliver a more complete set of banking solutions to Batswana across the country”, concluded Bannalothle.

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Botswana secures P1.5 billion from African Development Bank 

21st September 2021
Peggy Serame

 Last Friday, the board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group authorised a $137 million (P1.5 billion) loan to support Botswana’s Post COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery.

The funds, extended under the Bank Group’s Botswana Economic Recovery Support Program, will be used to enact multi-sector reforms that will increase spending efficiency, create jobs and drive inclusive growth.

The project has three components: enhancing domestic resource mobilisation and mitigating fiscal risks to enhance macroeconomic performance and create fiscal space for spending on social safety nets; supporting private sector-led agriculture and industry to bolster productivity and value addition and increase job opportunities, and offering business development services to micro and small enterprises to advance social protection and gender equity. The three components are expected to reinforce one another.

“The African Development Bank is providing support for reforms to enhance private sector-led agriculture and transformation of the industrial sector,” said Leila Mokadem, Director General of the Southern Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office. “Agriculture value addition can serve as a springboard for industrialisation and job creation,” she added.

The project aligns with the Bank Group’s Ten-Year Strategy (2013-2022) and its High Five strategic priorities, particularly Industrialise Africa and Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. The African Development Bank observed that Botswana has a very low risk of debt distress and a positive medium-term growth outlook. However, a lack of economic diversification exposes the country to significant vulnerabilities.

The Bank Group’s active portfolio in Botswana amounts to UA 57.7 million ($81.9 million) and comprises four projects. The financial sector accounts for the largest share of the portfolio by industry (97.1%), followed by agriculture (1.7%) and industry (1.2%). In the past, the African Development Bank partnered with various Botswana government agencies to accelerate economic growth.

On the 21st of February 2020, the bank signed a thematic Line of Credit (LoC) of P900 Million for a 10-year tenor with Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), a wholly state-owned investment agency. This was during that time, the single largest transaction of its nature to ever take place in Botswana.

The LoC was penned to support the BDC’s long-term strategy to scale up its investments in critical sectors, including manufacturing, transport and service sectors, with the overall objective of supporting the transformation and industrialisation of the Botswana economy. BDC eyed a more comprehensive socio-economic benefit with this partnership, including attracting investments into the economy and employment creation.

The African Development Bank is a multilateral development finance institution. It has an overarching objective to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries (RMCs) through mobilising and allocating resources for investment and providing policy advice and technical assistance to support development efforts.

This transaction was poised to support further BDC’s focus on safeguarding its balance sheet to ensure financial sustainability whilst fulfilling its mandate as the Botswana Government’s principal investment arm.

The COVID-19 pandemic has landed massive blows on Botswana; apart from claiming more than 2300 lives thus far, the contagious plague has exacerbated existing growth challenges. The effects of the pandemic have led to an estimated real gross domestic product (GDP) contraction of 7.9% in 2020, according to the World Bank, worse than that of the 2009 global financial crisis.

The contraction reflects the impact that reduced global demand, travel restrictions and social distancing measures have had on output in crucial production and export sectors, including the diamond industry and tourism.

Botswana’s fiscal deficit is set to widen to 11.3% of GDP in FY2020/21, from 5.6% in FY2019/20, reflecting a sharp decline in mineral revenues, a sticky public sector wage bill, and the impact of the COVID-19 spending. Similarly, the current account deficit is estimated to have widened to 8 percent of GDP in 2020 following the sharp decline in diamond exports.

Developments in the global diamond industry will significantly impact the short-term recovery, given Botswana’s dependence on the commodity. While recovery is expected in 2021 due to a favourable outlook for the diamond industry, the economic impact of COVID-19 is likely to be deep and long-lasting. The P1.5 billion African Development Bank loan comes after the World Bank approved a P2.5 billion boost for Botswana early this year.

The Programmatic Economic Resilience and Green Recovery Development Policy Loan (DPL) will support the implementation of Botswana’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan and is designed to strengthen COVID-19 pandemic relief while bolstering resilience to future shocks.

In August, Botswana received the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 189 Special Drawing Rights allocation worth P3 billion. The IMF SDR is a non-currency asset that Botswana can convert into hard currency by trading it with other IMF member countries.

 

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