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Distribution of water serious problem – WUC CEO

Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mmetla Masire has said the country has ample water to supply the whole country, although the main challenge his corporation is faced with is distributing that water throughout the country.

When speaking to WeekendPost this week Masire emphasised that “our only challenge is the ability to distribute that water to where we want it to be. That’s the biggest single most important challenge faced by the Utility,” he said. Masire pointed out that the corporation needs storage facilities like tanks because if they have small storage tanks in some big villages like it is the case in Molepolole, it affects the corporation’s ability to distribute water.

 “If you don’t have the pipe you can’t get water. Sometimes when someone says they don’t have water in a village you would find that the challenge is actually the pipes and that there is normally sufficient water to provide for such but the network doesn’t reach it – that’s all part of the distribution,” he observed. The other challenge, he highlighted, is capacity and integrity of the infrastructure and land servicing. He said that if a pipe is leaking, the water would not go where it is supposed to go.

According to the WUC CEO, a dam like Dikgatlhong, theoretically, as one dam, can as a matter of fact sufficiently supply the whole country. “But we will have to get the water around the country and that’s where the challenge will be,” he added.
Masire gave an example that in the distribution of the water, the North/South water carrier project that takes water from the northern dams to the south of the country will have to break apart at some point to transfer water to other areas like Gantsi, Maun, Tsabong and all other areas around the country. “That’s why I say the issue is mostly about distribution,” he said adding that most of the villages outside the north south carrier are predominantly supported by the boreholes to source water.

Overcharging, wrong metre readings and bill queries

With regard to overcharging and wrong metre readings, The WUC top man said he partly blames customers for incorrect readings. “It’s interesting that customers complain about wrong metre readings and overcharges but there is denial of access to get the correct readings at their premises as they have high walls, vicious dogs, and they warn maids against access of strangers even from Water Utilities,” he pointed out.

He however mentioned that the issue is like chicken and eggs story but quickly admitted that sometimes they err but it has not been helped by the so called security reasons as the bottom line is: “we still have no access”. But in bringing the solution the Utility boss explained that “what we are doing about it is that we have new metre boxes erected outside the yards in some areas but attached to the main metre inside. So even if we are denied access we can still take the metre readings from outside the yard.”

He nonetheless added that “we will still have bill queries and malfunctioning metres and that with 350 000 meters it’s reasonable to expect that we will have genuine concerns but we don’t believe it is widespread as some want us to believe.”
He continued to also reveal that soon they will be introducing highly sophisticated smart metres that will pave way for prepaid metres as “that’s the future though it will cost the corporate so much”.

Water situation in Botswana currently not bad as well

Overall, the soft spoken Utility Corporation chief told this publication that “the water situation even locally is not too bad. There is water. We have enough water around the country.” Since the north south carrier project he said the water situation has really improved in the past 12 years because they have not experience any pipe burst or break down and therefore by extension there were no water cuts during the period in Gaborone and Greater Gaborone areas.

In terms of the ongoing Molepolole water crisis in which they even submitted a petition to WUC, he highlighted that the village has grown faster than anticipated and that’s why there is that serious water problem. “We expect this problem to linger on at least for two years,” he said while adding that they were working out solutions to the problem. “They will be solved through the World Bank loan of more than 1.5 billion and the project has already started following approval of the loan by parliament. It was partly to address water problems in the south like in Molepolole. It contributes to the solutions,” he said confidently.  

How Mathambo’s budget will ease water problems

Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo revealed when presenting the budget speech this week that Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation will get more than 3 billion to address water challenges. He said “a significant portion of the proposed development budget of P3.29 billion or 17.0 percent, being the largest share, is proposed for the Ministry (of Land Management, Water and Sanitation) to support initiatives aimed at improving the availability of water supply, as well as wastewater and sludge management.” 


Matambo stated that the water projects account for P2.51 billion or 77 percent of the Ministry’s allocation. The main projects implemented, he said, are the North South Carrier 2 from Palapye – Mmamashia – Gaborone at P647.29 million, which is meant to provide adequate water to the southern part of Botswana, as well as the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency project funded through the recently approved loan of USD145.50 million from the World Bank.

He said he was grateful to parliament for approving the Emergency Water Security and Efficiency Project Loan Authorisation Bill in March 2017, to raise the said P1.5 billion from the World Bank to finance the funding gap in the water sector. According to the Finance Minister, an amount of P2.53 billion has been proposed for water development programmes and projects in the 2018/2019 budget to cover investment in the improvement of water supply networks, in particular, the pipelines to transfer water from dams and well-fields in the northern part of the country to the south to support economic activity.

With regards to the development of water infrastructure, he added that government will continue to prioritise investment in this area given the critical role of water supply as an input for economic growth and development.

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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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